An independent pilot study, released today at the Euroscience Open Forum (ESOF) currently taking place in Manchester, demonstrates that bottom-up research funded by the European Research Council (ERC) has already had major impacts. Over 70% of projects evaluated in the report have made scientific breakthroughs or major advances. The study concludes that the ERC invests in truly high-risk/high-gain research and that it also contributes significantly to the economy and society at large. The ERC grants have a very positive effect on researchers’ careers, the report states.
In this independent qualitative evaluation commissioned by the ERC Scientific Council, high-level peer reviewers analysed the first 199 concluded Starting and Advanced grant projects and found that the overall impact is very high. About 25% of the projects evaluated have made contributions that are incremental. Just 4% had no appreciable scientific output.
The study, moreover, found that the impact is not purely scientific. This curiosity-driven research, completely free of any thematic constraints, also benefits the economy and society at large: close to 50% of projects already had some apparent impact in this respect and another nearly 10% had a major impact to date. As it often takes time for the results to emerge, it is not surprising that the experts also estimate that at least three quarters of the research outputs are expected to have an impact on the economy or on society in the medium or long term.
Other findings of the report include that the ERC grants have a very positive effect on the careers of the grantees and they also strongly contribute to the consolidation of research teams.