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Brussels, 24 February 2009

Leading experts to carry out the European Research Council review

The European Commissioner for Science and Research, Janez Potočnik, today met the future members of a high level panel due to review the European Research Council (ERC). The aim of this review, which comes after two years of operations, will be to scrutinize the ERC’s structure and mechanisms, to take stock of its achievements and to give advice on the direction this pioneering research funding initiative should take for the future. The review will be conducted by eminent representatives of the science and policy domains from the EU and US.

Following the commitment to conduct a review of the European Research Council structures and mechanisms, the EU Commissioner for Science and research today met the future members of the ERC Review Panel who are expected to be appointed by the Commission in the coming days. The Panel will comprise six eminent experts with a strong background in research policy and management at national, European and international level. All have held top positions in national government, research institutes, or prestigious European academic establishments. The Panel will be chaired by Professor Vaira Vike-Freiberga, former President of Latvia (1999-2007) and former Professor of Psychology at the University of Montreal; since December 2007 she is also the Vice-president of the Reflection Group on the long-term future of the European Union.

The other members will be:

  • Yves Mény (Rapporteur), President of the European University Institute;
  • Fiorella Kostoris Padoa Schioppa, Professor of Economics at "La Spienza", Rome; former President of ISAE;
  • Lars-Hendrik Röller, President of European School of Management and Technology, Berlin and Professor of Economics, Humboldt University, Berlin;
  • Lord (David) Sainsbury (Vice-Chair), Former Under Secretary of State at UK Department of Trade and Industry with responsibility for Science & Innovation; Head of Gatsby Charitable Foundation;
  • Elias Zerhouni, Former Director of National Institutes of Health, USA (until Oct 2008); previous executive Vice-dean of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, USA.

European Commissioner for Science and Research, Janez Potočnik said: "The review of ERC structures and mechanisms should be seen as a very important step in the development of the ERC and beyond that the future excellence and competitiveness of Europe. I am pleased to entrust it to such an eminent group and thank them for their commitment to this important work. The Commission is committed to an absolutely independent review, so as to ensure a robust and authoritative analysis of the ERC. We will provide the Panel with all the support it needs to do this".

The ERC: a new funding instrument to promote EU's excellence in research

Launched just over two years ago in 2007, the ERC has already developed into a well-functioning research funding body that is internationally recognised and a beacon for the best European frontier research. Through Europe-wide competition, with excellence the only criterion, the ERC funds scientists working on the brightest ideas at the frontiers of knowledge. In its first two years, the ERC considered more than 11 000 grant applications, and managed to allocate more than € 850 m to 575 successful applicants.

The ERC is a radical departure from established approaches of EU funding for research. It is managed by an independent Scientific Council and operates through implementing structure that is to become an autonomous Executive Agency before Summer 2009. To ensure that its structures and mechanisms are appropriate and effective, a high-level independent review will now be conducted during 2009. This review is expected to be instrumental in establishing a stable and sustainable structure for the ERC.

The Panel will meet between February and July and prepare an initial report in the summer to enable the European Commission to make an initial response in the autumn.

Further information on the ERC review will be made available on the dedicated website at as the review proceeds.

Background information

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on the methodology and terms of reference to be used for the review to be carried out by independent experts concerning the European Research Council structures and mechanisms, COM/2008/0526 final

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/2008/0473 final

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