Over the past ten years, the ERC has funded almost 7,000 researchers and by extension, more than 40,000 team members, while the work of its researchers has been acknowledged by the scientific community with an extremely high level of citations. One of the challenges facing the ERC in the years ahead – particularly as Europe’s direction overall is debated – is how it can best contribute to enhance science capacities at the highest level across the EU. No change from the basic ERC bottom-up philosophy is envisioned or needed, but what can be done, through all possible instruments across the EU budget, to stimulate more bottom-up research in every EU member-state? This is a matter for educational, regional, digital and several other areas of policy – not just research. With FP9 planning underway, what could be done across all lines of the EU Multiannual Financial Framework to move the dial on this longstanding problem?