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A busy month in Brussels for research policy

The month of July has seen a number of important developments for European research interests. Highlights in this area include:

On 19 July, Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn announced the largest research funding package in EU history, totalling nearly EUR 6.4 billion, set to be awarded over the next fourteen months.  It has been estimated that 16 000 participants will benefit from this FP7-backed financial boost, covering many different scientific disciplines, public policy areas, and commercial interests.  The European Research Council and the Marie Curie Actions scholar mobility programme, which both support the foundational research innovation done in academic laboratories, will be called upon to distribute EUR 1.3 billion and EUR 772 million respectively.  The Commission is particularly interested in supporting research of societal significance, such as climate change, energy, food security and health.

Effective 1 July, Robert-Jan Smits has been promoted by rotation to the post of Director General of Research and Technological Development of the European Commission.  Mr. Smits most recently served as deputy-director of the Joint Research Centre (JRC) for a brief period of time, and prior to that he was at the helm of Directorate B (The European Research Area: Research Programmes and Capacity). 

The Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission has issued a new strategy document with the aim of aligning itself with the EU2020 and European Research Area (ERA) actions.  In fashioning itself as an authoritative provider of scientific and technical advice for Commission, the JRC now sees one of its key focus areas to be economic and socio-economic research, in addition to its historical competencies within natural sciences and engineering.  Additionally, the JRC has stated that it will now concentrate on seven specific thematic areas of expertise, building on existing knowledge areas of core interest to the EU.

The European Research Council (ERC) recently celebrated a significant milestone: the awarding of its 1000th research grant.  Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn and other notable individuals from the European and German research policy communities presented the grant to Professor Erika von Mutius of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität of Munich, whose HERA project on preventing allergies and asthma has been awarded EUR 2.16 million over a period of five years.  The ERC was created in late 2006 as part of the “Ideas Programme” of the EU’s Seventh Research Framework Programme and has since supported both early-career and more established scientists in their pursuit of innovative foundational research.

European Commission – Research funding package
European Commission – JRC Strategy 2010-2020
European Commission – ERC award