The ERC is a new initiative, and is due to begin operating in 2007 as part of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). As the work programme explains, "The fundamental principle for all ERC activities is that of stimulating investigator-initiated frontier research across all fields of research, on the basis of excellence."
Two types of grant will be available, the Advanced Investigator Grant and the Starting Independent Researcher Grant. The first call for proposals will address the latter. It will be open to excellent researchers of any nationality who are in the EU or an associated country, or moving to the region, who are establishing and leading their first research team or programme. The budget for the first call will be around â¬300 million.
The grant will be awarded to the host institution, which will be asked to commit to allowing the Principal Investigator the independence to manage the research funding for the duration of the project.
'Independence' is spelled out in the work programme as allowing the principal investigator to:
- apply for funding independently of senior colleagues;
- manage the research funding for the project and make appropriate resource allocation decisions;
- publish as senior authors and invite as co-authors only those who have contributed substantially to the reported work;
- supervise team members, including research students or others;
- have access to reasonable space and facilities for conducting the research.
Grants will amount to between â¬100,000 and â¬400,000 per year for a period of up to five years, depending on the peer review evaluation and the needs of the project.
The Scientific Council emphasises that "Proposals of an interdisciplinary nature which cross the boundaries between different panels, proposals in new and emerging fields and 'high-risk, high-gain' proposals are encouraged." The proposals will be evaluated twice, with only those that pass the first stage being invited to submit a more detailed proposal.
As explained in the work programme, the Starting Grant is intended to encourage more young researchers to embark upon an independent career in science: "Europe offers insufficient opportunities for young investigators to develop independent careers and make the transition from working under a supervisor to being independent research leaders in their own right. This structural problem leads to a dramatic waste of research talent in Europe. It limits or delays the emergence of the next-generation of researchers, who bring new ideas and energy, and it encourages highly talented researchers at an early stage of their career to seek advancement elsewhere."
The work programme is subject to change before the first call for proposals is published, and will be revised in 2007 to include the ERC Advanced Grant scheme.
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