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Bourguignon to lead ERC

Image: ERC Multimedia Library

French mathematician Jean-Pierre Bourguignon is to become the next president of the European Research Council, Research Europe has learned.

Bourguignon has been selected to take up the role from January 2014, several sources say. A former chairman of the ERC’s peer-review panel for young mathematicians, Bourguignon has been the director of France’s Institute for Advanced Scientific Studies in Bures-sur-Yvette near Paris since 1994.

Bourguignon will take over from Helga Nowotny, the Austrian sociologist who has been in the position since 2010. The post, based in Brussels, will also include the responsibilities of secretary-general Donald Dingwell, a role that will not be renewed after Dingwell’s term ends in November.

The nomination of Bourguignon has been made following the efforts of a seven-member search committee, set up by the Commission to select Nowotny’s successor from three candidates. His appointment still has to be announced officially by the European Commission, a process that could be delayed as a result of the on-going Horizon 2020 negotiations.

66-year-old Bourguignon holds an engineering degree from the École Polytechnique near Paris. In 1977, he gained a PhD in maths at the University of Paris VII and began studying the mathematical aspects of physical theories and geometry.

In the same year as his PhD, Bourguignon was awarded a bronze medal from the French National Centre of Scientific Research (CNRS). His term as research director at the centre ended in August this year. Bourguignon is also a member of its Ethics Committee of Sciences.

Further accolades for Bourguignon include the Prix Paul Langevin, awarded to him by the Academy of Sciences of Paris in 1987, and honorary degrees from Keio University in Japan and Nankai University in China. He has previously been president of the Mathematical Society of France, from 1990-92, and president of the European Mathematical Society, from 1995-98.

He is a member of a number of other academies and societies, including Academia Europaea, and is a foreign member of the Royal Spanish Academy of Sciences.

Bourguignon will take the helm of the ERC at the start of the next EU Framework programme, Horizon 2020, under which the council is set to receive a significant budget boost. Over the seven-year Horizon 2020 programme, the ERC will receive 17 per cent of the total budget—which equates to €13 billion in constant prices. Under Framework 7, the ERC received €7.5bn.