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Study finds 80% of ERC projects led to a major advance or better

Image: Lukasz Kobus, European Commission

Results reaffirm impact of projects supported by EU’s flagship funder of basic research

An independent study has found that 80 per cent of a sample of projects funded by the European Research Council (ERC) led to either a “scientific breakthrough” (18 per cent) or a “major scientific advance” (61.9 per cent).

The findings, published on 27 October, were “rather consistent with previous evaluations”, which found that between 72-79 per cent of sampled projects resulted in scientific breakthroughs or major scientific advances, the ERC said.

Interim ERC president Jean-Pierre Bourguignon (pictured) said the results showed that the EU’s investment in frontier research “pays off greatly”. But he warned that such investment could be in short supply if a plan for the 2021-27 EU budget adopted by national leaders in July is implemented without increasing the allocation to R&D.

“Europe needs more of this, not less, as we fear after the July EU summit,” Bourguignon said.

The study found that 17.6 per cent of the sample made “an incremental scientific contribution”, with just 2.5 per cent leading to “no appreciable scientific contribution”.

Nearly half of the projects were found to have already had an impact on the economy, society and policy-making, with about two-thirds expected to have an impact at some point.

Around 70 per cent of the projects were “at least moderately interdisciplinary”, and 30 per cent were interdisciplinary “to a significant or exceptional extent”.

The evaluated projects were funded under the 2007-13 EU R&D programme and were randomly chosen from across the life sciences, physical sciences and humanities. The peer-review panels comprised three to four “independent, high-level scientists”.