The limelight will shine brightly on a few rising stars in molecular biology under a new scheme launched by the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO). The increased visibility will help the selected Young Investigators expand their scientific network and forge crucial collaborations. It will also provide extra money to nurture their fledgling laboratories. To be eligible, researchers must be within the first 3 years of starting their own laboratories at a research institution in one of the 24 European Molecular Biology Conference member countries.

The EMBO programme will encourage the Young Investigators to network with senior scientists throughout Europe. EMBO will provide 500,000 euros for the first 3 years of the programme. This money will be used primarily to finance specialist meetings, interaction between groups, and visits to the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, say the programme organisers. An annual meeting will be held to bring all the Young Investigators together.

So an award should help to raise the recipient's profile, but what about hard cash? The organisers stress that the purpose of the programme is not to provide core funding for a fledgling research group. Some funding, however, will be provided to augment the lab budget. Although the amount is still under negotiation, the Young Investigators can expect to receive an annual payment during the 3-year period of the award of between 5,000 and 20,000 euros. In addition there is the possibility of obtaining a discretionary award for a specific purpose such as hiring a postdoc.

The extra exposure should also help the young Investigators win money on their own. According to the organisers "it is expected that the distinction by EMBO will add the prestige of the organisation to the scientist's credentials and improve the chances of receiving funding at the national and international level." EMBO's Gerlind Wallon confirms that this leverage is a key aim of the programme. "Compared with established group leaders," she says, it can be difficult for young scientists at the start of their independent research careers to obtain funding because they don't have track records. "There is not a very good mechanism of funding in Europe," she says and suggests this may be a factor in deterring young, mobile scientists from returning to Europe from North America.

EMBO will also lobby on behalf of its young charges. The programme will "assemble statistics on the national financing of young independent researchers." These statistics will form part of a package that EMBO will use to "encourage national and international funding agencies to target the young independent researcher for special funding and support," it pledges.

Eventually EMBO hopes that there will be between 30 and 50 Young Investigators involved in the programme at any one time. However, Wallon stresses that excellence is the guiding principle in selecting awardees. "If there are only 10 excellent applicants, there will only be 10 awards," she says. Outstanding young scientists have until 15 December to submit their applications. Instructions are on the Web site.