Jean-Pierre Bourguignon back at the helm of the European Research Council

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Tags: ERC

Interview with ERC President Prof Bourguignon 'The Future of an Innovative Europe', New Europe, 31 July 2020.


The European Commission has today appointed Jean-Pierre Bourguignon as President of the European Research Council (ERC) on an interim basis. Professor Bourguignon will be in office from 27 July 2020 until the next ERC President is selected and takes up duties. Having headed the ERC from 2014 to 2019, Jean-Pierre Bourguignon’s reappointment comes at a crucial moment when strong leadership is needed for the organisation, with budget negotiations ongoing and the forthcoming transition to a new EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Horizon Europe.

Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: “I am pleased that Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon has accepted the position as ERC President ad interim until the next ERC President will take office. He has the experience and the trust of the scientific community and I have full confidence that he will provide the leadership necessary to ensure a proper functioning of the European Research Council during the final stages of Horizon 2020 and at a crucial moment of preparations for Horizon Europe.

Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon commented: “I am honoured by the continued trust from Commissioner Mariya Gabriel and the ERC Scientific Council. I see it as my duty to come back in the interim to lead an organisation that is so close to my heart. Designed by researchers for researchers, the ERC gives bright minds the freedom to push the frontiers of our knowledge and has now become a model worldwide. It helps the EU up its game at a global level in challenging times. I will do my utmost to uphold the ERC’s successful ethos.

On behalf of the ERC’s governing body, the Scientific Council, its three Vice Presidents - Professors Dame Janet Thornton, Fabio Zwirner and Eveline Crone - conveyed their great satisfaction with the reappointment. “With integrity and vision, Jean-Pierre Bourguignon has taken the ERC from strength to strength, showing that he is the right person to ensure that the ERC continues to fulfil its mission successfully in the interim period. Given his remarkable dedication and vigor, and his understanding of the scientific and policy-making landscapes, it is excellent news for us and for the research community that he has accepted to shoulder this responsibility once more. We thank him for his sense of duty, and know he will speak up for the best frontier research in Europe and worldwide.

Jean-Pierre Bourguignon will serve until a new ERC President takes office, after being selected by a dedicated Search Committee. He served as ERC President from January 2014 until December 2019. His successor was Professor Mauro Ferrari, who held office until April 2020. Prof. Bourguignon was the Chair for the first ERC mathematics peer review panel in 2007. After many years at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and at École polytechnique, for the last part of his career he has been Director of the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques. See full biography.


The European Research Council, set up by the EU in 2007, is funded exclusively through the EU budget as part of the current Horizon 2020 programme. Every year, it selects and funds the very best, creative researchers of any nationality and age, to run projects based in Europe. Since 2007, close to 10 000 top researchers have been selected for funding through open competitions and over 110 000 articles acknowledging ERC support have been published in international scientific journals. ERC grantees have won prestigious prizes, including 7 Nobel Prizes, 4 Fields Medals and 5 Wolf Prizes. The ERC has already enabled researchers to pursue promising avenues leading to scientific breakthroughs such as the first image of a black hole, important advances in cancer research or the early detection of security flaws in computer processors. In addition, ERC-funded frontier research helps to fight the current Covid-19 outbreak.

The President is the formal representative of the European Research Council and chairs the Scientific Council, the ERC’s governing body. The Scientific Council, composed of eminent scientists and scholars, defines the scientific funding strategy and methodologies of the ERC.