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Seventh Framework Programme (FP7)

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Investigator-driven ‘frontier research’, within the framework of activities commonly understood as ‘basic research’, is a key driver of wealth and social progress, as it opens new opportunities for scientific and technological advance, and is instrumental in producing new knowledge leading to future applications and markets.

Despite many achievements and a high level of performance in a large number of fields, Europe is not making the most of its research potential and resources, and urgently needs a strengthened capacity to generate knowledge and translate such knowledge into economic and social value and growth.

The objective of the specific programme ‘Ideas’ is to reinforce excellence, dynamism and creativity in European research and improve the attractiveness of Europe for the best researchers from both European and third countries, as well as for industrial research investment, by providing a Europe-wide competitive funding structure, in addition to and not replacing national funding, for ‘frontier research’ executed by individual teams. Communication and dissemination of research results is an important aspect of this programme.

A European Research Council to support science and scholarship

For its implementation, a European Research Council (ERC), consisting of an independent Scientific Council and a dedicated implementation structure, has been established by the Commission under this specific programme. The ERC operates according to the principles of scientific excellence, autonomy, efficiency, transparency and accountability, and supports investigator-driven projects in ‘frontier research’, carried out by individual teams competing at the European level, within and across all fields of research.


The ERC complements other funding activities in Europe such as those of the national research funding agencies, and is a flagship component of the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) with an overall budget for the ERC of € 7.5 billion over 7 years (2007-2013).

Being 'investigator-driven', or 'bottom-up', in nature, the ERC approach allows researchers to identify new opportunities and directions for research, rather than being led by priorities set by politicians. This approach ensures that funds are channelled into new and promising areas of research with a greater degree of flexibility.

Grants for Starting and Advanced Researchers

ERC grants will be awarded through open competition to projects headed by young and established researchers, irrespective of their origins, who are working in Europe - the sole criterion for selection is excellence. The aim here is to recognise the best ideas, and retain and confer status and visibility to the best brains in Europe, while also attracting talent from abroad.

By challenging Europe's brightest minds, the ERC expects to bring about new and unpredictable scientific and technological discoveries - the kind that can form the basis of new industries, markets, and broader social innovations of the future.

The ERC aims to:

  • support the best of the best scientific efforts in Europe across all fields of science, engineering and scholarship;
  • encourage wholly investigator-driven, or 'bottom-up' frontier research
  • encourage the work of the established and next generation of independent top research leaders in Europe;
  • reward innovative proposals by placing emphasis on the quality of the idea rather than the research area;
  • harness the diversity of European research talent and channel funds into the most promising ideas;
  • raise the status and visibility of European frontier research and the best researchers of today and tomorrow.
  • put excellence at the heart of European Research

Last updated on: 2011-06-23