I’ve been critical, as many others, towards government funding of innovation because it rarely reaches the true innovators: too often it goes to “usual suspects” or “money grabbers”.

There are exceptions. Two very highly reputated programmes are the ERC and FET-OPEN. The European Research Council funds top researchers in Europe, selected through peer review. FET-OPEN is a bottom-up funding instrument for frontier research.

What I discovered today is interesting: they both manage to attract the best and the brightest, but their approach is opposite when it comes to anonimity. ERC funding is distributed purely on reputation criteria, in order to go to the best researchers. Hence reputation is everything and anonimity is out of place. FET-OPEN instead informs that “The anonymity policy applied to short proposals has changed and is strictly applied. The part B of a short STREP proposal may not include the name of any organisation involved in the consortium nor any other information which could identify an applicant. Furthermore, strictly no bibliographic references are permitted.”

This is an interesting contradiction, worth exploring. It relates to the ex-ante vs ex-post control models of government.