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Excellent Science  

       

Activities under this Pillar aim to reinforce and extend the excellence of the Union’s science base and to consolidate the European Research Area in order to make the Union’s research and innovation system more competitive on a global scale.


The Excellent Science pillar has main four specific sections:
 

  a) The European Research Council (ERC) will provide attractive and flexible funding to enable talented and creative individual researchers and their teams to pursue the most promising avenues at the frontier of science, on the basis of Union-wide competition.

b) Future and Emerging Technologies will support collaborative research in order to extend Europe’s capacity for advanced and paradigm-changing innovation. They will foster scientific collaboration across disciplines on radically new, high-risk ideas and accelerate development of the most promising emerging areas of science and technology as well as the Union-wide structuring of the corresponding scientific communities.

c) Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions will provide excellent and innovative research training as well as attractive career and knowledge-exchange opportunities through cross-border and cross-sector mobility of researchers to best prepare them to face current and future societal challenges.

d) Research Infrastructure (including e-infrastructures) will develop European research infrastructure for 2020 and beyond, foster their innovation potential and human capital, and complement this with the related Union policy and international cooperation.
 

a) ERC = European Research Council

The supports frontier research, cross disciplinary proposals and pioneering ideas in new and emerging fields which introduce unconventional and innovative approaches. The ERC's mission is to encourage the highest quality research in Europe through competitive funding and to support investigator-driven frontier research across all fields of research, on the basis of scientific excellence. A total budget of 13 095 million euro is available for the implementation of the ERC funding schemes under Horizon 2020.   
 

What are the main ERC principles?
  • 1 researcher; 1 host institution; 1 project; 1 selection criterion: scientific excellence
  • No consortia, no networks, no co-financing
  • Applications can be made in any field of research, including social sciences and humanities
  • Independent researchers from anywhere in the world, of any age and career stage can apply
  • Host institutions must provide conditions for the researcher to direct the research and manage its funding
  • The grant is 'portable' to another host institution, if the grantholder wishes so
  • Research must be carried out in one of the 28 EU member states or associated countries
  What type of grants does the ERC fund?
  • ERC Starting Grant for young, early-career top researchers (2-7 years after PhD) -up to 2 million euro for a period of 5 years.
  • ERC Consolidator Grant for already independent excellent researchers 7-12 years after PhD) -up to 2.75 million euro for a period of 5 years.
  • ERC Advanced Grant for senior research leaders with significant research achievements in the last 10 years -up to 3.5 million euro for a period of 5 years.
  • ERC Proof of Concept Grants for ERC grant holders who want to check the market and/or innovation potential of research results from ERC-projects -up to 150,000 euro for a period of 12 months.
  • ERC Synergy Grants for small groups of individual researchers -up to 15 million euro for a period up to 6 years.

b) Future and Emerging Technologies

FET actions are expected to initiate radically new lines of technology through unexplored collaborations between advanced multidisciplinary science and cutting-edge engineering.

Under Horizon 2020, FET actions have been allocated a provisional budget of 2 696 million euro.

The FET programme has three complementary lines of action to address different methodologies and scales, from new ideas to long-term challenges:

  • FET Open
  • FET Proactive
  • FET Flagships

FET Open funds early-stage joint science and technology research around new ideas for radically new future technologies.
 

FET Proactive funds emerging themes and structure communities by addressing a number of promising exploratory research themes. The present work programme supports emerging themes and communities in:

  • 'Global Systems Science' (GSS), to help integrate the abundance of data on social, economic, financial, technological, and ecological systems available today and elaborate societal responses across policy domains and cross-cutting authorities
 
  • 'Knowing, doing and being: cognition beyond problem solving', to establish new foundations for future robotics and other artificial cognitive systems with clear progress beyond current capabilities and design concepts
  • 'Quantum simulation', to contribute to solving problems in fundamental and applied science using new tools based on quantum physics and quantum technologies
  • 'Towards exascale high-performance computing', to deliver a broad spectrum of extreme scale HPC systems and to develop a sustainable European HPC Ecosystem
FET Flagships funds ambitious, large-scale, long-term, science-driven, goal-oriented, roadmap-based research initiatives tackling grand challenges in S&T. They are expected to provide transformational impact on science, technology and society, lead to novel innovation clusters in Europe and facilitate alignment of national and regional research efforts. FET Flagships require a long-term commitment of all key stakeholders sharing a common scientific vision and a joint effort of EU and national programmes to provide a large shared financial support. FET will provide the main EU support in H2020 of the two FET flagships already chosen under FP7: 'Graphene' and 'Human Brain Project' (HBP).

c) Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions

From January 2014, the Marie Curie Actions will be renamed the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA). They come under the "Excellent Science" pillar of Horizon 2020 and will award 6,162 million euro over the period 2014-2020.

The objective of the MSCA is to support the career development and training of researchers in all scientific disciplines through worldwide and cross-sector mobility. For this, the MSCA provide grants at all stages of researchers' careers, from PhD candidates to highly experienced researchers, and encourage transnational, intersectoral and interdisciplinary mobility. The MSCA will become the main EU programme for doctoral training, funding 25 000 PhDs.

The MSCA follow a "bottom-up" approach, i.e. individuals and organisations working in any area of research can apply for funding. Several MSCA initiatives promote the involvement of industry etc. in doctoral and post-doctoral research.
 

Types of MSCA:

Research networks (ITN): support for Innovative Training Networks
ITNs support competitively selected joint research training and/or doctoral programmes, implemented by European partnerships of universities, research institutions, and non-academic organisations.
The research training programmes provide experience outside academia, hence developing innovation and employability skills. ITNs will include industrial doctorates, in which non-academic organisations have an equal role to universities in respect of the researcher's time and supervision, and joint doctoral degrees delivered by several universities. Furthermore, non-European organisations can participate as additional partners in ITNs, enabling doctoral-level candidates to gain experience outside Europe during their training.

  Individual fellowships (IF): support for experienced researchers undertaking mobility between countries, optionally to the non-academic sector
Individual Fellowships will support the mobility of researchers within and beyond Europe - as well as helping to attract the best foreign researchers to work in the EU. The grant usually covers two years' salary, a mobility allowance, research costs and overheads for the host institution. Individual researchers submit proposals for funding in liaison with their planned host organisation. Proposals are judged on their research quality, the researcher's future career prospects, and the support offered by the host organisation. Fellows can also spend part of the fellowship elsewhere in Europe if this would boost impact, and those restarting their career in Europe benefit from special eligibility conditions.
 
International and inter-sectoral cooperation through the Research and Innovation Staff Exchanges (RISE)
RISE will support short-term mobility of research and innovation staff at all career levels, from the most junior (post-graduate) to the most senior (management), including also administrative and technical staff. It will be open to partnerships of universities, research institutions, and non-academic organisations both within and beyond Europe. In worldwide partnerships, academia-to-academia exchanges will be permitted.
 
Co-funding of regional, national and international programmes that finance fellowships involving mobility to or from another country
The MSCA offer additional funding to regional, national and international programmes for research training and career development. COFUND programmes encourage the movement of researchers across borders and provide good working conditions. The scheme can support doctoral and fellowship programmes.

The European Researchers' Night (NIGHT)

It is a Europe-wide public event to stimulate interest in research careers, especially among young people. The activities are focused on the general public and might take various forms such as hands-on experiments, science shows, debates, competitions or quizzes. The NIGHT takes place yearly, typically on the last Friday of the month of September.
 

d) Research Infrastructure

The implementation of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) roadmap has lead to further integration and opening up of national research facilities and  developing e-infrastructures. The networks of research infrastructures across Europe strengthen its human capital base by providing world-class training for a new generation of researchers and engineers and promoting interdisciplinary collaboration.

Further development and wider use of research infrastructures at Union level will make a significant contribution to development of the European Research Area. While the role of Member States remains central in developing and financing research infrastructures, the Union plays an important part in supporting infrastructure, fostering the emergence of new facilities, opening up broad access to national and European infrastructures, and making sure that regional, national, European and international policies are consistent and effective. It is not only necessary to avoid duplication of efforts and to coordinate and rationalise the use of the facilities, but also to pool resources so that the Union can also acquire and operate research infrastructures at world level.
  Developing the European research infrastructures for 2020 and beyond
The objective is to ensure the implementation and operation of the ESFRI and other worldclass research infrastructures, including the development of regional partner facilities; integration of and access to national research infrastructures; and the development, deployment and operation of e-infrastructures.
 
Fostering the innovation potential of research infrastructures and their human capital
The goal is to encourage research infrastructures to act as early adopters of technology, to promote R&D partnerships with industry, to facilitate industrial use of research infrastructures and to stimulate the creation of innovation clusters. This activity will also support training and/or exchanges of staff managing and operating research infrastructures.
 
Reinforcing European research infrastructure policy and international cooperation
The aim will be to support partnerships between relevant policymakers and funding bodies, mapping and monitoring tools for decision-making and also international cooperation activities.
     
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