On Monday I was in Brussels for a Commission meeting and on my way out I met a former DG Research official. We started chatting and I explained that according to the European Commission’s database, CERCA centres have attracted 218 million euros from Horizn 2020 since 2014. He added that only the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), the Max Planck Society, the Fraunhofer Society, the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), the University of Cambridge, Oxford University and University College London were ahead of us. I also explained that CERCA centres have received 149 European Research Council (ERC) grants and that we were European leaders in ERC PoC (Proof of Concept), with 36 grants.
Connor opened his little eyes and said, “This must be publicised! The Commission should be made to publish its aggregate data, as it does with the Max Planck Society” (which appears in the database as each individual centre and also as a whole). He further added, “If CERCA appears as a whole, many researchers from all around the world will want to come to your institutions.”
And I think Connor, a person with wide experience of the Commission’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) talent attraction programmes, is absolutely right. The CERCA brand has risen rapidly to number eight in Europe and we need to make the most of this. Attracting talent, as already occurs in CERCA centres, could be greatly increased if we managed our assets well. Not only that, but CERCA could play a prominent consultation role in discussions regarding new contents of the Horizon Europe framework programme, in discussing new initiatives and in assessing policies and programmes, among other areas.
We have managed to bring together 40 centres under the CERCA name which conduct a high level of activity in European projects and provide outstanding scientific output. No other institution in the country comes close to these figures for CERCA. It is therefore necessary for all CERCA centres to move forward in adopting the CERCA brand internationally and we need to go and talk to the European research authorities so they understand who we are.
The first step must be taken at home. Each centre must be aware of this and of the fact that no other brand or affiliation, including each individual one, brings more to the table at this time than CERCA.