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Research Funding

Former European Research Council president returns as interim leader

French mathematician Jean-Pierre Bourguignon to lead funding agency until 2021

by Laura Howes
July 28, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 30


Jean-Pierre Bourguignon
Credit: European Commission Audiovisual Service/Georges Boulougouris
Jean-Pierre Bourguignon has rejoined the European Research Council as interim president.

Previous European Research Council (ERC) president Jean-Pierre Bourguignon has rejoined the ERC temporarily until a new president starts next year. The ERC is the European Union’s main research funding agency.

Bourguignon, who headed the ERC from 2014 to 2019, reassumed the role on July 27. The position became vacant in April after Mauro Ferrari, Bourguignon’s successor, quit following disagreements about the ERC’s role and Ferrari’s duties.

“I see it as my duty to come back in the interim to lead an organisation that is so close to my heart,” Bourguignon said in a statement.

Bourguignon, a French mathematician, is well known and liked in EU circles and brings with him knowledge of how European policy and research funding works.

Jan Palmowski, Secretary-General of The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities, welcomed the news, saying in a statement that “this is excellent news for the ERC, and it is fantastic news for Europe’s science community. The Commission could not have made a better appointment for the ERC’s interim president. This will give the ERC the leadership it needs until the next President is appointed.”

Strong leadership may be necessary in the coming months as the ERC is involved in negotiations and preparations for the new budget period beginning 2021. Last week, EU legislators agreed to a 2021–27 budget with significantly less money for research than hoped for, and negotiators still need to decide how to share the pot. The EU also still must decide how countries outside of its 27 member countries can participate in the new research funding program.


This story was updated on July 30, 2020, to correct the date Jean-Pierre Bourguignon reassumed the role of European Research Council President. It was July 27, not June 27.



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