At the official launch of the European Research Council in Berlin, politicians have welcomed the announcement that EU-funded research will finally be based on excellence and independent decisions by scientists, without interference from politics.
“The ERC’s Scientific Council – not the European Commission, or anyone else – is responsible for scientific strategy and implementation. ERC operations will be autonomous, through an Executive Agency,” explained Science and Research Commissioner Janez Poto?nik on the functioning of the European Research Council.
“The independence of science in selecting talents and projects to be funded is the prerequisite for scientific excellence as the only criterion for awarding funds. The best ideas will succeed in the European competition. This justifies the sovereignty of science vis-à-vis politics,” said the German Education and Research Federal Minister Annette Schavan, adding that “politics will benefit by trusting science as it is freed from inappropriate expectations that are detrimental to the criterion of excellence”.
Poto?nik hopes that the ERC will, in the long run, help determine research trends, industrial production and even Nobel Prizes. He hopes that the ERC will generate a snowball effect as “more competition will lead to better research. Better research will lead to more private investment in research. More investment will lead to better facilities and better facilities will attract and retain better researchers.”
In spite of the ERC being officially launched on 27-28 February 2007, the ERC’s Scientific Council has met regularly since October 2005. Its first call for proposals was announced on 7 February 2007 and it is set to focus on funding, with some €300 million devoted to ERC Starting Independent Grant proposals, which support independent researchers who are at the stage of establishing their first research team or conducting independent research.