The European Research Council (ERC), the EU’s flagship for cutting-edge blue sky research, celebrated its tenth anniversary with a high-level conference in Brussels on 21 March 2017.
Since its set up in 2007, some 7 000 top researchers have been awarded the highly-competitive and much sought-after ERC grants, creating career opportunities for about 50 000 scientists. Six grantees went on to receive the Nobel Prize and ERC funding has led to more than 800 patent applications, along with uncountable scientific discoveries. More than 180 researchers have also moved to Europe with an ERC grant, bolstering the attractiveness of the European university landscape.
Many researchers from EUA member universities have benefitted, such as Barak Kalir (Universiteit van Amsterdam) who studied the plight of undocumented migrants in Greece, Spain, Israel and Ecuador. Ali Salanti (Københavns Universitet) serendipitously discovered a potential cure against cancer in his research on malaria, while Michaël Gillon (Université de Liège) found planets that might be habitable and lately made headlines around the globe. Moreover, these examples demonstrate that ERC funding is filling a gap for young, aspiring researchers as two thirds of its grants go to early- and mid-career scientists with two to twelve years of postdoctoral experience.
The conference in Brussels on 21 March showcased numerous examples of research projects funded by the ERC across all scientific disciplines. Martine Rahier, EUA Vice-President, incoming Chair of its Research Policy Working Group and former Rector of University of Neuchâtel, attended the event.
“The ERC is, indeed, a European success story. Its bottom-up, curiosity-driven approach combined with rigorous peer review contributes continuously to strengthening fundamental, high-risk/high-gain research in Europe,” said Rahier. “It is also worth noting that ERC grants help in speeding up the transition of young researchers to tenured positions.”
More information, including details about the anniversary celebrations, can be found on the ERC website.