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Brussels, 17 December 2012
Commission to fund top research chairs in less-developed regions
Grants of up to €2.4 million will be awarded to universities or research institutions in less developed regions in Europe, under a pilot programme of the European Commission. The aim of the so-called ERA Chairs initiative is to attract outstanding academics to places that want to be on the international map for top research.
Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, said: "Many regions in Europe are underperforming on research, both in terms of their overall output and in terms of their participation in EU funded research. I want to make sure that no one is left behind, not out of charity, but because it makes good research sense and economic sense to have wide participation in our programmes. This is the reason why we are launching the ERA Chairs initiative."
The ERA Chairs initiative will support universities and other eligible organisations to achieve the level of research excellence needed to be competitive at international level. They will have to demonstrate that they can provide the facilities and environment for excellent research in line with the European Research Area (ERA). Once selected, the institutions will award ERA Chairs to outstanding academics who have the capacity to raise standards and attract more high level staff as well as money from other sources, such as EU research funding or Regional funds.
Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for Regional Policy, said: "By pooling our resources in these regions, we can make sure this is a lasting and sustainable initiative. If we combine EU research funding with EU regional funds, we can provide laboratories and equipment for these academics and their teams. Supported in this way, we will close the research and innovation gap and help translate these ideas in concrete opportunities for growth."
Link to Commissioner Hahn's video-message:
Operating with €12 million drawn from the budget of the current seventh framework programme for research (2007-2013), the pilot stage for ERA Chairs will test the concept. If successful, the Commission proposes to fund a much larger number of ERA Chairs, depending on the size of the budget for the future framework programme Horizon 2020 (2014-2020).
The purpose of this initiative is to help close the research and innovation divide in Europe and widen participation in the European Research Area. The ERA Chairs programme will support universities and other eligible organisations in achieving the level of research excellence required to be competitive at international level on a sustainable basis.
The first phase of the pilot call, steered by the Commission, is to identify and select the institutions in which an ERA Chair will be established. This will be done through a competitive process. Eligible institutions will be any university or other research organisation with a non-profit mission (as defined in the FP7 rules for participation) located in a convergence/less-developed region (as defined by the General Regulation of the Structural Funds for the present programming period and similar characteristics for associated countries).
The interested institutions will have until 30 May 2013 to submit their proposals, which will be evaluated by the Commission over the summer of 2013. The first grant agreements could be signed in December 2013.
In the second phase, starting in early 2014, the successful research organisations will publish the job vacancy and select the ERA Chair holder through an open and transparent recruitment process, a guiding principle under the European Research Area to boost excellence. The candidates can be nationals of any country in the world.
The indicative budget for this call is €12 million. The financial contribution per proposal will be up to a maximum of €2.4 million for a period of up to five years. A maximum of one grant will be awarded per country. If the pilot call is successful, the Commission proposes to enlarge the programme significantly under Horizon 2020. As well as ERA Chairs, Horizon 2020 will support twinning of emerging and advanced institutions, teaming to create Centres of Excellence, staff exchanges and expert advice and assistance. The upgrading of research infrastructure and facilities will come under the remit of the EU Regional Policy
For more information, see MEMO/12/988.
For more information on Horizon 2020:
For more information on Innovation Union:
Michael Jennings (+32 2 296 33 88)
Monika Wcislo (+32 2 295 56 04)