William Cannell is Advisor in the European Commission Directorate General for Research, working on the preparation of future programmes to support scientific excellence in Europe. He has a degree in natural sciences and a PhD in applied psychology. Since joining the Commission in 1990 he has been responsible for numerous aspects of science policy, his main work in recent years being to establish the EU funding programmes for frontier research. He set up and managed the New and Emerging Science and Technology (NEST) programme under the Community’s 6th framework programme and managed the project to establish the European Research Council (ERC) under the 7th framework programme. He was Head of Unit for Strategy and relations with the Scientific Council until 2010 when the ERC Executive Agency became fully autonomous from the Commission.