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European Research Council launched

01 Mar 2007

ERC will make available €7.5 billion for scientific research over the next seven years.

Scientists in Europe are set to benefit from a massive new source of research money following the official launch of the European Research Council (ERC) at a conference in Berlin on 27 February. The ERC – the first pan-European funding agency to cover all fields of science – will award grants to individual researchers worth a total of €7.5 billion over the next seven years. The launch was attended by over 280 scientists, including German chancellor and former physicist Angela Merkel, who is the current president of the European Union's council of ministers.

The ERC is part of the European Union's massive €54.6 billion Seventh Framework programme, which is designed to boost Europe's competitiveness and increase economic growth. Although the bulk of the money will be spent on large multinational projects in areas such as nanotechnology, IT and energy, this is the first time that Framework cash is being given directly to individual scientists working alone or in small teams.

Based in Brussels, the ERC will provide starting grants for postdocs and other young scientists who want to set up their own research groups. These will be worth up to €2 million over five years. The ERC is also offering advanced grants to established researchers of any age, worth up to €2.5 million over five years.

Grants will be awarded in all areas of science and selected on the basis of peer review, with scientific excellence being the sole criterion for selection. Scientists from any country can apply for the money provided that they carry out the research at a university or institute in Europe. They will be able to start applying for money from 19 March, with the deadline for the first call for proposals being 25 April.

Today's launch conference is being attended by 300 scientists from 30 countries and hosted by the German Research Council. Apart from Merkel, other dignitaries in Berlin include European Union research commissioner Janez Potocnik, the British government's chief scientific adviser David King, and CERN boss Robert Aymar.

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