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France is striving to lure its most promising young researchers back to the motherland after a postdoctoral stay abroad. How? Mainly through the “retour post-doc” programme, an attractive financial scheme of the National Agency for Research (ANR) meant to counteract the “brain drain” phenomenon affecting France. This programme, with an annual budget of EUR 11.5 million, will bring back to the hexagon for the second year in a row 27 young researchers of French origin. Retour post-doc functions as an annual call for projects open to all French researchers who obtained their doctorate in the past five years and are actively conducting research abroad. The main purpose of the programme is to create favourable conditions for return, including not only a financial incentive but also a flexible research framework with more research autonomy. Successful applicants receive funding of up to EUR 700 000, enabling them to set up their own research team and carry out a project for at least three years in some of the most prestigious research institutes in the country (CNRS, CEA, or Inserm).
The interest in this offer has been substantial. At the beginning of this month 27 candidates were selected to receive funding; however, this is out of a remarkable pool of 150 applications, an increase of 43 percent over last year. However, this group is only a small share of the total number of French researchers working abroad, which ANR estimates at close to 2 000. Unsurprisingly, most of the selected candidates returned to France after a research stay in the US.
This researcher re-attraction scheme is not unprecedented in Europe. For years the European Commission’s Marie Curie Programme has had two separate re-attraction actions under the 6th and now the 7th Framework Programmes, aimed at facilitating the re-integration of mobile European researchers into the European Research Area. The two separate actions (the European Reintegration Grant and the International Reintegration Grant) have however been refocused into a single action for the 2011 calls for applications—the Career Reintegration Grant (CRG)— an instrument targeting mobile top-level researchers who want to establish themselves in Europe, irrespective of nationality. The CRG now comes closer to other international recruitment instruments launched under the excellence initiatives of such EU member states as Germany and the Netherlands, and aims at reinforcing the attractiveness of the European Research Area as a destination for establishing a stable research career.