Brussels, 6 February 2014
EU funding helps bridge gap between 'blue sky' research and the market
'Blue sky’ basic science is focused on advancing knowledge, but it can sometimes generate unexpected applications. That is why the European Research Council (ERC) provides top-up funding, 'Proof of Concept', for its grant holders to bring their pioneering work closer to market. The final results of the latest grant competition for this funding were announced today: a total of 67 leading researchers, who already hold ERC grants, have received up to €150,000 each. The projects cover everything from an exploration of the molecular foundations of psychiatric disorders to technological innovations that could help rescue skiers caught in avalanches, or measure extreme waves (more information on projects here).
EU Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said: “The funding announced today will help turn ideas into innovation. The ERC Proof of Concept grants encourage a new type of thinking amongst researchers, backing them to make the most of their blue sky research. This mindset will help European recovery and improve our quality of life.”
The Proof of Concept funding can cover activities aimed at commercial and societal applications, such as establishing intellectual property rights, investigating commercial and business opportunities or technical validation.
In this call, a total of 67 grants have now been awarded, of which the final 34 were made public today -the first 33 grants were announced in September 2013-. In this second round of funding, grants go to researchers in 13 countries across the European Research Area: the Netherlands (5), Germany (4), the United Kingdom (4), Ireland (3), Israel (3), Spain (3), Switzerland (3), Belgium (2), France (2), Sweden (2), Denmark (1), Finland (1) and Italy (1). Amongst the winners is Professor Ada Yonath, a Nobel Prize laureate in Chemistry (2009), who since 2012 has worked on a project funded through an ERC Advanced Grant.
A total of 147 proposals were submitted to this second round of the call. The budget of the entire call is €10 million, of which nearly €5 million is earmarked for this second round. The next call for proposals - 'Proof of Concept' 2014 – is currently open (to ERC grant holders) with a first deadline on 1 April 2014.
The European Research Council launched the 'Proof of Concept' funding initiative in March 2011 to contribute to stimulating innovation. A single grant can be worth up to €150,000. The call is open to all Principal Investigators benefitting from an on-going ERC grant or a grant that ended less than twelve months before the publication date of the call. The funding is for up to 18 months per project.
Set up in 2007 by the EU, the European Research Council is the first pan-European funding organisation for frontier research. It aims to stimulate scientific excellence in Europe by encouraging competition for funding between the very best, creative researchers of any nationality and age. The ERC also strives to attract top researchers from anywhere in the world to come to Europe. The ERC operates according to an "investigator-driven", or "bottom-up", approach, allowing researchers to identify new opportunities in any field of research. Since its launch, the ERC has funded over 4,500 frontier research projects throughout Europe and has become a "benchmark" for excellent research.
From 2007 to 2013, as part of the seventh EU Research Framework Programme (FP7), the ERC's budget was €7.5 billion. Under the new Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (2014-2020), Horizon 2020, the ERC has a substantially increased budget of over €13 billion.