The European Council of research will distribute 7,5 billion euros over six years.


The world BATTLE of research will pass through the European Council of research (ERC). Envisaged within the framework of the seventh outline programme, this structure must finance pioneers projects in all the fields of fundamental research. One finds a little the same logic which governs the operation of the national Agency of research (ANR), launched here two years to France, but with exclusively of the projects known as “white” (without preset set of themes).


“Great scientific discoveries intervened thanks to space and to time that one gave to the great ideas to open out. It is what we want to concretize with the ERC”, launched the European police chief to Research Janez Potocnik. The only criterion of selection will be “excellence”.


The word was on all the lips, at the time of the conference of launching of the institution in Berlin, inaugurated Tuesday by the German chancelière Angela Merkel.


Difficult not to perceive, among the 250 directors of national institutes of research taking part in the event, the hopes generated by such an initiative.


“This type of financing is very awaited by the researchers”, confirms Michel Cosnard, chairman of Inria.


Equipped with 7,5 billion euros 2007 to 2013, the ERC will distribute two types of financings. As of this year, 200 purses d’1,5 million euros each one will be granted to young researchers, doctors since less than nine years. Since 2008, from 200 to 500 allowances of 2,5 million euros will be distributed to other researchers, unbounded of age.


To make return brains


“That will support mobility”, is pleased Angelos Michaelides, enquiring young person of London Centre for Nanotechnology. Indeed, as there is not restriction of nationality, any foreign researcher deciding to come to work in Europe can profit from it. “What to attract brains, to even make return from the French”, notes Alain Peyraube, director of research CNRS in the linguistic Research center on Eastern Asia (EHESS) and one of the two French members of the scientific council of the ERC. The installation of the ERC did not proceed without debates. A brawl opposed the European Commission to several Member States, of which France, Portugal or Sweden, which wished its autonomy.


Finally, Brussels obtained profit of cause, the ERC will have the statute of executive agency. Its scientific council of twenty-two members will be chaired by Fotis Kafatos, of the Imperial College of London.


Last debate: 20% of the financings granted to each project will be allotted to the institution which lodges it, to cover the expenses in particular equipment. “The British would have wished more, because in the United States that accounts for 40 to 60 % of the budgets”, testifies Mathias Dewatripont, professor d’ Économie in the Université libre de Bruxelles.


“The hope is that that drains the best projects, but the limited chances of success (approximately 1 %) are likely to discourage”, fears finally Enno Aufderheide, director of the policy of research of the Institute max Planck, the German equivalent of CNRS. The more so as “no one will not be authorized to cumulate financings ANR and ERC”, underlines the director general of CNRS Arnold Migus. “Some could prefer safety, with the ANR”, fears on its side Alain Peyraube.