Reviews and Development of the ERC

Taskforce on the ERC’s future (2011)

In December 2010, the European Commission set up a Task Force to look into the future of the ERC’s governance. With the new negotiations of the future research framework Horizon 2020 in sight, it was timely to identify what was the best structure for the ERC.

The Taskforce also built on the 2009 major review conducted by an external panel of experts that took stock of the ERC’s structure and mechanisms after its first years of operations and that specifically called for a follow-up review two years on. The Task Force was set up at the request of the ERC Scientific Council, as announced in its statement in November 2010.

ERC Scientific Council Statement "Looking ahead: preparing the future of the European Research Council

The Task Force was chaired by the Director General of DG Research, Robert-Jan Smits and included participants from the relevant Commission departments and representatives from the ERC Scientific Council, including its President Prof. Helga Nowotny. Two external members, Prof. Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, former President of the Latvian Republic and former chair of the Review panel of the ERC, and Prof. Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker, former ERC Secretary General were also part of the Taskforce.

Concluding its report in July 2011, one of the main recommendations of the Task force was that the ERC’s implementation body should remain an Executive Agency.

Review of the ERC’s structures and mechanisms (2009)

European Commissioner for Research Janez Potocnik and ERC President Fotis Kafatos meeting with the members of the Review Panel

European Commissioner for Research Janez Potocnik and ERC President Fotis Kafatos meeting with the members of the Review Panel

From left to right:
ERC President Fotis Kafatos, Yves Mény, Fiorella Kostoris Padoa Schioppa, Lars-Hendrik Röller,
Vaira Vike-Freiberga, Commissioner Janez Potocnik, Elias Zerhouni, Lord David Sainsbury

Background and Mandate

The ERC is a radical departure from conventional methods for implementing EU research programmes. To ensure that the ERC’s structures and mechanisms are appropriate and effective, an independent high level Panel in 2009 carried out a review of the ERC's structures and mechanisms with the full involvement of the ERC's Scientific Council. This had been foreseen in the specific programme "Ideas", part of EU's seventh Framework Programme for Research. The review also explicitly looked at the advantages and disadvantages of a structure based on an Executive Agency and a structure based on Article 171 of the EC Treaty. The review furthermore considered the process and criteria for the selection of the members of the ERC Scientific Council.

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on the Methodology and Terms of Reference to be used for the Review to be carried out by independent experts concerning the European Research Council Structures and Mechanisms

Independent Experts

The independent experts, appointed by the European Commission on 11 March 2009 as members of the Panel, have thorough knowledge of research policy and management at a national, European and international level, having held senior positions in national governments or research institutes, or currently in senior posts in prestigious European academic establishments.

The group was chaired by Vaira Vike-Freiberga, Vice-president of the Reflection Group on the long-term future of the European Union (Dec 2007 - ), former President of Latvia (1999-2007) and former Professor of Psychology at the University of Montreal. The other members of the Panel were:

  • Lord (David) Sainsbury(Vice-Chair), Former Under Secretary of State at UK Department of Trade and Industry with responsibility for Science & Innovation; Head of Gatsby Charitable Foundation
  • Yves Mény (Rapporteur), President of the European University Institute, Florence
  • Fiorella Kostoris Padoa Schioppa, Professor of Economics at "La Sapienza", Rome; former President of ISAE (Istituto di Studi e Analisi Economica), Rome
  • Lars-Hendrik Röller, President of European School of Management and Technology, Berlin; Professor of Economics, Humboldt University, Berlin
  • Elias Zerhouni, Former Director of National Institutes of Health, US (until Oct 2008); previous executive Vice-dean of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, US

Review Methodology

The Panel analysed existing evidence such as the relevant legal texts, statistical data, reports and administrative documents related to the structures and methods put in place for the implementation of the Ideas specific programme. It foreseen that it would recommend any adjustment or refinement that may be necessary to ensure a stable and permanent structure for the ERC which is equal to its tasks.

The Panel met regularly over a few months and prepared a report which was presented on 23 July 2009, and in which it provided recommendations and conclusions to the European Commission.

Open Consultation

The key elements of the review:

  • Analyse the ERC's structures and mechanisms against criteria of scientific excellence, autonomy, efficiency and transparency, and with the full involvement of the Scientific Council;
  • Consider the process and criteria for the selection of the members of the Scientific Council;
  • Consider the advantages and disadvantages of a structure based on an Executive Agency and a structure based on Article 171 of the EC Treaty;

The Panel consulted the main representative organisations for research in Europe and also welcomed inputs from other representative organisations and stakeholders on these three questions.

Press Releases and Report

Formal Response of the EUROPEAN COMMISSION: