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European Research Council

Europe encouraging innovative ideas

Each year, the European Research Council rewards researchers proposing innovative ideas. This programme aims to encourage "research at the frontier of knowledge", whose sole selection criterion is excellence.

The aim of this strongly-equipped programme?

The programme aims to provide the resources to brilliant researchers in order to carry out, for five years, exploratory research that is somewhat risky in Europe, falling outside any established scientific programme or national or disciplinary scientific development strategy.

ERC evaluation criteria are particularly selective and also apply to the potential of the scientists initiating projects. The excellence of their scientific career is just as important as the originality and ambition of their project, proven methodological qualities, potential impact or the assessment of risks entailed.

A scientific committee comprising 22 renowned scientific figures representing the European scientific community forms the governing body of the ERC. Its main role is to implement ERC strategy and to select scientists for assessment by peers.

How can project funding be obtained?

There are four types of grants:

  • Two grants are aimed at young scientists, Starting Grants (two to seven years after the thesis) and Consolidator Grants (seven to twelve years after the thesis) enabling them to build up a research team around an original theme
  • The Advanced Grants are aimed at confirmed scientists, enabling them to propose a topic that breaks with their research activities
  • The Proof of Concept grants enable researchers who have been awarded an ERC grant to assess the innovation potential of the findings of their work
  • Over 5,000 grants have been awarded since the creation of the ERC in 2007

With a budget that can reach up to 1.5 million and 2 million Euros ("young researchers") or 2.5 million Euros ("confirmed researchers"), the recipients have the resources to recruit the team of their choice and implement the means required to successfully complete their project. In addition, they benefit from the label of excellence represented by the ERC programme since 2007 and from its international recognition.

Interview with Jean-Pierre Banâtre (Sabia Consulting, President)

Jean-Pierre Banatre

Interview with Jean-Pierre Banâtre (Sabia Consulting, PresidenWhat is the specificity of this European programme?

J.P. Banâtre: The ERC programme is devoted to fundamental research in all fields. Over time, this unprecedented programme, which encourages very ambitious and risky individual projects, has occupied a vital place in the European research landscape. It has provided an opportunity to researchers from the world over wishing to continue their work in Europe. The number of ERC award winners within an establishment is now an undeniable criterion of excellence.

What are the characteristics of a good project for the ERC?

J.P. Banâtre: An ERC project is, first of all, initiated by a scientific leader full of promise (for the young scientists) or widely-recognised (for the more senior scientists). It is also a scientifically ambitious and risky project, where the researcher expresses a radically new vision, likely to revolutionise traditional approaches and accepted methods. In some cases, the challenge proposed by the researcher offers a potential impact on societal problems (health, environment, etc.)  and can lead to totally vital innovations.

Keywords: European Research Council FPRTD Europe Jean-Pierre Banâtre Marie-France Sagot Francis Bach Pierre-Yves Oudeyer