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SNSF benefits from the occasion by meeting with ERC and Swiss universities02.07.2008 - (idw) Schweizerischer Nationalfonds SNF
European Research Council (ERC) convenes in Switzerland
The European Research Council (ERC) first began funding independent basic research projects at the European level in 2007. Upon invitation by the State Secretariat for Education and Research, the Council is currently convening in Switzerland. Its visit to the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) presented the opportunity for a mutual exchange of ideas. The SNSF welcomes the expansion of the competitive platform for cutting edge research and considers the ERC's new grants to be a valuable complement to its national funding efforts.
The Scientific Council of the ERC convenes from 1-3 July at the SNSF premises in Berne. The illustrious 22-member committee, which also includes the Swiss Nobel prize winner, Rolf Zinkernagel, is headed by Fotis Kafatos from Greece. The committee is responsible for defining the ERC strategy, developing grants and review processes and communicating with the scientific community. Founded in 2007, the aim of the ERC is to strengthen European research in comparison to the USA, Japan and aspiring, fast-developing countries such as China and India and thus contribute to meeting the challenges facing Europe in the future.
The SNSF takes the opportunity
The SNSF took advantage of the ERC's presence in Switzerland to organise a day for the exchange of ideas. It invited members and organisations active in research funding and scientific policy to Berne to participate in a general meeting with the ERC on 1 July. Two particularly important research policy issues were central to the public panel discussion with representatives from the ERC, universities and the SNSF: the status of the Swiss research community in the European research arena and the positioning of national research funding in relation to the newly founded ERC. Fotis Kafatos, Chairman of the Scientific Council of the ERC, commented on this subject as follows: "The overwhelming response to the first ERC Starting Grant competition and the many initiatives taken at national level to honour and support the first grantees demonstrate an enormous enthusiasm for the ERC. I was impressed by the success of Switzerland in the Starting Grant competition. It confirms not only the high level of research performed in this country but also that Switzerland is providing the opportunities, conditions and environment needed to attract the very best up-and-coming research leaders regardless of their nationality." And further: "National research systems should provide a stable and attractive environment for the most talented students, starting and established researchers to develop their skills and creativity, and thus to compete successfully for honours and funding. As an institution supporting frontier research in Europe through an international competition of high standards, ERC will further raise aspiration, visibility and excellence, thus reinforcing national efforts to build and advance research capabilities."
Importance of a broad competitive platform
The SNSF has welcomed the ERC from the outset. "As a small country, it is important both for our most outstanding researchers and the funding system to have as broad a competitive platform as possible at our disposal," stressed Dieter Imboden, President of the National Research Council of the SNSF. According to Imboden, the subsidiary principle should be preserved, however: i.e. bottom-up funding wherever possible. "Priority should continue to be given to those who have knowledge of national or local conditions where structural measures in funding research and researchers are concerned." The SNSF views the establishment of the ERC as a significant addition to its national funding efforts, not as a rival, and as an opportunity to be grasped for frontier research funding.
Successful Swiss research
The first call for "ERC Starting Grants", launched in 2007, showed that Swiss research is competitive at the international level: Of the total number of 300 grants awarded in March by the ERC, 15 of them were awarded to researchers in Switzerland. In comparison to the remaining European countries, this works out at a markedly above-average success rate. In conclusion to the event, the State Secretariat for Education and Research, Mauro Dell'Ambrogio, personally congratulated the grantees on being a part of this important success for the research arena Switzerland. The exchange between the ERC and the invited guests from science policy and research funding continues today with an invitation to an evening dinner by the State Secretariat.
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