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Specific programme: "Ideas"

The aim of the "Ideas" specific programme is to develop "exploratory research" to raise the level of excellence of research in Europe. The European Research Council (ERC) project is a key element in this programme. In addition to the characteristics and objectives of the programme, this document describes the various aspects of the creation of the ERC (objectives, tasks, composition, added value, role of the Commission, etc.).


Council Decision 2006/972/EC of 19 December 2006 concerning the specific programme: Ideas implementing the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Community for research, technological development and demonstration activities (2007 to 2013) [Official Journal L 54 of 22.2.2007].


Raising the level of European research in areas undergoing rapid development, with a view to achieving greater economic competitiveness and well-being, is the main aim of the Ideas specific programme. In other words, the object is to develop "exploratory research" aimed at achieving decisive progress in the areas of science, technology and universities, regardless of disciplinary limits or geographical boundaries. The programme follows an “investigator-driven” approach: in other words, it is designed to support “frontier research” projects carried out by researchers on subjects of their choice.

The programme is implemented according to the principles of scientific excellence, autonomy, efficiency, transparency and accountability with the assistance of a European Research Council (ERC).

The specific programme has been allocated a budget of EUR 7.51 billion for the period 2007-2013.

Characteristics and general objectives

The Ideas specific programme sets out a number of major objectives aimed at improving competitiveness and well-being in Europe by seeking to:

  • reinforce excellence, dynamism and creativity in European research;
  • make Europe a pole of attraction not only for the best researchers in Europe and elsewhere but also for research company investment;
  • place European research at the forefront of scientific progress;
  • open the way to new scientific and technological advances;
  • stimulate the flow of ideas;
  • enable the strengths of the European knowledge-based society to be put to better use.

Performance indicators have been introduced at three levels to optimise programme implementation monitoring:

  • quantitative and qualitative indicators charting the course of scientific and technical progress (publications, index of quotations, patents, etc.);
  • management indicators to monitor performance internally and support senior management decision-making (implementation of the budget, setting time limits for the signature of contracts, setting payment deadlines, etc.);
  • outcome indicators to assess the overall effectiveness of the research in relation to the European Union (EU) headline goals.

The implementation of the Seventh Framework Programme (including the various specific programmes and all the resulting research activities) is based on observance not only of fundamental ethical principles but also of the social, legal, socio-economic, cultural and gender equality aspects.

European Research Council (ERC)

The Commission is setting up the European Research Council (ERC) to implement the “Ideas” specific programme. The ERC is made up of an independent Scientific Council relying on a dedicated implementation structure.

The Scientific Council includes representatives of the European scientific community of the highest repute. It is made up of 22 distinguished scientists, engineers and scholars. The latter are appointed by the Commission after an independent identification process. They serve in their individual capacities independently of any political or other interests.

The ERC's tasks are as follows:

  • to establish the overall scientific strategy for the specific programme;
  • to establish the work programme and modify it where appropriate;
  • to be responsible for scientific management, monitoring and quality control of programme implementation;
  • to ensure communication with the scientific community and key stakeholders.

The dedicated implementation structure (DIS-ERC) will take the form of an executive agency of the Commission, responsible for administrative management and programme implementation. The Executive Agency of the ERC (ERCEA) will be responsible for the assessment, peer review and selection procedures based on the principles laid down by the Scientific Council. Lastly, it will ensure the financial and scientific management of grants. Until the ERCEA becomes operational, the functions of the DIS-ERC will be assured by Directorate S of DG Research.

The Commission's role consists in:

  • guaranteeing the autonomy and integrity of the ERC;
  • ensuring compliance with the principles and objectives defined by the Scientific Council;
  • overseeing the allocation and division of the tasks and responsibilities incumbent on the dedicated implementation structure;
  • adopting the work programme and implementing methods defined by the Scientific Council;
  • ensuring that proposals are retained, and projects financed, solely on the basis of their ranking order resulting from the peer review;
  • regularly informing the programme committee on the implementation of the programme;
  • presenting an annual report to the Council of the EU and to Parliament on the functioning and activities of the ERC and the realisation of the objectives set out in the Specific Programme.

The cornerstone of this programme, the ERC is testimony to the added value of Community involvement as compared with the results that could be achieved if the actions were conducted at a purely national level. Indeed the ERC makes an undeniable contribution by:

  • encouraging and supporting excellence on a pan-European scale;
  • making the best use of resources;
  • giving European “exploratory research” a more attractive status and image;
  • facilitating the adaptation of national research structures to a rapidly developing European area;
  • creating a globally competitive European research system;
  • making Europe a pole of attraction for industries and undertakings actively involved in the field of research and development;
  • meeting the societal challenges being thrown up in Europe.


Since 1984, the research and technological development policy of the EU has been founded on multiannual framework programmes. The Seventh Framework Programme - the second programme since the launch of the Lisbon strategy in 2000 - is bound to be crucially important for growth and employment in Europe over the coming years.

The Commission wants to develop the "knowledge triangle" formed by the policies of research, education and innovation in such a way as to place knowledge at the service of economic, social and environmental progress.


ActEntry into force - Date of expiryDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal

Decision 2006/972/EC

1.1.2007 – 31.12.13


OJ L 54 of 22.2.2007


Commission Decision 2007/134/EC of 2 February 2007 establishing the European Research Council [Official Journal L 57/14 of 24.2.2007].
This Commission Decision establishes the Scientific Council of the ECR and provides for the establishment of the dedicated implementation structure and the post of Secretary-General of the ERC, whose role is to assist the Scientific Council by ensuring effective liaison with the Commission and the dedicated implementation structure.

In 2007, the main constituents of the ERC were introduced successfully and the Specific Programme “Ideas” was implemented according to the principles that it lays down. The ERC has had to deal with a large number of proposals received in response to the call for proposals for starting grants in accordance with the specified schedule. As part of the mid term review of the operation of the ERC, its structures, mechanisms and governance will be examined.

Commission Decision 2008/37/EC of 14 December 2007 setting up the European Research Council Executive Agency for the management of the specific Community programme Ideas in the field of frontier research in application of Council Regulation (EC) No 58/2003 [Official Journal L 9 of 12.1.2008].
Progress has been made concerning the establishment of the ERCEA, which commenced its operations in the course of 2008. The tasks currently assumed by Directorate S will be entrusted to the ERCEA in full once it is ready to operate independently.

Report from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament explaining the European Research Council operations and realisation of the objectives set out in the Specific Programme «Ideas» in 2007 [COM(2008) 473 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Last updated: 04.06.2009
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