the European Union (eu) has come up with new funds to promote the best ideas in science and technology. The first ever pan-European research body, the European Research Council, will dole out cash regardless of location or institution within eu. It aims for excellence and to "bring the Nobel prizes back to Europe".
This comes under eu's Seventh Framework Programme (fp7) launched in 2006. "We know that research and new technologies can be a driving force for a new economic dynamic, they can even provide a basis for growth in Europe, for keeping and increasing our prosperity and competitiveness," said German chancellor Angela Merkel, who inaugurated the council.
For the past five years, research in Europe had been funded by different national agencies and eu's Framework 6 programme.This, however, had been criticised for being over-bureaucratic, skewed towards big projects, having complex collaborations and being subject to political pressures. With fp7, basic research across all disciplines will now be supported. With a budget of us $9.9 billion until 2013, and a promise of us $400 million this year alone, the council expects to become one of the most sought after grant agencies across Europe. Up until now, Europe lags behind the us and Japan on investment in research and development. Scientists have warned that Europe will suffer a brain drain if it does not boost its knowledge-based economy. Europe is thus looking to attract talent from outside as well as supporting young 'home grown' scientists. "It will be interesting to see how many of our young scientists become established and are ultimately given permanent positions by European institutions," said Janez Potonik, who chairs the council.
eu's move has been met with scepticism. Critics think it can't achieve anything that hasn't been done by current national bodies. They complain the whole process is very bureaucratic.
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