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Time for change at the ERC

The month of July brought a couple of changes at the European Research Council (ERC). On 1 July the European research institution gained a new Secretary General – Prof. Andreu Mas-Colell - who took over from Prof. Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker, the latter having successfully completed his term in office. Prof. Mas-Colell has been deeply involved in supporting research and has held many functions over the years, that of Minister of Universities, Research and the Information Society in Catalonia (2000-2003) being the most prominent one. In this new position, Prof. Mas-Colell will work closely with, among others, the Director of the newly autonomous ERC Executive Agency, to coordinate the implementation of the ERC strategy and work programme.

The appointment of Prof. Mas-Colell comes as no news. It was announced as early as 2006, when the Scientific Council (ERC’s management body) selected Prof. Winnacker and Prof. Mas-Colell as the first two consecutive Secretary Generals, for the initial five years of the ERC operation (each with a mandate of two-and-a-half years). The selection of the two was the result of a recruitment process autonomously conducted by the Scientific Council.

July also marked the transition to full autonomy of the ERC Executive Agency (formally established in 2007). Until now, this implementing structure of the ERC operated under the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research. With a staff of 200, the ERC Executive Agency is responsible for implementing the ‘Ideas’ programme, part of the seventh framework programme.

While these changes are important and fresh from the oven, the future development lines of the ERC will only be drawn by the European Commission this autumn (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, April 2009).