Today a new EU-India initiative has been launched to enhance cooperation in frontier science. It aims to encourage top scholars funded by the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) to join temporarily European Research Council (ERC) research teams in Europe. The initiative is the second of its kind for the ERC with an Indian funding body.
Ambassador of the European Union to India H.E. Ugo Astuto and Member Secretary of the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) Prof. Virendra Kumar Malhotra signed the new deal today. The virtual ceremony took place in the presence of ERC President Prof. Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, who gave concluding remarks, Director for International Cooperation in the European Commission’s R&I Directorate-General Maria Cristina Russo and ICSSR Chairman and University Grants Commission (UGC) Vice-Chairman Prof. Bhushan Patwardhan.
On this occasion, Ambassador Ugo Astuto said: “Science has no borders. Global research collaboration is essential for developing sustainable solutions to global and societal challenges. This agreement will help foster collaboration in the field of social sciences between the EU and India”.
ERC President Jean-Pierre Bourguignon noted: "I am very pleased to see the launch of another research initiative involving a key funding body in India – a country of great scientific tradition hosting much research talent. It will be a win-win for Indian visiting scholars and ERC grantees. The agreement resonates with the ERC as it underlines the value of social sciences and humanities, but also of global research cooperation, whose relevance is even more critical these days".
Director Maria Cristina Russo commented: “This initiative should be seen as a first step towards engaging on social sciences and humanities with India. Social sciences have a critical contribution to make in helping understand and design a more sustainable future for all. In the next EU framework programme Horizon Europe there will be many opportunities to increase our cooperation”.
ICSSR Member Secretary Virendra Kumar Malhotra welcomed the new initiative saying:“The expectations are that it will allow ICSSR scholars to deepen and widen their knowledge by engaging with ERC grantees across Europe”. Bhushan Patwardhan, ICSSR Chairman and UGC Vice-Chairman, expressed the hope that a number of scholars will benefit from research visits with ERC-supported teams and added: “India has great scientific tradition, which has been deeply embedded in our civilizational and cultural values”.
During the ceremony, the participants paid tribute to the late ERC Head of Unit, Dr Theodore Papazoglou, who played an instrumental role in initiating this agreement and in international science cooperation overall.
The initiative, formally called Implementing Arrangement, is open to top Indian researchers supported by the ICSSR - Principal Investigators of Research Projects, Senior Fellowship Awardees and Post-Doctoral Fellows. Whilst the EU and India already have strong research and innovation collaborations, this is the first scheme fostering frontier research in social sciences and humanities.
It is the ERC’s fifteenth international agreement of its kind and forms part of the ERC’s global outreach strategy that aims to make Europe a hub for research talent.
The Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) is an autonomous body working under the aegis of the Indian Ministry of Education and is responsible for funding and promoting social science research in India.
The European Research Council, set up by the European Union in 2007, is the premiere European funding organisation for excellent frontier research. Every year, it selects and funds the very best, creative researchers of any nationality and age, to run projects based in Europe. The ERC offers four core grant schemes: Starting, Consolidator, Advanced and Synergy Grants.
To date, the ERC has funded over 9,500 top researchers at various stages of their careers, and over 70,000 postdoctoral fellows, PhD students and other staff working in their research teams. With grants open to talent of any nationality, the ERC aims to attract top researchers from across the world. To date, 62 Indian nationals have been awarded ERC funding and Indians rank third in terms of grants, after nationals of the US and Canada. The ERC also encourages that non-European scientists join ERC-funded teams. Estimates show that around 17% of team members are non-European nationals. Over 1,000 Indian nationals are or have been part of ERC teams in leading institutions across Europe.
The first initiative to encourage talent from outside Europe to temporarily work with ERC research teams was signed in 2012 with the US National Science Foundation, NSF. Such Implementing Arrangements then followed with prestigious funding bodies across different continents.
Today’s deal is the second agreement with India; now also covering social sciences and humanities. The first initiative with an Indian funding body was concluded in 2017 with the Scientific Engineering Research Board (SERB), targeting scientists in the field of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). The ERC funds excellent frontier research in all domains, including in the Social Sciences and Humanities (SH). Grants in this domain represent around 22% of the total ERC budget awarded so far under the current framework programme Horizon 2020. The share of ERC projects and of the ERC budget in the SH domain has steadily risen over the years.
The ERC is led by an independent governing body, the Scientific Council. The ERC President is Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon. The overall ERC budget from 2014 to 2020 is more than €13 billion, as part of the Horizon 2020 programme, for which the European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel is responsible.