Key takeaways from EUR's strategic session dedicated to EU research funding

On 23-24 November, I had the pleasure and honour to co-moderate EUR’s strategic session dedicated to EU funding for research. The two days event took place in a hybrid setting, where together with Jurgen Rienks, the director of Neth-er and Prof. Pearl Dykstra, we facilitated very diverse and highly interesting sets of sessions where EUR engaged in high-level discussions with our guest speakers from Brussels. We had the honour of listening to, and debating with Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, President of the European Research Council, Jean-Eric Paquet, Director-General for Research and Innovation in the European Commission, Lucilla Sioli, Director, AI and Digital Industry, DG CNECT, Jan Palmowski, Secretary-General, The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities, Amanda Crowfoot, Secretary General of the European Universities Association, Gabi Lombardo, Director of the European Alliance of SSH, Simon Pickard, Network Director, ScienceIBusiness, and Seán McCarthy, Founder of Hyperion, specialized in European research funding strategies.

I look back at this event as a very inspiring and encouraging one where we brought the EU closer to the EUR, and we also shone a light on some of the major initiatives and achievements our University can be proud of. Together our researchers, research support professionals and guest speakers reflected on topics such as the future of European research, the vision on successful research strategies, environments and incentives systems. We also discussed the inevitable role the European universities must play in tackling global challenges, in preparing the world citizens of today and tomorrow, and how we can help our public and private partners build a society prepared for a sustainable and data-driven future with the citizen in the centre.

Key takeaways

The two days discussions tackled lots of questions, raised new ones, they triggered our curiosity and gave us some food for further thought and actions. There are some key takeaways that I consider worth sharing. For example, Prof Bourguignon, the ERC President, emphasised that diversity, risk-taking and interdisciplinarity are crucial for the vitality of science. He spoke of research diversification, not only in terms of people, but also in terms of topics, methodologies, and funding mechanisms, programmes and institutional settings at national and European levels, with scientific quality and excellence as the main driver. Moreover, in the words of Prof Bourguignon: "If Europe wants to lead, then its researchers need to be the first to discover and develop the latest knowledge. One cannot lead by only developing ideas first discovered elsewhere". And to this end, the EU, the European governments and universities alike must make sure that they do encourage and fully support such ambitions. (Here you can read the entire speech or our follow up interview with Prof Bourguignon).

Furthermore, another important key message was shared by Mr Paquet, the Director-General for Research and Innovation in the European Commission the future of European research is a trans-disciplinary and a cross-border one, with social sciences and humanities inevitably integrated across all policy fields and research funding pillars of Horizon Europe, with the potential of absorbing 20-25% of the 85bn euro worth 7 years research program. (Here you can read the interview with Mr Paquet).

The last but not the least take away I would like to share here, is that pursuit of knowledge must be fun! In this light, Prof Bourguignon repeated the wise words of our Desiderius ERASMUS, "A constant element of enjoyment must be mingled with our studies, so that we think of learning as a game rather than a form of drudgery, for no activity can be continued for long if it does not to some extent afford pleasure to the participant."


As a very first event of this type, I think of it as an important milestone in achieving our European funding ambitions. It proved to be a high level one, both in terms of content and speakers, as well as in terms of interest, engagement and discussions. The turnout was impressive, and that confirms what I have observed in the past year – that our EUR research community and the EUR leadership have been strongly motivated and committed to making the most out of Horizon Europe. Moreover, it shows our ambition to be one of the frontrunners in Europe when it comes to scientific excellence, multi-disciplinary research driven by impact, active societal engagement, at local, regional, national, as well as at European and global level.

This thought-provoking event couldn't have taken place without the contribution and engagement of the wider EUR research community, for which I am very grateful. I want to especially thank our Rector Magnificus Prof Engels and the president of our Executive Board Prof Brinksma for their commitment, support and contributions all the way through. I extend my gratitude to Eveline Crone, Pearl Dykstra, Gerrit Schipper, Antoinette de Bont, Viktor Bekkers, Semiha Denktas, Martin de Jong, Peter Knorringa, Hans Kippersluis, Michael Duijn and Rianne Kok for their valuable presentations and input. And last but not the least, we couldn’t have done this without my colleagues at ERS and the wider EUR grant community!

I truly hope, this type of events become a regular practice at our university in the years ahead. Meantime, aan de slag! and let us make the most out of the European funding for our impact-driven and excellent research!

I’d like to close by wishing you all a pleasant festive season and some relaxing times as we are saying goodbye to a very strange, uncertain and challenging year! Be healthy, keep strong and stay positive!


Meri Georgievska-van de Laar

Below you will find the presentation of the sessions: 

More information

On 26, 27 and 28 January 2021, Erasmus Research Services organizes the EUR Research Funding Days. You can attend one or more sessions to help you strengthen your funding strategy. It is a unique chance to (virtually) meet experienced laureates, research funding experts, research support professionals and fellow researchers looking for funding. > Register