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Specific programme: Ideas

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Specific programme: Ideas

The aim of this specific programme, which falls under the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Union for research, technological development and demonstration activities (2007-13) - the 7th Framework Programme - is to develop exploratory research, proposed by researchers themselves, in order to raise the level of excellence of research in Europe. The setting up of the European Research Council (ERC), whose main task is to implement the Ideas programme, constitutes one of the central components of the programme itself.


Council Decision 2006/972/EC of 19 December 2006 concerning the specific programme Ideas implementing the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Community for research, technological development and demonstration activities (2007-13) [Official Journal L 54 of 22.2.2007].


Raising the level of European research in areas undergoing rapid development, with a view to achieving greater economic competitiveness and well-being, is the main aim of the Ideasspecific programme. In other words, the objective is to develop exploratory research aimed at achieving decisive progress in the areas of science, technology and universities, regardless of disciplinary limits or geographical boundaries. The programme follows an investigator-driven approach: in other words, it is designed to support frontier research projects carried out by researchers on subjects of their choice.

The programme is implemented according to the principles of scientific excellence, autonomy, efficiency, transparency and accountability with the assistance of a European Research Council(ERC) .

The specific programme has been allocated a budget of EUR 7.51 billion for the period 2007-13.

Characteristics and general objectives

The Ideas specific programme sets out a number of major objectives aimed at improving competitiveness and well-being in Europe by seeking to:

  • reinforce excellence, dynamism and creativity in European research;
  • make Europe a pole of attraction not only for the best researchers in Europe and elsewhere but also for research company investment;
  • place European research at the forefront of scientific progress;
  • open the way to new scientific and technological advances;
  • stimulate the flow of ideas;
  • enable the strengths of the European knowledge-based society to be put to better use.

Performance indicators have been introduced at three levels to optimise programme implementation monitoring:

  • quantitative indicators charting the course of scientific and technical progress (publications, index of quotations, patents, etc.);
  • management indicators to monitor performance internally and support senior management decision-making (implementation of the budget, setting time limits for the signing of contracts, setting payment deadlines, etc.);
  • qualitative indicators to assess the overall effectiveness of the research in relation to the overall goals of the European Union (EU).

The implementation of the 7th Framework Programme (including the various specific programmes and all the resulting research activities) is based on observance not only of fundamental ethical principles but also of the social, legal, socio-economic, cultural and gender equality aspects.

European Research Council (ERC)

The main task of the European Research Council (ERC), established through Decision 2007/134/EC of the Commission, is to implement the Ideas specific programme.

The ERC is made up of an independent Scientific Council relying on a dedicated implementation structure.

The tasks of the Scientific Council are as follows:

  • to establish the overall scientific strategy for the specific programme;
  • to regularly develop the work programme and modify it where appropriate;
  • to be responsible for scientific management, monitoring and quality control of programme implementation;
  • to ensure communication with the scientific community and key stakeholders.

The Scientific Council includes representatives of the European scientific community of the highest repute. It is made up of 22 distinguished scientists, engineers and scholars, appointed by the Commission. Its task is to establish the ERC's scientific strategy and notably to develop the annual work programme of the specific programme Ideas.

The dedicated implementation structure(DIS-ERC) is an executive agency of the Commission, responsible for administrative management and programme implementation. The Executive Agency of the ERC (ERCEA), through an instrument of delegation adopted by the Commission in 2008, was given the responsibility of implementing the specific programme Ideas and assisting the Scientific Council; it has been independent since July 2009. It is responsible for the assessment, peer review and project selection procedures based on the principles laid down by the Scientific Council. It also handles the financial and scientific management of grants. The Commission's role consists in:

  • guaranteeing the autonomy and integrity of the ERC;
  • ensuring compliance with the principles and objectives defined by the Scientific Council;
  • overseeing the allocation and division of the tasks and responsibilities incumbent on the dedicated implementation structure;
  • adopting the work programme and implementing methods defined by the Scientific Council;
  • ensuring that proposals are retained, and projects financed, solely on the basis of their ranking order resulting from the peer review;
  • regularly informing the programme committee on the implementation of the specific programme;
  • presenting an annual report to the Council of the EU and to Parliament on the functioning and activities of the ERC and the realisation of the objectives set out in the Specific Programme.

As the cornerstone of this programme, the ERC is testimony to the added value of Community involvement as compared with the results that could be achieved if the actions were conducted at a purely national level. Indeed the ERC makes an undeniable contribution by:

  • encouraging and supporting excellence on a pan-European scale;
  • making the best use of resources;
  • giving European exploratory research a more attractive status and image;
  • facilitating the adaptation of national research structures to a rapidly developing European area;
  • creating a globally competitive European research system;
  • making Europe a pole of attraction for industries and undertakings actively involved in the field of research and development;
  • meeting the societal challenges being thrown up in Europe.


Since 1984, the research and technological development policy of the EU has been founded on multiannual framework programmes. The 7th Framework Programme (2007-13), a vital component of the EU strategy for growth and employment in Europe, is centred on four types of activities: trans-national cooperation on policy-defined themes (Cooperation), investigator-driven research based on initiatives of the scientific community (Ideas), support for training and career development of researchers (People), and support for research capacities (Capacities). It contributes to the development of the knowledge triangle formed by the policies of research, education and innovation in such a way as to place knowledge at the service of economic, social and environmental progress.

It should be noted that in December 2013, the European Parliament and the Council adopted Regulation (EU) No 1291/2013 establishing the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation Horizon 2020 (2014-20), which therefore replaces the 7th Framework Programme.



Entry into force - Date of expiry

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Decision 2006/972/EC

1.1.2007 – 31.12.13


OJ L 54 of 22.2.2007


Commission Decision 2007/134/EC of 2 February 2007 establishing the European Research Council [Official Journal L 57/14 of 24.2.2007], amended by Commission Decision 2011/12/EU of 12 January 2011[Official Journal L 9/5 of 13.1.2011].

This Commission Decision establishes the Scientific Council of the ERC and provides for the establishment of the dedicated implementation structure and the post of Secretary-General of the ERC, whose role is to assist the Scientific Council by ensuring effective liaison with the Commission and the dedicated implementation structure.

Commission Decision 2008/37/EC of 14 December 2007 setting up the European Research Council Executive Agency for the management of the specific Community programme Ideas in the field of frontier research in application of Council Regulation (EC) No 58/2003 [Official Journal L 9 of 12.1.2008].

Progress has been made concerning the establishment of the ERCEA, which commenced its operations in the course of 2008.

Report from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament explaining the European Research Council operations and realisation of the objectives set out in the specific programme Ideas in 2007 [ COM(2008) 473 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Report from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on the European Research Council's operations and realisation of the objectives set out in the specific programme Ideas in 2012 [ COM(2013) 318 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

An evaluation of the main results of the ERC was conducted in conjunction with the ex ante impact assessment of the Commission proposal on Horizon 2020, the new Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. Findings from the continuous monitoring of the programme include the following:

  • the ERC has five Nobel Prize laureates and three Fields medallists among its grant holders;
  • over 20 000 articles acknowledging ERC funding appeared in widely published journals between 2008 and 2013;
  • each ERC grantee employs on average six other researchers;
  • members of teams funded by the ERC come from 38 of the 41 European Research Area (ERA) countries;
  • about 37 % of members of teams funded by the ERC are women (20 % hold a principal investigator position).

Last updated: 07.04.2014