Building the Knowledge Economy in Europe

Building the Knowledge Economy in Europe

New Constellations in European Research and Higher Education Governance

New Horizons in European Politics series

Edited by Meng-Hsuan Chou and Åse Gornitzka

Building the Knowledge Economy in Europe investigates the integration of emerging knowledge policy domains on the European political agenda, and the dynamics of this in relation to knowledge policies. Professors Meng-Hsuan Chou and Åse Gornitzka bring together leading experts who address the two central pillars of the ‘Europe of Knowledge’, research and higher education, to reveal the vertical, horizontal and sequential tensions in European knowledge governance

Chapter 4: Dynamics of institution building in the Europe of Knowledge: the birth of the European Research Council

Åse Gornitzka and Julia Metz

Subjects: education, education policy, management and universities, innovation and technology, knowledge management, politics and public policy, education policy, european politics and policy, social policy and sociology, education policy


Institutions in a political system have effects for political life. Institutions comprising 'a relative enduring collection of rules and organized practices, embedded in structures of meaning and resources' (March and Olsen 2006, p. 3) matter for the decisions that are made, how these are implemented and what kind of effects they have. Institutions are also consequential for political systems' capacity to create and maintain a political community (Olsen 2010). Hence it is relevant to ask where institutions come from, why and how they take the form that they do and what it is that makes them viable. This is what will be referred to in this chapter as institution building. For a relatively new polity like the European Union (EU), processes of institution building are particularly important to investigate given that new institutions seem to be perpetually added to its institutional landscape as part of centre formation at the European level. The European Research Council (ERC) is one of these recent additions and the process that led to its establishment is the case of institution building examined in this chapter. Why is this case of interest? Formally established in February 2007, the ERC is the EU's first funding body set-up to support fundamental investigator-driven research with academic excellence as the funding criteria. In this way, the ERC embodies a break with established principles and rules of resource distribution in the EU's research policy domain.

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