European Commission and Indian council offers opportunities for social scientist teams to join ERC research

New Delhi: The European Commission and the Indian Council of Social Science Research signed a new implementing arrangement to enhance scientific cooperation. It encourages top Indian social scientists to join temporarily research teams in Europe funded by the European Research Council (ERC). The joint initiative is the second of its kind for the ERC with an Indian funding body.

The Ambassador of the European Union to India, H.E., Mr Ugo Astuto, and the Member Secretary of the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), Prof. Virendra Kumar Malhotra, signed the Implementing Arrangement in a virtual mode. The ceremony took place in the presence of Director for International Cooperation in the Directorate-General for Research & Innovation of the European Commission Ms Maria Cristina Russo, President ad interim of the European Research Council Prof. Jean-Pierre Bourguignon and ICSSR Chairman and University Grants Commission (UGC) Vice-Chairman, Prof. Bhushan Patwardhan.


This initiative will provide opportunities to Indian researchers (Principal Investigators of Research Projects, Senior Fellowship Awardees and Post-Doctoral Fellows) who are supported by the ICSSR and want to pursue research collaborations with European researchers, supported by the ERC. The role of the ERC and the ICSSR is to facilitate contacts between their respective scholars who are interested in international cooperation.


The EU and India already cooperate in the field of research and innovation, but this is the first scheme fostering frontier research in social sciences and humanities. With the signing of this arrangement, a first important step has been set. More cooperation in research and innovation, in all areas, including the social sciences and humanities, will be available under the EU next research and innovation programme ‘Horizon Europe’ (2021-2027).


On the signing, EU Ambassador Ugo Astuto said, “Science has no borders. Global research collaboration is essential for developing sustainable solutions to global and societal challenges. This arrangement will help foster collaboration in the field of social sciences between the EU and India”.


Ms Maria Cristina Russo, Director for International Cooperation, added, “This initiative should be seen as a first step towards engaging on social sciences and humanities with India. Social sciences have a critical contribution to make in helping understand and design a more sustainable future for all. In the next EU framework programme Horizon Europe there will be many opportunities to increase our cooperation”.


The ICSSR Member Secretary, Prof. Virendra Kumar Malhotra, also welcomed the new initiative with Europe: “The expectations are that it will allow ICSSR scholars to deepen and widen their knowledge by engaging with ERC grantees across Europe”.


In his remarks, Prof. Bhushan Patwardhan, Chairman, ICSSR and Vice-Chairman, University Grants Commission (UGC) welcomed this new initiative and hoped that a number of potential scholars will benefit through carrying out research visits with ERC-supported teams. He stated that “India has great scientific tradition, which has been deeply embedded in our civilizational and cultural values”.


ERC President ad interim Prof. Bourguignon, who gave concluding remarks, also welcomed the initiative and said: “I am very pleased to see the launch of another research initiative involving a key funding body in India – a country of great scientific tradition hosting much research talent. It will be a win-win for Indian visiting scholars and ERC grantees. The agreement resonates with the ERC as it underlines the value of social sciences and humanities, but also of global research cooperation, whose relevance is even more critical these days”.


Since the start of the ERC in 2007, 62 Indian nationals have been awarded an ERC Grant. Compared with other non-European grant holders, Indians are ranked third after nationals of the US and Canada, which shows India’s scientific excellence.



European Research Council

The European Research Council (ERC), set up by the European Union in 2007, is the premier European funding organisation for excellent frontier research. Every year it selects and funds the very best, creative researchers of any nationality and age, to run projects in Europe.


The ERC is part of Horizon 2020 (2014-2020) with a total budget of €13 B. To date, the ERC has funded over 9,500 top researchers at various stages of their careers. It offers four core grant schemes: Starting, Consolidator, Advanced and Synergy Grants.


With grants open to talent of any nationality, the ERC aims to attract top researchers from across the world to come to Europe and encourages non-European scientists to join teams led by ERC grantees. Over 70,000 researchers and other professionals have been or are employed in ERC teams. Estimates show that around 17% of team members are non-European nationals.


The ERC funds excellent ‘frontier’ research in all domains, including in the Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH). Grants in this domain represent around 22% of the total ERC budget awarded so far under the current framework programme Horizon 2020. The share of ERC projects and of the ERC budget in the SSH domain has steadily risen over the years. SSH under the ERC is very broad covering fields from governance and legal systems, to diversity and cultural topics.


In 2014, the ERC funded 173 SSH projects, amounting to a total awarded budget of €291 million, whereas in the 2019 calls these numbers rose to 244 SH projects funded, amounting to a total budget of over €430 million.


Indian Council of Social Science Research

Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) is an autonomous body working under the aegis of the Ministry of Education, India and is responsible for funding and promoting social science research in India.


Since its inception, the ICSSR has granted 7113 Major, Minor and Collaborative Research Projects, awarded 8106 Doctoral Fellowships, 2574 Post-doctoral Fellowships, 796 Senior Fellowships and 174 National Fellowships. It has sponsored 4953 National and International seminars, funded 2144 scholars for attending seminars abroad and 458 scholars for data collection abroad. The ICSSR has sponsored 962 Training & Capacity Building Programmes for young faculties and researchers.


This Implementing Arrangement is similar to the fourteen such ERC agreements signed so far by the Commission with funding authorities outside Europe. This is the second Implementing Arrangement with India; now also covering social sciences and humanities. The first initiative concluded in October 2017 with the Indian funding body Scientific Engineering Research Board (SERB), targets scientists in the field of STEM (i.e. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). The initiative offers opportunities to scientists with SERB grants to pursue collaboration with ERC grantees on single long-term research visits (up to one year) or multiple short-term visits. Since the conclusion of the ERC-SERB initiative, five Indian SERB grantees benefitted from this programme.