Basic research will in future play an outstanding role in EU research policy. This was stressed by high-level representatives from science and politics at the launch event for the European Research Council (ERC) in Berlin on Tuesday: Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, Research Minister Annette Schavan and EU Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik as well as Angelika Niebler, Member of the European Parliament, opened the conference at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences, which was organized by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) within the framework of the EU Council Presidency. The first official meeting of the Scientific Council of the ERC took place on Monday at Schloss Bellevue. It was organized jointly by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the Office of the Federal President.
"European research policy must take the entire value-added chain into account: from forward-looking ideas emerging from basic research up to successful products", said Research Minister Schavan. And she added: "This helps us strengthen Europe's innovation potential." With the ERC, the area of basic research is now given much greater attention: while funding of such frontier research was previously a task for the member states, it is now gaining special importance at European level because the ERC has been established as an important part of the EU's Seventh Research Framework Programme.
"For the first time, European research funding is now provided for basic research. The ERC is the first body of experts at EU level which takes largely independent funding decisions based solely on the excellence of the basic research projects proposed", Minister Schavan said.
In addition, the ERC identifies and supports excellent young researchers. The Starting Independent Researcher Grants enable young researchers to become established at European and international level. Identifying and supporting young, promising talents is important for research in Europe. A new science culture must be established in order to strengthen the European Research Area and increase its attractiveness not only for European but also for international researchers.
The European Research Council supports basic research, also referred to as frontier research. Its overall budget for the period 2007-2013 amounts to 7.5 billion euro. The ERC has been incorporated in the specific programme "Ideas" of the EU's Seventh Research Framework Programme. It will focus on Europewide competitive funding of frontier research conducted by individual teams.
Scientific frontier research is a major prerequisite of prosperity in modern societies because it offers new possibilities for making scientific and technological progress. In their Lisbon strategy, the member states of the European Union have set themselves the goal of making Europe the most competitive region by 2010. "With the ERC we have made good progress towards achieving this goal", said Schavan.