The role of excellence in EU research policy – the case of the ERC
Over the past two decades, 'excellence' has become an ubiquitous term in science policy. has also been forcefully included at the European level. While European research funding has long been restricted to applied, 'pre-competitive' and collaborative research, the last two editions of the EU’s premiere funding policy, the Framework Programme for Research, have embraced 'excellence', addressing more or less academic research. 'Horizon 2020' even calls one of its three main organizational dividers the 'excellence pillar'.
This development may be interpreted as if policy makers start acknowledging the role of academic research (again). But, as this presentation will argue, the story is not so easy. Where does the excellence-rhetoric come from? And how does it fit into the greater picture, that is, an increasing obsession with 'innovation' by and large? The case study to address these questions is the European Research Council (ERC), which is a result of the excellence-wave as much as it has coined its meaning to a large extent. Based on a general
reflection on the notoriety of excellence, the presentation traces how 'excellence' became a term used to deliberately distinguish the ERC from other instruments in the European Commission’s research funding
portfolio, and, at the same time, connect it to the overall 'innovation chain'. It also looks at the effects of this strategy.
Dr. Thomas König ist Senior Researcher am Institut für Höhere Studien (IHS). Seine aktuelle Publikation ist 'The European Research Council', erschienen im Polity Verlag: