March 10, 2017

The success of IST Austria at the ERC

By winning 10 ERC grants in 2016 alone, IST Austria surpassed the third-party funding goal of 95 million Euro in its first 10 years of operation – President Tom Henzinger reflects on the reasons for the exceptional success rate

With a total of ten ERC (European Research Council) grants - the most prestigious science grants in Europe - awarded to its professors in the year 2016 alone, the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) looks back on exceptional success in the international competition for research funding. At the same time, the ERC celebrates its 10th anniversary with an ERC week from March 13 to 19 full of dedicated events all across Europe. In this framework IST Austria hosts a Colloquium Talk by social scientist and ERC expert Thomas König which will take place on Monday, March 13, at 11 a.m.

President Tom Henzinger takes this opportunity to address the question why IST Austria is so exceptionally successful in the international competition for funding: “When looking for new professors, the excellence of their research is the key criterion at IST Austria. The mission of the ERC is to fund excellent frontier research. With this similarity of criteria it comes as no surprise that the ERC selects the same researchers as grantees whom IST Austria selects in the hiring process as the most promising researchers.”

With ten ERC grants awarded in 2016, the number of ERC-funded projects at IST Austria has risen to 31, creating additional positions for young researchers in Austria. 28 of the currently 45 professors under contract have received at least one ERC grant during their time at IST Austria – an exceptionally high ratio of more than 60% - and the success is spread out across all disciplines currently present at IST Austria. “The institute chooses which fields of science to enter based solely on the availability of outstanding individuals. It will pursue a direction of research only if we can compete with the best in the world. The fact that ERC grants were won in all disciplines that are represented on campus - biology, neuroscience, physics, mathematics, and computer science - shows that this approach was successful,” Tom Henzinger says.

At the founding of IST Austria in 2006, 95 million Euro were put aside by the federal government as a conditional, performance-dependent budget that could only be secured if the Institute obtains the same amount in third-party funds by 2016. With individual grants ranging from 1.5 Million Euro to 2.5 Million Euro (depending on project categories), the funding by the ERC has been a major success factor for IST Austria. It has contributed substantially to the Institute obtaining 25 million Euro in third-party research funds in 2016. Henzinger explains: “Not only did the Institute reach the goal of 95 million Euro in third-party funding by the end of 2016 and is therefore able to access its entire conditional budget of the first ten years, it even exceeded the 100 million Euro threshold.”

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