European Research Council (ERC)
The ERC funds ambitious ‘frontier research’ proposals submitted by a Principal Investigator (PI) in any area of research and without predefined priorities. The ERC aims to fund the best research undertaken by the best researchers in Europe, with scientific excellence as the sole evaluation criterion (both the scientific excellence of the PI’s track record and of the proposed project).
The ERC is part of Pillar 1 ‘Excellence Science’, along with the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) and Research Infrastructures. Pillar 1 sets out to promote scientific excellence and attract highly-skilled researchers and innovators to Europe.
A significant degree of continuity from Horizon 2020 is anticipated as far as the ERC is concerned, but changes to the individual schemes (e.g. interviews introduced for Advanced Grant applicants) are to be expected.
What will be funded?
ERC proposals should aim to open new areas of research or develop new methodologies. Projects are expected to be ambitious and inherently high-risk, whether through choice of topic, scope or scale. To achieve the outputs of their project, the PI may employ Team Members, who may be of any level of experience and may be based anywhere in the world.
The latest ERC Work Programme will indicate the allocated budget and approximate number of grants that are expected to be awarded for each scheme, as well as the expected timings of the calls.
Confirmed ERC schemes in Horizon Europe
Starting/Consolidator/Advanced Grants (StG/CoG/AdG)
The Starting, Consolidator and Advanced Grants all operate in a similar way, with eligibility for the first two determined by the number of years since PhD completion. All three schemes support a single PI to work on an ambitious research project for up to five years, with the option to engage additional Team Members, if required. There are minimum eligibility requirements of time spent working on the ERC grant, etc. that the PI must meet, but the grant itself is portable and moves between institutions with the PI; the funding awarded can be spent flexibly as the project evolves.
For more practical information about applying for on the StG/CoG/AdG grants, see the enclosed presentation.
Title: Be successful in your research grant applications: lessons from the ERC; by Laurence Colin, Scientific Officer, ERC Life Sciences Unit.
(This presentation was prepared for the 2021 EYES meeting, September 5-6 2021).
Synergy Grants (SyG)
ERC Synergy Grants are intended to enable between two and four PIs to bring together complementary skills, knowledge, and resources in new ways, in order to jointly address ambitious research problems. Synergy Grants award up to a maximum of €10 million for a period of six years. An additional €4 million can also be applied for to cover some specific expense categories.
Proof of Concept Grants (PoC)
The Proof of Concept scheme funds ERC grant holders to explore the innovation potential of an idea developed during the course of an ERC-funded project. The scheme aims to build upon ideas which draw substantially from research that has been funded by the ERC, exploring opportunities for commercial or societal applications of ideas that have arisen from research performed on Starting, Consolidator, Advanced or Synergy Grants.