The European Research Area has been developing not only since its proclamation by the EU Commission in the early years of the millennium. Prior to this, national research institutions established intensive bilateral and multilateral relations, which provide a basis for further integration today. The Max Planck Society is extensively networked in Europe: Of the over 8,000 international guest and junior scientists it hosts, a good third come from Member States of the European Union.
Since the establishment of the EU research funding system, the MPG has participated very successfully in EU projects through all of the Framework Programmes. The Max Planck Institutes are supported in the embedding of their projects in the European research programmes by the Brussels Office of the Max Planck Society, which acts as a service platform and provides systematic support for the submission of funding applications.
The Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation will run for seven years (2014-2020) and, with around 77 billion euros of funding at its disposal, is the world’s biggest third-party funding programme. According to provisional calculations, Max Planck Institutes have been involved in 236 projects in the current Framework Programme and have attracted approximately 202 million euros in funding (as of November 2016).
Although the primary objective of the Framework Programme is to improve the competitiveness of European industry and application-oriented research thereby central to almost all of the associated funding strategies, the Max Planck Institutes have been consistently active and have achieved above-average success in their participation in EU projects. The main focus of the participation is primarily within the “Excellent Science” first funding pillar with the European Research Council (ERC), the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, the Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) and the European Research Infrastructure.
ERC grants are awarded on a competitive basis and according to the scientific excellence of the funding applications, which is why they are also considered an indicator of outstanding quality. Scientists from the Max Planck Institutes have succeeded in obtaining over 180 ERC grants since the establishment of the ERC in 2007.
The mobility of the grant recipients is high. For example, they can change the research facility, taking their ERC grant with them. The MPG supports this because the grants are thus also used for further career development. The Brussels office of the Max Planck Society also offers advice to those scientists who wish to link their ERC application directly to a host exchange (about 60 host exchanges over the past ten years).
Against the background of the interim evaluation of Horizon 2020, the Max Planck Society has formulated its position on the current EU Framework Programme (“Position of the Max Planck Society on the Interim Evaluation of Horizon 2020”). The key points contained in the position document on the interim evaluation focus on the objectives of “Strengthening of the European Research Area”, “Funding cutting-edge research in Europe” and the “Optimization of the funding programmes”. The Max Planck Society pursues the overriding aim of strengthening the promotion of scientific excellence in the interest of the necessary safeguarding and expansion of Europe’s scientific base in international competition. One of the particular concerns of the MPG in this regard is to embed the promotion of scientific excellence at European level and, in particular, strengthen the ERC as part of this process.