Highlight | 06-10-2017

Today, on the margins of the European Union-India Summit in New Delhi, an agreement was concluded between the EU and India to encourage research visits of Indian top researchers in teams funded by the European Research Council (ERC) in Europe. In line with the ERC global approach, this is the tenth international initiative of this kind, which comes at a time when the ERC also marks its tenth anniversary.

Tomasz Kozłowski, EU Ambassador to India, and Dr Rajiv Sharma of the Scientific Engineering Research Board (SERB) signed the agreement, in the presence of ERC President Jean-Pierre Bourguignon. The initiative will encourage Indian top talent (early career researchers, national post-doctoral fellows and doctoral candidates), pre-selected by the SERB, to join ERC-funded teams in Europe for periods of up to one year.

On the occasion of the signing, the EU Ambassador Mr Kozłowski said, "This initiative reinforces the EU's policy of Open Science, Open Innovation and Open to the World. It will act as a gateway for top Indian researchers to partner with their European counterparts to create world class science. The agreement builds upon past positive experience between EU and India cooperation on research and innovation and will lead to a growing relationship which is mutually beneficial and naturally reinforcing."

ERC President Bourguignon said: "Cross-border science collaboration is essential for pushing the frontiers of knowledge. I am therefore very pleased to see the launch of the tenth initiative of this kind that the ERC has been involved in, this time with India - a country of great scientific tradition that hosts much research talent and potential. I am confident that Indian scientists will bring valuable insights to ERC-funded teams and will in turn benefit from the confirmed or newly established collaborations. Such new possibilities resonate with the ERC's strategy to be open to the world."

So far, some 43 Indian researchers have been awarded ERC grants, which makes Indians rank third in terms of ERC grantees of non-European nationality.

These agreements, called implementing arrangements, are already running with nine other countries across the globe: US, South Korea, Argentina, China, Japan, South Africa, Mexico, Brazil and Canada. Thanks to these arrangements, scientists who are based outside of Europe and are supported by non–European funding agencies can temporarily join research teams led by ERC grant holders.

Background

Set up by the European Union in 2007, the European Research Council (ERC) is the first European funding organisation for excellent frontier research. Every year, it funds the very best, creative researchers to run five-year-projects across the European Research Area (ERA)[1]. To date, the ERC has funded over 7,500 individual researchers at various stages of their careers. Over 50,000 researchers and other professionals have been employed in ERC research teams, as grantees on average employ around six team members.

With grants open to talent of any nationality, the ERC strives to attract more top researchers from around the world; so far there are 43 Indian grantees.The ERC also encourages more non-European scientists to join teams led by ERC grantees. Estimates show that some 18% of team members are non-European nationals. More than 1,000 Indians has been employed as team members so far. Today's agreement will thus encourage further collaboration.

The first initiative of this kind was signed in 2012 with the USA (National Science Foundation, NSF) and agreements then followed with prestigious funding bodies in South Korea, Argentina, Japan, China, South Africa, Mexico, Brazil and Canada.

The ERC is led by an independent governing body, the Scientific Council, and, since January 2014, the ERC President is Prof. Jean-Pierre Bourguignon. The ERC has a budget of over €13 billion and is part of the EU research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020, for which European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Carlos Moedas is responsible.

[1] EU Member States and Associated Countries