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Speech by President von der Leyen at "Celebrating 10 000 grantees" by the European Research Council

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op donderdag 6 mei 2021.

Thank you President Bourguignon,

Thank you President Sassoli,

Today we celebrate ten thousand stories of ingenuity, hard work and endurance. We celebrate people who have pushed the boundaries of human knowledge a bit further. And we celebrate the institution that put trust in them, giving them the possibility to try, to innovate, to discover something new. This is why the European Research Council was created, fourteen years ago: to give European scientists the freedom to explore the frontiers of knowledge.

This is the foundation of human progress. Everyone knows the story of Newton's apple. But after he saw an apple falling from a tree, it took Newton over ten years to first publish his theory. Science takes time, dedication and yes, it needs resources.

Let me borrow the words of Professor Uğur Şahin. I believe you all know his name: He is the founder of BioNTech, who together with his wife Özlem Türeci developed the first mRNA vaccine against Covid. And he, too, is a grantee of the European Research Council.

Professor Şahin recently said: “The success of an idea is rarely based on a single discovery, but on long-term persistence and financial support of early pioneers believing in a vision.” This is the mission of the European Research Council. It provides researchers with the time, the trust and the resources they need, so they can turn their intuitions into scientific breakthroughs. For this reason, two-thirds of ERC grants have been awarded to early stage researchers.

45,000 PhD students and postdocs worked on projects financed by the European Research Council. It's a new generation of scientists, and it's “made in Europe”.

At the same time, support from the European Research Council has led to ground-breaking discoveries. The list of achievements by ERC grantees is simply stunning. Seven Nobel Prizes. The first real image of a black hole. The concept of planetary boundaries, which is crucial to our understanding of climate change.

And I could continue. This kind of innovation will be even more necessary in the years ahead. We need the help of science to address the great challenges of our times, from climate change to mastering the digital age, to fighting pandemics.

Thus I am proud that the new European budget includes 16 billion euros for the European Research Council. This is unprecedented, and we had to fight for it. But these resources can make a huge difference for European researchers.

Today we announce the ten-thousands grant from the ERC. It took fourteen years to get here. Now, with the new funding, we could finance another 10,000 grants already in the next seven years. So we are going twice as fast, as in the past.

Europe believes in science. And we believe in our researchers. So congratulations to the 10,000th grantee and to the European Research Council for 10,000 stories of scientific excellence, and many more to come.

Many thanks and congratulations again.

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