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In December 2009, French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced the general lines of “le grand emprunt”, a major plan meant to finance seven strategic priority areas, with the overarching objective to build the “France of tomorrow”. Of a total EUR 35 billion, half was to be invested in research and higher education. For the research part, the President outlined that the money will be allocated via calls for applications, to be submitted by higher education institutions, for a number of possible actions, such as: financing research teams, laboratories of excellence, and campuses of excellence, to name but a few.
French Minister for Higher Education and Research, Valérie Pécresse, recently revealed more concrete plans and rules in the money allocation process. She specified what types of institutions will be eligible to apply for this sort of research funding, as well as the fact that the same institution will not be able to take advantage of different sources of funding (for campuses of excellence and laboratories of excellence, for example, although the two areas are obviously interlinked. This should guarantee a fair chance for all institutions and allow for a wider range to benefit from the support.
While the practical details are still to be sorted out, the expectations from this initiative do run high.