The European Research Council (ERC) is the sole European science funding agency that is designed and governed by scientists. As such, it has become one of the world’s leading and most respected funders of frontier research, with more than 70% of completed projects leading to discoveries or major advances. The ERC’s investigator-driven approach and allocation of grants based solely on scientific excellence gives researchers the flexibility to propose what they consider to be the most exciting and ambitious projects. This approach has not only resulted in groundbreaking advancements but has also attracted world-leading researchers and helped establish Europe as a scientific powerhouse.
The ERC’s focus on blue-skies research helps ensure that scientific achievements will continue to contribute to pressing economic, environmental and societal issues, both now and in the long term. Without an in-depth understanding of fundamental science, it can be very difficult to find appropriate solutions to these issues.
The EGU is concerned that a diversion of funding away from the ERC, or changes to its bottom-up approach, could result in diminished breakthroughs and less innovation in the future — backsteps that could in turn lead to a long-term reduction in resilience to widespread crises such as COVID-19. The EGU would like to urge all EU leaders to prioritise the ERC’s funding in Horizon Europe and the next EU Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) despite the reprioritisation that will need to take place in light of the current pandemic. Prioritising ERC funding through these programmes will ensure that frontier research in Europe will continue to lead to the major advances that are most likely to help all citizens effectively manage future crises or avoid them altogether.
Despite taking an investigator-driven approach, the ERC is does have 50 ongoing or completed projects that are contributing to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic by providing insights from several different scientific fields. You can find a list of ERC projects related to COVID-19 here.
We encourage EGU members to react to this statement. If you have comments that you would like to see added to this piece, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or add your comment on the related EGU blog. If you would like to support funding for the ERC in the next long-term EU budget, you can sign this petition from the Friends of the ERC.