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The future of the European Research Council (ERC) has once again been the main focus of debate following the Competitiveness Council of 28 November 2005. However the degree of autonomy it will enjoy has been highly contested, with many of the main scientific organisations reacting against the Commission’s proposal to setup the ERC as its own executive agency, which would be legally answerable to the Commission.
Scientific organisations from France, Germany, Poland, Spain and the UK, as well as some Members of the European Parliament, voiced their fears over the proposal that could see political criteria obstruct scientific priorities. They were in favour of a more autonomous legal status for the ERC. However the Commission warned that a more independent body would be equally subject to the principle of juste retour, meaning grants would be based on member states contributions rather than on each project’s scientific merit.
The future of a proposed European Insititute of Technology will also depend heavily on the fate of the European Research Council. With the European University Association being the main driving force behind the deliberations, their member Universities have agreed that the ERC has a priority over the Institution. They recognised the positive impact it could bring, but only if the ERC is established as a first priority, therefore giving a strong base for globally competitive research and innovation.Competitiveness Council Conclusions