Bringing ideas to market, ERC launches new "Proof of Concept" funding scheme

The European Research Council (ERC) has launched a new funding initiative under the title “Proof of Concept” which aims to stimulate innovation by providing funding to researchers already holding an ERC grant, and supporting their outstanding research projects at the frontiers of knowledge. First Proof of Concept call is expected to be published on 29 March with deadlines in June and November 2011.

The type of high-risk/high-gain research at the frontiers of knowledge that the ERC promotes since its launch in 2007 often generates new discoveries, but also unexpected opportunities for commercial and societal applications. By supporting outstanding research projects at the frontiers of knowledge, the European Research Council (ERC), which is the newest component of the 7th Research Framework Programme, already feeds into the EU’s Innovation Union. It is therefore committed to ensure the full exploitation of the excellent ideas it funds, in line with the Innovation Union's aim of strengthening every link in the innovation chain from "blue sky" to innovation.

To do so, the ERC is launching the “Proof of Concept” funding scheme, which will make available up to 150,000 euro per grant to researchers already holding ERC grants. This funding will aim to bridge the gap between their research and the earliest stage of a marketable innovation. ERC grant holders will therefore be given the opportunity to apply for additional funding to establish the innovation potential of ideas arising from their ERC-funded frontier research projects. This targeted new initiative will capture the maximum value from frontier research by getting good ideas to market.

The “Proof of Concept” provides translational funding to speed outcomes of research onto the market place. ERC grant holders will be able to use the funding for activities such as technical validation, market research, clarifying intellectual property right position and strategy, or investigating commercial and business opportunities. It aims at supporting ERC grant holders to prepare a package to be presented to venture capitalists or companies that may invest in this technology and take it through the early commercialisation phase.

As described by ERC President Professor Helga Nowotny, “frontier research always yields some unexpected results. These may be scientific findings, but also new technologies whose full potential still needs to be further explored”. This new funding scheme aims to offer support to ERC grantees, whose work is ripe with promises for innovation and its commercial potential.

First Proof of Concept call is expected to be published on 29 March, and deadlines for submission of proposals will be in June and November 2011.