In May, I published an article in the Swedish journal Curie on how important it is that we do not jeopardize one of the greatest European success stories in the last decade, the European Research Council (ERC). I also wrote about this on my blog.
Thanks to its unique formula of independence from political intervention and singular focus on excellence, bold research ideas and bottom-up approach, ERC grants are now among the most prestigious research grants in the world. Currently there is a fear of a budget cut for EU research, affecting also the ERC.
ERC has a crucial role to play in creating a balance between basic and applied research and in providing a solid foundation for innovation and societal development. We know that basic, curiosity driven research is a prerequisite for productivity growth and we also know that public funding is needed to compensate for under-investment in basic research in the private sector.
It is paramount that we safeguard a stable funding for long term, curiosity-driven research. An overemphasis on short term results will put the future seeds of innovation at risk.
In an open letter several university and research leaders (I was one of them) called upon the EU Presidents and the Heads of States and Governments in Europe to secure funding for ERC in the next long-term EU budget. We also launched a campaign with a petition letter. When I wrote my article in Curie, the petition had collected more than 6 500 signatures from all over Europe. Now we have more than 16 000 signatures.
Tomorrow – Thursday September 3 – we take the next step. I will be chairing an international press conference together with colleagues from a number of universities around Europe. The message is simple and clear: EU must protect the funding of the ERC in the next long-term budget of the EU.
Not only must we protect the ERC in terms of funding: we also need to protect its unique profile. My personal opinion – after having worked in the ERC system as panel chair since its inception – is that we should stay faithful to the mandate of the ERC even in the time of a pandemic. The ERC must not be converted into a funding source of COVID-19 research. The ERC has proved extremely successful, precisely because it has shied away from any attempt to steer its resources to specific topics. Quality – and quality alone – is what matters. The ERC is duly respected worldwide because of this.
More information can be found on Friends of the ERC’s web site.
Update September 4:
There is now a video published from the press conferense.