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The Plenary Meeting of the ERC Scientific Council was completed with great success

Oct 22, 2018

The 67th meeting of the governing body of the European Research Council (ERC), the ERC Scientific Council, held at FORTH’s premises 15-18 October 2018, was completed with great success. This meeting was the second to take place in Greece - the first one was held in Athens in 2008 under the presidency of the late Fotis Kafatos, first President of the ERC and founder of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology of FORTH, who served as its Director from 1982 to 1993.

At the same time, the 1st International Conference of the Greek ERC Grantees was held at FORTH, in which more than 40 researchers participated, from Greece and abroad. It is noted that this is the first time that Greek ERC Grantees have had the opportunity to meet and discuss with the members of the ERC Scientific Council, an excellent opportunity for consultation and exchange of views.

ERC President Prof. Jean-Pierre Bourguignon gave an address at the opening and he concluded after the conference: "We thank FORTH - an institute of world-class quality - for hosting the plenary of the ERC Scientific Council and for the perfect organisation of the first international meeting bringing together some 40 Greek ERC grantees. For the first time, Greece has invested more than 1% of its GDP into research and innovation, a continued effort. This is impressive, especially as the country is just coming out of a dire situation providing a real example to follow. Such an investment pays off, especially in the longer term. I’m also grateful to the Greek government, and not least to Minister Costas Fotakis, for the strong support to an ambitious next EU R&I research programme Horizon Europe, and especially to the ERC. It will be crucial for the competitiveness of Europe in the world”

Prof. Klaus Bock, Vice-president of the ERC, who delivered a speech at the event, commented: "The first conference of Greek ERC grantees has been a great success, with an impressive array of top science by inspiring researchers based in Greece and around Europe.  We also had an interesting exchange on the present and the future. Researchers of Greek nationality are doing well in the ERC competitions, even if many are based abroad. The top institute in Greece in terms of ERC grants is FORTH, which hosted this event. We thank them for the great hospitality”.

Prof. Costas Fotakis, Alternate Minister for Research and Innovation, referred to the need to invest in Knowledge Economy as well as to take measures to reverse brain drain, by providing an attractive working environment and prospects for development. He also referred to the need to support blue sky research and the crucial role of ELIDEK (H.F.R.I.), which was modeled on the operation of the ERC.

Prof. Nektarios Tavernarakis, FORTH President and member of the ERC Scientific Council, also noted: "FORTH is at the top with the largest number of ERC funded projects in Greece, with an inflow of more than € 32 million”. He also noted the importance of this inflow in supporting the local market as well as linking research with production through the Praxi Network and the Science and Technology Park of Crete (FORTH Units).

The Head of the Organizing Committee of the 1st ERC Grantees, Dr. Panayiota Poirazi stressed the critical role of the ERC in empowering young scientists. "The purpose of the conference is to interact with researchers, develop collaborations and maintain the high level of research conducted in Greece and especially in Crete, with the support of the Greeks of the diaspora," she said.

The ERC was set up by the EU in 2007 to fund excellentscientists and their most creative ideas. With a budget of over €13 billion for the period 2014 – 2020 (1.9 billion for 2018),ERC supports cutting-edge research, solely on the basis of scientific excellence, in all areas of research and technology. Its Scientific Council consists of 22 renowned scientists and scholars. It is noted that since 2007, it has funded more than 8,500 researchers with about 14.5 billion €, the majority being under 40. In addition, it has supported some 70,000 members of the ERC-funded teams, of whom many PhDs and post-doctoral students. It is remarkable that 49 of these projects are implemented in Greece and 16 of them in FORTH.

It is also worth noting that over 70% of all completed ERC projects have led to breakthroughs or significant scientific advances. 6 Nobel Prizes, 4 Fields Awards and dozens of important prizes have been awarded to ERC grantees.

More than 100,000 articles have been published in scientific journals, and ERC projects have led to over 800 patent applications and over 100 new ventures.

The ERC has served as a model for the establishment of National Research Councils in eight countries, including Greece, where in 2016 the H.F.R.I. was founded (Hellenic Foundation for Research and Innovation). 17 countries, including Greece, have adapted their funding to follow or to complement ERC. Four of such projects were implemented at FORTH, with a budget of over 4 million €.

Today, ERC is a key component of Horizon 2020, the EU’s programme for Research and Innovation.