European Research Council Calls

Established by the European Commission

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What is the European Research Council?

The ERC’s mission is to encourage the highest quality research in Europe through competitive funding and to support investigator-driven frontier research across all fields, on the basis of scientific excellence.

Being ‘investigator-driven’, or ‘bottom-up’, in nature, the ERC approach allows researchers to identify new opportunities and directions in any field of research, rather than being led by priorities set by politicians. This ensures that funds are channeled into new and promising areas of research with a greater degree of flexibility.

ERC grants are awarded through open competition to projects headed by starting and established researchers, irrespective of their origins, who are working or moving to work in Europe. The sole criterion for selection is scientific excellence. The aim here is to recognise the best ideas, and confer status and visibility on the best brains in Europe, while also attracting talent from abroad.

Support...

the best of the best in Europe across all fields of science, scholarship and engineering

Promote...

wholly investigator-driven, or ‘bottom-up’ frontier research

Encourage...

the work of the established and next generation of independent top research leaders in Europe

Reward...

innovative proposals by placing emphasis on the quality of the idea rather than the research area

Raise...

the status and visibility of European frontier research and the very best researchers of today and tomorrow

What is ‘frontier research’ and what are its benefits?

Today the distinction between ‘basic’ and ‘applied’ research has become blurred, due to the fact that emerging areas of science and technology often cover substantial elements of both. As a result, the term ‘frontier research’ was coined for ERC activities since they will be directed towards fundamental advances at and beyond the ‘frontier’ of knowledge.

The ERC aims to bring about a wide range of benefits in the following ways:

  • By creating open and direct competition for funding between the very best researchers in Europe, the ERC will enhance aspirations and achievements. It will enable the best ideas and talents to be recognised from a larger pool than exists at national level.
  • The ERC’s competitive funding will be able to channel funds into the most promising new fields, with a degree of agility not always possible in national funding schemes.
  • The ERC aims to stimulate research organisations to invest more in the support of promising new talents – the next generation of research leaders in Europe.
  • On the economic side, the ERC will help nurture science-based industry and create a greater impetus for the establishment of research-based spin-offs.
  • From a societal perspective, the ERC could provide a mechanism for investing rapidly in research targeted at new and emerging issues confronting society.

The ERC funding principles

The figure below taken from the “Information document from the EC for Starting and Consolidator Grant Calls” shows that:

IDConsortium will help you with the European Research Council Calls

How to write an ERC grant?

You should frequently review the Funding and Tenders portal for updates on the call. Relevant information such as FAQs, topics updates…are usually uploaded and they might be relevant for the proposal.

Single Principal Investigator (PI) heading research teams

The ERC grants support individual researchers that are starting their own independent research team or programme and who can demonstrate the ground-breaking nature, ambition and feasibility of their scientific proposal. In certain fields (e.g. in the humanities and mathematics), where research is often performed individually, the ‘team’ may consist solely of the Principal Investigator.

Research fields – no predetermined priorities

The ERC’s frontier research grants operate on a ‘bottom-up’ basis and applications can be made in any field of research with an emphasis on the frontiers of science, scholarship and engineering. In particular, the ERC encourages proposals of a multi- or interdisciplinary nature which cross the boundaries between different fields of research, pioneering proposals addressing new and emerging fields of research or proposals introducing unconventional, innovative approaches and scientific inventions. The focus is on the PI and on the individual team. Support for consortia is provided by other calls under Horizon Europe. Projects wholly or largely consisting of the collation and compilation of existing material in new databases, editions or collections are unlikely to constitute ground-breaking or frontier research, however useful such resources might be to subsequent original research. Such projects are therefore unlikely to be recommended for funding by the ERC panels.

Starting grant profiles
  • A competitive STG PI must have already shown the potential for research independence and evidence of maturity, for example by having produced at least one important publication as main author or without the participation of their PhD supervisor.

  • All PIs should also be able to demonstrate a promising track record of early achievements appropriate to their research field and career stage, including significant publications (as main author) in major international peer-reviewed multidisciplinary scientific journals, or in leading international peer-reviewed journals of their respective field. They may also demonstrate a record of invited presentations in well-established international conferences, granted patents, awards, prizes etc.
Host Institution

The HI must engage the PI for at least the duration of the project, as defined in the grant agreement. It must either be established in an EU Member State or an AC9 as a legal entity created under national law, or it may be an international European research organisation (such as CERN, EMBL, etc.), the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) or any other entity created under EU law.

International organisations with headquarters in an EU Member State or AC will be deemed to be established in this Member State or AC. Any type of legal entity, public or private, including universities, research organisations and undertakings can host Principal Investigators and their teams. The ERC welcomes applications from PIs hosted by private for-profit research centres, including industrial laboratories. Normally the PI will be employed by the HI, but cases where, for duly justified reasons, the PI’s employer cannot become the HI, or where the PI is self-employed, can be accommodated. The specific conditions of engagement will be subject to clarification and approval during the granting procedure or during the amendment procedure for a change of HI. During the granting process, the financial capacity of applicant legal entities will be assessed, if required.

Principal Investigator

ERC grants are open to researchers of any nationality who intend to conduct their research activity in any EU MS or an AC11. The research team may be of national or trans-national character. The PI does not need to be employed by the HI at the time when the proposal is submitted. If not already employed by the HI, the PI must be engaged by the latter at least for the duration of the grant. Grant proposals are submitted by the PI taking scientific responsibility for the project, on behalf of the host institution.

The requirements in terms of PhD award date are as follows:

The first PhD shall have been awarded:

  • 2 and ≤ 7 years prior to 1 January 2021
  • Cut-off dates: PhD awarded: from 1 January 2014 to 31 December 2018 (inclusive)

The eligibility periods set out in the table above can be extended beyond 7 and 12 years for the Starting and Consolidator Grants respectively for certain properly documented circumstances such as for maternity and paternity leave, clinical training, long-term illness or national service (see Annex 4.4 for further details). The ERC policy on PhD and equivalent doctoral degrees, including specific provisions for holders of medical degrees, is provided in Annex 4.3.

Expected time commitment

With the support of the HI, the successful PIs are expected to lead their individual teams and devote a significant amount of time to the project. They will be expected to spend as a minimum 50% for STG of their working time on the ERC project and a minimum of 50% of their working time in an EU MS or an AC.

Call

Opening Date

Deadline

Overall EC budget for 2021

Maximum budget per project

Number of projects to be funded (max.)

Starting Grant Call

ERC-2021-STG

25th of February 2021

08th April 2021 (17:00)

619.000.000 €

1.500.000 €

Max. 412 projects

Consolidator Grant Call

ERC-2021-COG

11th of March 2021

20th April 2021 (17:00)

633.000.000 €

2.000.000 €

Max. 316 projects

What is the ERC starting grant success rate?

According to the 2020 call data:

%

Success rate in 2020

Field of Science

Field of Science

Life Sciences

Social Sciences and Humanities

Total

Submitted proposals

923

1409

940

3272

Selected proposals

124

186

126

436

Evaluation Process

A single submission of the full proposal is followed by a two-step evaluation. The peer review evaluation is handled by 27 peer review evaluation panels (ERC panels), covering all fields of science, engineering and scholarship (see panel details and ERC keywords in Annex 4.1)

Evaluation criteria

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Parts of an ERC Starting & Consolidator Grant Proposal

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Some tips to write a successful ERC grant proposal:

    When drafting Part B1, pay particular attention to ...

    the Extended Synopsis (section a) and do not think of it as simply complementing Part B2. It is important that Part B1 contains all essential information.

    In your institutions there might researchers who ...

    have already applied and won a grant. Ask them for recommendations and for the revision of the proposal.

    You should count with ...

    the support of your national contact point.

    Make an appealing “Synopsis”. It should cover the following sections:
    • Present an excellent research idea with rigorous scientific approach.
    • Its ground breaking features.
    • Objectives
    • Scientific feasibility.
    • Underline the high risk and high gain of the project.
    About the CV ...

    compelling, informative, previous funding and other ongoing applications.

    Prepare the personal panel interview for the STEP 2 evaluation. Some tips are:
    • Practice the presentation with colleagues.
    • Be assertive & reviewer friendly
    • Provide if possible relevant scientific data.
    • Do not oversimplify the challenge of the proposal.
    • Do not over-stress the potential impact.
    • Remember: panel reviewers are eminent scientists, but not necessarily in your field of science. Don´t be afraid of their questions as they have a genuine interest.
    An ERC project is based on:
    • Excellent Research Idea,
    • Rigorous scientific approach
    • Exceptional track record
    • Outstanding knowledge
    • Devote their time.
    • Creativity, ambition and boldness
    The panel is very important, you need to choose ...

    the panel that best fits the project. They only see parts B1 and B2, but all documents are needed. The 1st step after the submission of the application is the revision of the eligibility criteria by the EC.

    What are the advantages of having an ERC grant:

    • It offers independence and recognition.
    • The researcher can research a topic of your own choice with his/ her own team.
    • The researcher will have true intellectual and financial autonomy for up to 5 years.
    • Visibility, access to large facilities, negotiation of better working conditions.
    • Buy equipment, attract top talents to your team and bring additional funding.