ERC Budget Increase: Good News for “Blue Skies” Research

Picture of moneyThe Times Higher Education reports today that the “blue skies” focused European Research Council will have an annual budget increase of 23% to €1.6bn:

Funding for the highly regarded European Research Council, which finances “frontier” research, will rise by 23 per cent to €1.6 billion.

Jerzy Langer, professor of physics at the Polish Academy of Sciences, said that in terms of money received versus investment, UK researchers were the “true financial winners”.

Commenting on the considerable increase in funding for the ERC, he said it was “a triple miracle”.

“Scientists have finally united around (the council), politicians have listened to the arguments of scientists and they have also given away so much money without any guarantee about the return to their constituencies,” he added.

Richard Jones, pro vice-chancellor for research and innovation at the University of Sheffield, also saw the UK as a major winner from the settlement. “The UK has historically done rather well from ERC funds, so this is good news for us in an environment in which our own research councils’ funding is being squeezed,” he said.

“As an organisation devoted to funding science on the basis of excellence alone, it’s an important complement to the more goal-orientated research funded by the rest of the framework programme.”

Funding for Marie Curie Fellowships will also rise by 17%. This confirms the importance of both of these bottom-up schemes both within the FP7 research strategy and in wider EC policy, where funding innovative research and development is seen as a key part of the route to sustainable economic growth.

I explored some of the wider strategic and policy issues around the future of EC Framework funding in my report on June’s Framework and Innovation Union event.