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Brussels, 4 November 2003

First EU Marie Curie Awards in recognition of world-class achievements in European research

European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin presented today the first ever Marie Curie Excellence Awards to five outstanding European researchers, as part of the Marie Curie Week (3-15 November). The ceremony was organised by the Free University of Brussels. The Awards, amounting to €50,000 each, are one of the novelties of the €20 billion 6th EU Research Framework Program (FP6 2002-2006) and aim to boost the career of world-class researchers by contributing to their international recognition. The prizes are awarded to top researchers who, with the aid of EU “Marie Curie” fellowships and grants, achieve significant research breakthroughs. This year's winners are Paola Barbara Arimondo (United Kingdom), for her work on cancer research, Daniel Bonn (The Netherlands), for his work on complex fluids, Letitia Fernanda Cugliandolo (Argentina) for her work on equilibrium dynamics, Marco Dorigo (Italy), for his work on ants' organization, and Luis Serrano Pubull (Spain), for his work on biological systems.

“This action falls directly in line with the objectives of the European Research Area, namely to put scientific excellence at the heart of our policies”, said Philippe Busquin. “We cannot hope to stop the brain drain and increase researcher's mobility across Europe if we don't take steps to make scientific careers more attractive. We train world-class researchers in Europe, but then we are not always able to offer them competitive salaries, good working conditions and stimulating projects. The Marie Curie Awards do not only pay tribute to the great Polish scientist, but also aim at recognising European excellence in science and at making European researchers proud of their profession, in the broader framework of our initiatives to improve researchers' status in Europe.”

€1,6 billion EU funding for researchers

Since the launch of the European Research Area in January 2000, the European Commission has placed mobility and the career development of researchers at the heart of its strategy to enhance the EU attractiveness to researchers and combat brain drain. The Sixth Framework Programme for Research (FP6 2002-2006) devotes for the first time almost 10% of its budget to funding schemes in support of the training, mobility and career development of researchers, namely € 1,6 billion out of a total of € 20 billion.

Where are the best brains?

The need to focus on an abundant and well-trained workforce of researchers is a key condition for the successful implementation of the mandate of the March 2000 Lisbon European Council; namely to turn Europe into the most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy of the world by 2010.

It is also paramount for the implementation of the 3 % objective i.e. the decision taken at the Barcelona European Council in March 2002, to devote 3% of European average GDP to research by the end of the decade. According to recent estimates, the fulfilment of the 3% objective would require in practice 700,000 additional researchers by the end of the decade.

The human factor

One of the major novelties of FP6 is the inclusion in the “Human Factor and Mobility programme”, also known as “Marie Curie Actions”, of a series of specific schemes intended to promote and reward excellence in scientific careers. The Marie Curie Awards aim to reward young researchers who, after completing a mobility experience financed by the European Union, have achieved world-class recognition through their research activities. Over 35,000 researchers have benefited so far from such programmes.

An immediate response

A total of 84 eligible proposals were submitted in response to the first call for proposals for the Marie Curie Excellence Awards, published in December 2002. The evaluation of the proposals was carried out during the period 22 July -12 September 2003 with the help of 63 independent experts. The final recommendations of candidates for the Awards were made by the Marie Curie Grand Jury, an international panel of 6 members under the Chairmanship of Professor Hélène Langevin-Joliot, a prominent French physicist and granddaughter of Marie Curie.

71 of the 84 eligible proposals were submitted by candidates from EU Member States, 9 submissions came from accession countries and 4 from non-European countries. 61 proposals were submitted by men and 23 by women. As regards the ranking by disciplines, 26 proposals concerned Life Sciences, followed by 21 for Physics, 9 for Engineering, 8 for Environmental Sciences and Mathematics, 5 for Chemistry, 4 for Economics and 3 for Social Sciences and Humanities.

The Awards will consist of a € 50,000 prize for each of the laureates. A maximum of 5 prizes will be given every year.

And the winners are ....

  • Paola Barbara Arimondo (United Kingdom), for her work on "New anti-tumour agents based on conjugates of topoisomerase inhibitors and sequence-specific DNA ligands"

  • Daniel Bonn (The Netherlands), for his work on "New frontiers in complex fluids"

  • Letitia Fernanda Cugliandolo (Argentina) for her work on "A theoretical approach to the non-equilibrium dynamics of macroscopic systems evolving slowly"

  • Marco Dorigo (Italy), for his work on "Ant colony organization and ant algorithms"

  • Luis Serrano Pubull (Spain), for his work on "Design of Biological systems to improve quality of life”.

Marie Curie Week

The Awards ceremony, which takes place in the Dupréel Room of the Institute of Sociology of the Université Libre de Bruxelles, on 4 November 2003, from 14.30 to 15.45, is the keynote event of the first Marie Curie Week, an awareness-raising event covering a wide-range of areas, organised from 3 to 15 November by the European Commission, the “Université Libre de Bruxelles” (ULB), the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) and the Brussels-Capital Region.

The aims of the Week are to inform the public about the role and work of Marie Curie, in the framework of the Centennial of her Nobel Prize for Physics; to promote the profession of researcher among the general public; to enhance the attractiveness for young people of scientific careers; and to contribute to the improvement of the social recognition of researchers in Europe.

The Awards Ceremony is to be presided over by Philippe Busquin, European Commissioner for Research. The keynote address is delivered by Professor Bronislaw Geremek, Historian, and former Polish Minister for Foreign Affairs.

For more information on the Ceremony and the Marie Curie Week, please consult the Marie Curie Actions Web Site at the following address

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