The European Research Council
The European Research Council
Founded in 2007 to fund basic research, the European Research Council (ERC) has become the most revered instrument in European science policy and one of the world’s most important focal points for the funding of scientific research.  Its grants are much sought-after by researchers and scholars and it is widely considered to have had a major impact on research communities and institutions across Europe.  How did this remarkable organization, the creation of which was widely regarded as a ‘miracle’, come into being, what has it achieved and how is it likely to adapt in the face of current and future challenges?
This book is the first comprehensive history of the creation and development of the ERC.  Drawing on first-hand knowledge, Thomas König gives a detailed account of how a group of strong-minded European scientists succeeded in creating the ERC by pushing for a single goal: more money for scientific research with fewer strings attached.  But he also shows how this campaign would have failed had it not been taken up by skilful officials of the European Commission, who recognized the ERC as a way to gain more influence in shaping European science policy.  Once established, the ERC developed a carefully crafted self-image that emphasized its reliance on peer review and its differences from all other EU research programmes.
In addition to analysing the creation and development of the ERC, this book critically examines its achievements and its claims.  It also explores the implications of the rise of the ERC and the challenges and threats that it faces today, engaging with broader questions concerning the relationship of politics, science, and money at the beginning of the 21st century.  It will be essential reading for all scholars and students of science policy, for decision-makers and administrators across Europe, and for researchers and academics looking to engage with and understand the ERC.
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  • February 2017
  • 240 pages
  • 158 x 227 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $14.95
  • 9780745691244
  • Open eBook $12.00
  • 9780745691282
Table of Contents

List of tables and figures




1. ‘The future of scientific research in Europe’

2. ‘A radical proposal’

2.1 ‘”Not-yet-born” sector actors’

2.2 ‘Maybe it is time for a European Research Council in some form?’

2.3 ‘Everybody is talking about something different’

3. ‘European Value Added’

3.1 ‘Clear ownership’

3.2 ‘Lack of sufficient competition’

3.3 ‘Credible to the scientific world’

4. ‘The most promising opportunities’

4.1 ‘What the ERC will need’

4.2 ‘Internal policies’

5. ‘State of crisis’

5.1 ‘Deep Commission’

5.2 ‘We are not there yet’

5.3 ‘Flawed recommendation’

6. ‘A rather conventional system’

6.1 ‘A broader palette’

6.2 ‘To promote interdisciplinarity and breadth of viewpoints’

6.3 ‘Preventive and dissuasive actions’

7. ‘Wide-ranging effects’

7.1 ‘Justifying to stakeholders’

7.2 ‘i-conomy’

7.3 ‘Symbolic value’

8. Summary and personal postscript

Annex 1: List of archival collections used

Annex 2: List of interviews

About the Author
Thomas König is a Senior Researcher at the Vienna Institute for Advanced Studies
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"This is so far the most thoroughly researched investigation on how the ERC came into existence and of the first seven years of its institutional life. The analysis of the different layers of what the author calls the ERC aura and its inevitable routinization – the EU formalized structures, the personalities involved, initial and current policy ambitions and the accomplishments of the ERC for science in Europe – opens a wide conceptual space to re-think the relationship between science and policy." - Helga Nowotny, Former President of the European Research Council

"In just ten years since its creation, the European Research Council has made a profound mark on Europe's scientific landscape. And through a combination of mimicry, adaptation and innovation, it has risen with remarkable speed into the premier league of research funders worldwide. Drawing on his unique access to the ERC's inner workings, as a former adviser to its president, Thomas Konig has produced a definitive account of its first decade, packed with revealing insights into the political and budgetary battles that were fought along the way. Thoughtful, engaging, and rich in both data and anecdotes, it's a book that will be of interest to scientists, policymakers, funders, and anyone seeking to understand the future of global research." - James Wilsdon, Professor of Research Policy, University of Sheffield

"In this first comprehensive history, Thomas König — former scientific adviser to ERC president Helga Nowotny — offers a multifaceted perspective. ... A story of big scientific personalities and struggles for autonomy and accountability in the charged space between policy and science." - Nature

"König’s keen eyes take in everything from inspirational words about discovery printed on “cheap looking woven fabric” on a wall in its Brussels headquarters to key players’ optimism, arrogance, high ideals and wounded pride." - Times Higher Education
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