Search starts for next President of European Research Council

Brussels, 24-12-2012 — / — The European Commission has today appointed seven experts to conduct the search for the next president of the European Research Council (ERC), the European Union’s frontier science funding agency. The committee will be led by Lord Sainsbury of Turville, Chancellor of the University of Cambridge and a former British science minister. The committee will make recommendations to the European Commission in time for the next ERC president to take up duties on Jan. 1, 2014, as successor to the current president Helga Nowotny.

In the five years since its launch, the ERC has established itself as Europe’s pre-eminent funding agency for frontier science, supporting research purely on the basis of excellence. As the ERC continues to strengthen its position, the role of the next president will be crucial. The President will be the voice and public face of the ERC, and defend the ERC principles of excellence, efficiency and independence.

European Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said: “The ERC is already one of stars of global research funding, and I am delighted that Lord Sainsbury has accepted my invitation to contribute to the ERC’s development at a vital moment. As UK Science Minister in 2004, his decisive support to the ERC concept paved the way for what has become a true European success story. We are proud to have one of the founding fathers lead the selection of the future ERC President, an important milestone in the life of the ERC.”

Accepting the Commission’s invitation, Lord Sainsbury said: “The ERC is now a well-functioning operation, on its way to becoming a fully-mature funding organisation on a par with the very best in the world. It enjoys wide recognition, built on its operating principles of independence and scientific excellence. I am happy to be able to contribute to this challenging new phase and delighted that I will do so together with six such distinguished colleagues.”


The search committee members will be:

  • Lord SAINSBURY of Turville, FRS, Chancellor of the University of Cambridge
  • Catherine CESARSKY, Haut-commissaire au Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique (CEA)
  • Suzanne FORTIER, President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
  • Michał KLEIBER, President of the Polish Academy, Former Member of the ERC Scientific Council
  • Jadran LENARČIČ, Director of the Jozef Stefan Institute, Ljubljana
  • Erwin NEHER, Director Emeritus at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Nobel Prize in Medicine
  • Salvatore SETTIS, Former Director, Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, Former Member of the ERC Scientific Council

The European Research Council was established under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for Technological Research and Development to encourage high quality research in Europe. It awards grants through open competitions to projects headed by starting and established researchers, irrespective of their origins, who are working or moving to work in Europe. The sole criterion for selection is scientific excellence. The aim 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. Under the Commission’s proposals for the next, seven-year EU research funding programme, Horizon 2020 (2014-2020), the ERC’s budget should rise to over €13 billion from €7.5 billion in 2007-2013.

The ERC President under Horizon 2020

The Commission’s proposals for the specific programme implementing Horizon 2020 establish the function of an ERC President, to be chosen from among senior and internationally-respected scientists. The ERC President will reside in Brussels for the duration of the appointment and devote most of their time to ERC activities. The ERC President shall be appointed by the Commission for a term of office limited to four years, renewable once. The President will be remunerated at a level commensurate with the Commission’s top management. The recruitment process and the candidate selected shall have the approval of the ERC’s Scientific Council.

The creation of a search committee was one of the recommendations of the ERC Task Force report, which followed up the ERC mid-term review:

Contacts :

Michael Jennings (+32 2 296 33 88)

Monika Wcislo (+32 2 295 56 04)


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