The European Research Council (ERC), which was established in 2007, is the first pan-European organisation for funding high-quality investigator-led frontier research across all fields. With a budget (2007-2013) of $7.5 billion, the council has the mandate to stimulate scientific excellence by encouraging competition between the best researchers of any nationality and age. To date, seven Indian scientists have received ERC grants.
ERC secretary general Donald B Dingwell talks about the organisation and what it has in store for Indian researchers:
ERC’s mission is to stimulate scientific excellence in Europe by encouraging competition between creative researchers. What are ERC’s plans for India and Asia?
The ERC seeks to fully inform all interested researchers in India and in Asia of the possibilities provided by its programmes. We want to ensure that the world’s best researchers know of the good news the ERC represents.
ERC is launching a major campaign in India in September. What is the focus of this campaign and the target group?
ERC is participating in a larger European Council initiative that has its own objectives. The target group for ERC is the best researchers in India, who would be willing to apply for ERC funding.
Young scientists from India often opt for the United States. What is Europe and ERC offering them ‘extra’ so that they opt for the continent?
The freedom, support and prestige enjoyed by ERC grantees are substantial indeed. The ERC provides a way to perform top-level research, partly based at a European research institution.
The world economy is not doing well. In these trying times, how important is it to invest in research and innovation and why?
It has arguably never been more important to invest in top-level, bottom-up research. Keeping the world’s best researchers doing what they do best is a sure investment in future innovative. We at the ERC like to think of it as preparing us all for the unexpected challenges of the future.
How has the performance of the Indian ERC grantees been so far?
Indian researchers are performing relatively well in the ERC grant competitions. By now, seven ERC grantees are Indian nationals; all of them received ERC starting grants (that is, junior top scientists) for a total amount of almost €9.4 million. In comparison, four Chinese and eight Japanese researchers have been awarded ERC grants so far. Other non-European nationalities, such as Americans, Canadians and Australians, take the lead in terms of numbers.
We are still waiting for the results of the last ERC call (starting grants; likely to be announced by mid-September), but we expect that the number of Indian ERC grantees will soon increase.