The European Research Council (ERC) is leading the way in the provision of financial support to some of Europe's finest researchers. Funding provided by the ERC, a total of EUR 7.5 billion, not only supports research but further stimulates pioneering research in groundbreaking new areas, areas that may not have been financially viable without ERC support. The ERC has increased their funding and are now also funding junior scientists through the ERC Starting Grant Scheme.
Europe has provided the world with some of the most cutting-edge research, research that was born out of the minds of scientists that were born and bred in Europe. In recent years many of these brilliant minds have been leaving Europe and seeking opportunities abroad. The ERC Starting Grant Scheme, however, seeks to reverse this trend and aims to keep promising young researchers closer to home.
Specifically, funding under this scheme supports young research leaders and assists in their transition from working under a supervisor to creating their own research paths and conducting research on their own. It will also assist in the creation of new research teams as well as existing teams.
One such researcher is Dr Katja Sträßer, who, at the age of 36, is just one of 300 successful applicants selected from 10 000 project proposals to receive a EUR 1 million grant to support her research project. Her research will focus on the conversion of genetic information into proteins. Dr Sträßer, and others like her, have found that the grant has given an important boost to both their research and personal goals.
Like many other recipients her research project will run over the next five years — the maximum duration the ERC will fund a project. The maximum amount of funding a project is eligible to receive is EUR 2 million. To be eligible, the Principle Investigator can be of any nationality and age, provided they have held a PhD (or equivalent degree) for at least three years and less than eight years prior to the call for proposals. Their host institution must be an EU Member State or an Associated country (the latter includes Albania, Croatia, Iceland, Israel, Liechtenstein, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Norway, Montenegro, Serbia, Switzerland and Turkey).
It should be mentioned that the ERC has only been around for a very short period of time. It was legally established in February 2007 in Berlin following its adoption by the European Parliament which allocated a budget of EUR 7.5 billion to it spread over 7 years. All fields of research are supported by the grant, not only the hard sciences but also the social sciences and the humanities.
However, emphasis is placed on groundbreaking research proposals as well as interdisciplinary research. This is research that is not cemented in one field, but instead crosses many fields of science and brings them together under one roof. In focusing on these areas the grant hopes to encourage new and unconventional approaches to research that will prove to be fruitful and innovative.