European Research Council Funding Discussion

What is the ERC?

The European Research Council (ERC) is one of the major sources of funding for scientific research in the EU. It is funded through the European Commission, and holds a particular position thanks to its aims and mission which are based on scientific excellence. The Council supports frontier research, cross disciplinary proposals and pioneering ideas in new and emerging fields which introduce unconventional and innovative approaches. The ERC’s mission is to encourage the highest quality research in Europe through competitive funding and to support investigator-driven frontier research across all fields of research, on the basis of scientific excellence. A total budget of 13 095 million euro is available for the implementation of the ERC funding schemes under Horizon 2020.

Mission

The ERC’s mission is to encourage the highest quality research in Europe through competitive funding and to support investigator-driven frontier research across all fields, on the basis of scientific excellence.

The ERC complements other funding activities in Europe such as those of the national research funding agencies, and is a flagship component of Horizon 2020, the European Union’s Research Framework Programme for 2014 to 2020.

Being ‘investigator-driven’, or ‘bottom-up’, in nature, the ERC approach allows researchers to identify new opportunities and directions in any field of research, rather than being led by priorities set by politicians. This ensures that funds are channelled into new and promising areas of research with a greater degree of flexibility.

ERC grants are awarded through open competition to projects headed by starting and established researchers, irrespective of their origins, who are working or moving to work in Europe. The sole criterion for selection is scientific excellence. The aim here is to recognise the best ideas, and confer status and visibility on the best brains in Europe, while also attracting talent from abroad.

However, the ERC aims to do more than simply fund research. In the long term, it looks to substantially strengthen and shape the European research system. This is done through high quality peer review, the establishment of international benchmarks of success, and the provision of up-to-date information on who is succeeding and why.

The hope is that these processes will help universities and other research institutions gauge their performance and encourage them to develop better strategies to establish themselves as more effective global players.

By challenging Europe’s brightest minds, the ERC expects that its grants will help to bring about new and unpredictable scientific and technological discoveries – the kind that can form the basis of new industries, markets, and broader social innovations of the future.

Ultimately, the ERC aims to make the European research base more prepared to respond to the needs of a knowledge-based society and provide Europe with the capabilities in frontier research necessary to meet global challenges.

The European Research Council supports frontier research, cross disciplinary proposals and pioneering ideas in new and emerging fields which introduce unconventional and innovative approaches. The ERC’s mission is to encourage the highest quality research in Europe through competitive funding and to support investigator-driven frontier research across all fields of research, on the basis of scientific excellence. A total budget of 13 095 million euro is available for the implementation of the ERC funding schemes under Horizon 2020.

The Financial Discussion

The current pandemic and the chaos it has brought to European economies has however thrown a spanner in the works, as the European Council (Heads of State) are proposing a dramatic cut in funding.

As I write almost 25000 people have signed a petition, asking for funding to be maintained at a level at least equal to that of the last 7 years, and the Friends of the ERC have published the following open letter:

Open Letter

One of the greatest success stories of the EU in the last decade is the European Research Council (ERC). Thanks to its unique formula of independence from political intervention, bold research ideas, bottom-up approach, and a singu-lar focus on excellence, ERC grants have become one of the most prestigious research grants in the world.

In light of the current European debate on the next Multian-nual Financial Framework, there is significant reason to fear a cut across all areas of Horizon Europe, and we anticipate that this would also impact the ERC.We, the signatories of this petition, call upon the Heads of States and Governments, to secure funding for the ERC in Horizon Europe, the next European framework programme for Research and Innovation. Protecting and improving the ERC budget will secure con-tinued investments in research that pushes the boundaries of our knowledge and continues to strongly support Europe as a dynamic knowledge society.

The ERC is a major reason for Europe ́s increasing strength in research. The EU comprises 7% of the world’s population but produces 1/3 of the world’s high-quality sci-entific publications. It is therefore of paramount importance that this success story can continue to develop and increase its strength in Horizon Europe.

The ERC invests in top researchers in Europe, giving them the freedom to follow their scientific curiosity. Based on scientific excellence, the ERC supports research that is pushing the very frontiers of knowledge through competitive funding across all fields. Open to top talent worldwide, the ERC is a vital tool helping Europe to attract and retain the brightest minds, and to establish itself as a scientific powerhouse. Many great ideas already exist which will not receive funding under current budget constraints. With increased funding, many more scientific breakthroughs are possible, with a high degree of certainty.

We recognize the ERC as the most important European instrument for financing frontier research – the very foundation of disruptive innovation. Thanks to the successes of the ERC, Europe is well positioned to remain a world leading economy, succeed in the European Green Deal and make substantive contributions to the resolution of global societal challenges.

This investment in ground-breaking research has already paid off. It has led to countless breakthroughs, nurtured science-based industry and created a greater impetus for research-based spin-offs.

With this open petition letter, we urge the EU to protect the funding of the European Research Council in the long-term budget of the EU.

I follow developments carefully, and have signed the petition.

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