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Brussels, 17 December 2012
Frequently Asked Questions on European Research Area (ERA) Chairs
Why does the Commission launch “ERA Chairs” under Horizon 2020?
“ERA Chairs” is a new measure under Horizon 2020 to bridge the research and innovation divide1. They are intended to help develop research excellence in low performing RDI Member States and regions. They should implement ‘smart specialization strategies’ so that they impact on the wider development of the region.
Before launching a first wide scale call under Horizon 2020, the Commission decided to immediately publish a pilot call under FP7 in December 2012 to test the new measure and learn from first experiences.
What are "ERA Chairs"?
Universities or other eligible research institutions with currently low levels of participation in the Framework Programme which have a demonstrated potential and concrete plan for research excellence will be selected by the Commission to appoint outstanding research leaders: the "ERA Chairs" and his/her research team. This will permit these institutions to develop, in a particular field, the level of excellence required to successfully compete internationally and effectively widen participation.
Are synergies foreseen between research excellence (Horizon 2020) and capacity building (Regional Policy Funding)?
Bridging the research and innovation divide requires both investment in research and innovation capacities (such as research facilities) and attracting scientific quality (outstanding researchers). Concentration of resources through Regional Policy Funding and Horizon 2020 is actively encouraged in the Multi Annual Financial Framework 2014 and 2020. Commissioners Geoghegan-Quinn and Hahn have closely worked together to ensure the complementarities of measures to invest in research and innovation under the different EU funding programmes.
Institutions will need to show in what way they mobilise research capacity investment, for instance from Regional Policy Funding, to provide adequate infrastructure. This will require that the planning, programming, and implementation of regional policy funding at regional and national level fully reflect the EU research and innovation objectives.
Which institutions are eligible to apply under the pilot call?
To apply for an ERA Chair under the pilot call, the university or research organisation must be a legal entity located in one of the regions detailed in the FP7 Research Potential Work Programme2 for 2012-13 which focuses in particular on convergence.
What is expected from an ERA Chair organisation?
Universities and research organisations shall submit a proposal aimed at facilitating structural change inspired by ERA best practice based principles which provide guidance to institutions to become more open, attractive and competitive. For instance, transparent and merit based recruitment or peer review assessment underpin research excellence. Applying the principles for innovative doctoral training gives guidance for high quality structured training to young researchers with opportunities for exposure to international and business cooperation during their independent research project.
Furthermore, the proposal shall detail the necessary investments in facilities and infrastructures and the interaction with national or regional authorities to mobilise support, including from regional policy funding. The institution should also have a sustainable business plan to maintain research excellence after the funding from the ERA Chair grant ends. It should assess the possible impact of the entire ERA Chair action on the institution, its research excellence, and the wider region.
In short, the institution needs to present a vision, a strategy, and a substantiated and sustainable business plan, with the identification of the research area for which it seeks to appoint the “ERA Chair” and a description as to how this ‘ERA Chair” will be integrated into the institution.
Which research themes are eligible?
For the Pilot Call proposals from all areas of scientific and technological research as defined in FP7 are welcome. There are no pre-defined priority areas. However, regions cannot do everything in science, technology and innovation. According to the 'smart specialisation' strategy, a key element of the Europe 2020 Strategy3, Member States and regions should promote what should make their knowledge base unique and superior4.
What is the profile of the “ERA Chairs”?
The researchers to be appointed as “ERA Chairs” should have a track record in scientific excellence. They also need to demonstrate their competence and experience to lead and manage research teams and secure competitive research funding.
Do “ERA Chairs” need to be European?
The “ERA Chairs” can be of any nationality. They may also come from the country in which the university or the research organisation is located.
Are “ERA Chairs” another EU mobility scheme?
The “ERA Chairs” need to be fully integrated into the institutional structure. Mobility may be a way to recruit the ERA Chair, without mobility being the final objective of the measure.
How much time must the ERA Chair devote to the task?
The ERA Chair holder shall be appointed to a full-time position. Therefore, the Chair must devote her/himself full time to the activities connected to the ERA Chair work at the institution. S/He has to take responsibility for setting up and implementing the research agenda of his/her team. However, the ERA Chair can continue to have formal ties with previous/other research institutions.
How will the “ERA Chairs” be selected?
The European Commission will select the ERA Chair institutions and sign the grant agreement with these institutions. The evaluation of proposals will be carried out according to the procedures of the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7), with peer review by external experts. Grant agreements can run up to five years.
Once the grant agreement is signed, the successful institutions will start the implementation of the project and publish5 the vacancy for the ERA Chair and will appoint the ERA Chair following an open and merit-based recruitment process. The European Commission will carefully monitor how the recruitment process is carried out.
Does the university or research organisation have to employ the ERA Chair?
The institution employs through an employment contract or equivalent, the ERA Chair. The Chair should have a position within the organisation/university, professor or similar, that will allow her/him to freely apply for research funding in order to develop and raise the level of research excellence of both the team and the institution to successfully compete at international level and help to close the research divide.
Does the institution have to continue to employ the ERA Chair once the contract ends?
The European Commission will carefully analyse the sustainability of the business plan, including after the life time of the grant agreement, submitted by the institution when evaluating the proposals. Nevertheless, there is no formal requirement in the grant agreement between the European Commission and the institution to employ the ERA Chair beyond the lifetime of the grant.
How many “ERA Chairs” will be awarded in the pilot call?
The indicative budget for this pilot call is €12,000,000. Each ERA Chair will be awarded with a maximum EU contribution of €2.4 million. A maximum of one ERA Chair per country will be selected for the pilot call.
How can the funding be used?
The FP7 budget contribution under the ERA Chair grant agreement will be dedicated to salaries of the ERA Chair and his/her team and costs related with the implementation of the work plan, including costs associated to the implementation of ERA principles. Any research infrastructure or other direct research funding should be provided from other sources, for example, regional policy funding.
The Chair will have the freedom to use part of the grant to hire a research team, including recruitment costs, and pay for the required travel, training activities, meetings, workshops, working visits by foreign experts and collaborators, conference attendance, publication and patenting costs and a contribution to overheads.
Are “ERA Chairs” the only measure to reduce the research/innovation divide under Horizon 2020?
“ERA Chairs” are part of a set of measures tackling the research/innovation divide. For instance, the European Commission supports various forms of collaboration across universities and research organisations, including via teaming and twinning, hereby bringing organisations together.
What other ways is regional policy supporting innovation and research?
EU regional policy is already supporting projects around Europe to promote research and innovation - and to reverse the so called brain drain. The ELI research hub recently approved for Romania is one of many initiatives to attract and keep scientists by helping to fund state of the art laboratories and equipment. But in the next funding period of 2014- 2020 the regional funds will be much more focused on fewer priorities. Innovation and research is one of those areas where investment will be directed.
What is the difference between ERA Chairs, ERC grants and Marie-Curie Fellowships?
The “ERA Chairs” differ from any other initiative. ERC grants are restricted to frontier research for which the sole criterion for selection is scientific excellence, while the ERA Chairs support universities and research organisations to develop their potential for research excellence.
The ERA Chairs also differs from the Marie Curie individual fellowships and grants as these are geared towards the career development of individual researchers, while the ERA Chairs target both institutions and researchers to build competitive research capacity.
Indicative Timetable for the ERA Chairs Pilot call
Capacities: Research Potential Work Programme 2012-2013.
Foray, D., P.A. David, B.H. Hall. 2011. From academic idea to political instrument, the surprising career of a concept and the difficulties involved in its implementation, November 2011 issue of the Management of Technology and Entrepreneurship Institute College of Management of Technology, Lausanne, Switzerland. 16p