The importance of knowledge creation and research for our well-being and the prosperity of our society and economies cannot be overstated. The ability to formulate questions and to seek answers to understand the world around us is a distinguishing feature of being human. Research is key to satisfy our innate curiosity and imagination.
In the last centuries, curiosity-driven research in all fields, including the social sciences and humanities, has enabled the development of the knowledge and technology that are the basis of our everyday life. Curiosity-driven research and technology-driven innovation always involve a certain degree of risk-taking, and not all projects succeed in their ambition to answer difficult questions or apply knowledge to deliver new products or services. Yet, the societal benefits of successful research and innovation are so high that public investment in this sector remains essential for the future of our society.
At the European level, this was recognised in 2007 with the establishment of the European Research Council (ERC) to fund the highest quality curiosity-driven research, and in 2021 with the founding of the European Innovation Council (EIC) to support ground-breaking innovations. Both institutions aim to nurture the best talent in research and in innovation. Their presence under the same framework programme, Horizon Europe, recognises that many ERC researchers are also innovators and many EIC innovators also are researchers.
We, the ERC Scientific Council and the EIC pilot Advisory Board, have met on 17 May to respond to this opportunity and promote strong collaboration between the institutions that we respectively govern and advise. A lot has been achieved already this year.
For example, the new EIC Transition funding has been designed to help results from ERC Proof of Concept projects get closer to the market. Another important area of collaboration is the identification of research trends emerging among ERC-funded projects, which can inform the development of revolutionary technologies that the EIC can fund. Joint thematic workshops on cell and gene therapy as well as on energy storage, have been planned in 2021 to bring the worlds of research and innovation together, to exchange ideas, build networks, and expand the realm of the possible.
Research results may take some time to find their paths to transform into innovations and the process to achieve that is rarely linear. Major innovations could not exist without the body of knowledge acquired over years of curiosity-driven research.
In 2000, Ingmar Hoerr, a member of the EIC Advisory Board and founder of CureVac, published his PhD thesis on the use of RNA for vaccines, thus laying the foundation for RNA-based vaccines. Twenty years later, CureVac is a billion euro company and ERC grantee Uğur Şahin's company BioNTech has developed with Pfizer the first vaccine approved in Europe against COVID-19. It is therefore increasingly important for Europe’s future that the EIC and the ERC serve the needs and specificities of the worlds of research and innovation, while bringing them together as a community in full compliance with the respective institutional mandates.
We are fully committed to ensure that the ERC and the EIC support the best European talent and we look forward to harvesting the benefits of further cooperation aimed at reinforcing this shared community, because there is no future for Europe without research and innovation.
The European Innovation Council (EIC) has been established under the EU Horizon Europe programme. It has a budget of €10.1 billion (2021-2027) to support game-changing innovations throughout the lifecycle from early stage research, to proof of concept, technology transfer, and the financing and scale up of start-ups and SMEs. The strategy and implementation of the EIC is steered by the EIC Board, which has independent members appointed from the world of innovation (entrepreneurs, researchers, investors, corporates and others from the innovation ecosystem).
The European Research Council (ERC), set up by the European Union in 2007, is the premier European funding organisation for excellent frontier research. It funds creative researchers of any nationality and age, to run projects based across Europe. The ERC offers four core grant schemes: Starting Grants, Consolidator Grants, Advanced Grants and Synergy Grants.
With its additional Proof of Concept Grant scheme, the ERC helps grantees to explore the innovation potential of their pioneering research. The ERC is led by an independent governing body, the Scientific Council, and the ERC President is Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon. The overall ERC budget from 2021 to 2027 is more than €16 billion.
Both the ERC and the EIC are part of the Horizon Europe programme, which is under the responsibility of the European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel.
- Publication date
- 18 May 2021