The European Research Council (ERC) gathered in Helsinki last week to hold a plenary meeting hosted by the Academy of Finland. The first day of the three-day meeting consisted of meetings between the ERC Standing Committees, the Task Force on Research Assessment, the ERC domains and the ERC Preparatory Board. Paula Eerola, President of the Academy of Finland, opened the two-day plenary meeting of the ERC Scientific Council.
Funding for frontier European research
The ERC funds researcher-driven, excellent frontier research. The projects to be funded are selected solely based on their scientific quality. The review of applications also focuses on the novelty and boldness of the research idea with a view to paving the way for completely new avenues of research. ERC research funding is granted annually to promising early-career researchers (ERC Starting Grants), mid-career researchers (ERC Consolidator Grants) and established research leaders (ERC Advanced Grants). Synergy Grants are designed to support multidisciplinary groups of 2–4 principal investigators (PIs). Applications for Synergy Grants must show that the proposed research cannot be carried out by a single PI working alone. For ERC grant holders, the ERC also offers Proof of Concept Grants to explore the commercial or societal potential innovation of their ERC research project. ERC grants are one of the most prestigious funding opportunities for research in Europe.
Finland has had varying degrees of success in ERC funding calls. Finland has been relatively successful relative to population, but is below the overall average in the success rates. However, Finland has strong expertise in quantum physics and engineering in particular, as demonstrated by several ERC-funded projects in these fields. The most successful Finnish organisation in securing ERC funding is the University of Helsinki, which the ERC ranked among the 30 best funded organisations in 2021.
Several Finnish researchers have also received ERC funding more than once. Mikko Möttönen (Aalto University) and Mika Sillanpää (Aalto University) have both received Starting, Consolidator and Advance Grants, and Seppo Ylä-Herttuala (University of Eastern Finland) is a three-time Advance Grant winner. Synergy Grants have so far only been granted to two Finnish researchers, Professor Otso Ovaskainen (University of Helsinki) and Professor Risto Ilmoniemi (Aalto University).