The Association of ERC grantees (AERG) is convinced that the EU has the potential to be world leading and provides input to the ERA PACT about the future of European Research and Innovation.

The Association of ERC grantees is grateful for the opportunity to provide input to the ERA PACT about the future of European Research and Innovation

The AERG underscores the values and principles described in PACT 1 (April 15th, 2021). Upholding values like "Ethics and integrity", "Freedom of scientific research", but also the emphasis on the "Pursuit of excellence" and "Societal responsibility" is very important for defining the attractiveness and commitments of the new ERA for Research and Innovation. We have one comment:

The topic prioritization focuses on engaging industry and the public but fails to mention excellence and prioritisation of excellent bottom-up research, which has proven a good investment in society and economics (see also below).

The Association of ERC grantees (AERG) underscores the urgent need to raise the overall research and innovation (R&I) investment in the EU to 3% of GDP in PACT 2 (May 25th, 2021). The AERG has the following additions:

  1. For the innovation part of R&I, it is relevant to emphasize that innovation is not only about translation of knowledge to the economy (competitiveness), but also about using knowledge to enhance society.  Thus, R&I can lead to important societal results, e.g., in policy, not just to important economic results.  It would be good if the PACT would explicitly mention these twin pillars of economy and society.
  2. Besides mentioning the monetary target for R&I investment in the EU (3% of GDP), it is essential to formulate a balance between researcher-driven ‘bottom-up’ and policy/industry-driven ‘priority-area’ type of research for this investment, whereby the former bottom-up driven research should be protected. There is an increased tendency for research programs to become theme-oriented, and there is a reduced tendency to fund bottom-up curiosity-driven research. The rapid development of the BioNTech vaccine in response to the recent pandemic, based on bottom-up research, is an exemplar illustration of the relevance of a broad knowledge-based society to be prepared for novel challenges. Allocating the resources into priority areas can lower the chance of progress, even within those priority areas.Bottom-up research functions as an immune system to society; it is essential for flexible adaptation to unpredictable situations our society faces.
  3. Relatedly, the ERC should be mentioned as key player in the ERA; It has been proven effectively in creating a pan-European competition to fund excellent researchers across Europe and to provide the conditions for high risk / high gain research and is essential to build capacity across Europe (excellence is in every country) and remain Europe an attractive place for scientists.
  4. There is no mention of how to keep the new generation of young scientists engaged in European R&I. They need good career perspectives, also in the academic sector. We should carefully monitor this generation, particularly now the current COVID crisis forms a challenge for their careers. A few measures seem essential: Member states need sufficient resources for universities and research institutes, and we should provide opportunities for researchers to obtain funding for their innovative ideas.
  5. There is insufficient focus on creating long-term perspective in the member states, buying-in policy should go beyond a single government to maximize the gain of investment and scientific capital building in Europe. The PACT could emphasize this more.

In short, the Association of ERC grantees (AERG) is convinced that the EU has the potential to be world leading. Investments in bottom-up research are particularly important for achieving the ambitious goals of the ERA.


AERG, May 25, 2021