On 1 January Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, a French mathematician, will replace Helga Nowotny, who has held the role since March 2010.
Professor Bourguignon will be the first leader of the research council to be based in Brussels and will devote most of his time to the role.
He joins at a time when the council’s budget will rise by almost 60 per cent compared with the current period.
He will manage the ERC’s €13 billion (£10.9 billion) budget under Horizon 2020, the EU’s flagship seven-year programme for research and innovation. Horizon 2020 replaces the Seventh Framework Programme for research that has run since 2007. The European Union established the ERC as part of the Seventh Framework Programme.
In an interview posted by the ERC online, Professor Bourguignon said that he was “a bit overwhelmed” by the responsibility of running the ERC given the “fantastic success” of the council in such a short space of time.
He added that one of his main objectives in the role would be to develop the next generation of researchers in Europe. He said that some may doubt whether they have a future in research given the cuts to support in many countries.
He also hopes to work with national research programmes to further develop the European research community.
Commenting on the announcement, Professor Nowotny said that she was “very satisfied” with her replacement. But she also warned that Professor Bourguignon would need to be “vigilant to safeguard the unique specificity of the ERC in the years to come”.
She added: “The ERC will enter a new phase under the EU research programme Horizon 2020. With his highly distinguished and international academic profile, Professor Bourguignon will be able to build on what has been achieved so far.”
The ERC funds grants through open competition for the best early-career and established researchers working in Europe. Awards are made based purely on scientific excellence and are open to researchers worldwide to so long as the work takes place in Europe.
An external review that culminated in a task force report published in 2011 suggested changes to the governance of the ERC with the advent of Horizon 2020. Under the changes the positions of president and secretary general will effectively merge by having a Brussels-based leader.
The current secretary general, Donald Dingwell, has been in post since 2010 and was the permanent representative of the ERC’s Scientific Council in Brussels. Professor Bourguignon’s post will last four years and can be renewed once.