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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 November 2007, 13:38 GMT
4bn euros for frontier research
Scientist holding beaker (Eyewire)
This prestigious grant will focus on scientific excellence
The European Research Council (ERC) has announced a 4bn euro (2.9bn) grant programme for "exceptional" researchers across Europe.

The Advanced Grants scheme is envisioned as the flagship funding programme of the ERC through to 2013.

The programme will dispense about two-thirds of the budget of the ERC, whose sole focus is "blue skies" study.

It will operate alongside the already established ERC Starting Grant scheme targeted at emerging scientific talent.

The ERC Starting Grant scheme received over 9,000 grant applications in its first year and the process of selecting the winners will be finalised over the next few weeks.

'Exceptional leaders'

Prof Fotis Kafatos, ERC president
Generous funding is available but there will be very stiff competition
Prof Fotis Kafatos, Chairman of the ERC Scientific Council

The Advanced Grants programme will target researchers who have already established themselves as exceptional leaders in their field for the last 10 years.

Individual funding may be up to 3.5m euros (2.5m) for a period of five years.

Professor Fotis Kafatos, Chairman of the ERC Scientific Council, said: "This high-profile Europe-wide programme is designed to bring forward the most ambitious, far-reaching research projects... and to support the most talented established investigators."

He added: "Generous funding is available but there will be very stiff competition."

The European Research Council is a pan-European funding agency set up solely for frontier research. It runs under the EU's new Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

It was established after scientists warned that Europe faced a "brain drain" if it did not fulfil promises to boost its knowledge-based economy.

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