The European Research Council (ERC) is the most prestigious funder of excellent research in Europe, with the mission of promoting the best researchers and most brilliant ideas. Together with Marie Skłodowska Curie actions and Research infrastructures, ERC forms the foundation of Excellent Science funding within EU framework programmes (Pillar 1).
Depending on career stage, researchers can apply for individual funding from ERC in the categories Starting, Consolidator, and Advanced Grants, as well as collaborative ERC Synergy grants where 2-4 researchers from different disciplines join forces to tackle a coherent and challenging research question. ERC funds investigator-driven bottom-up research, which is evaluated based on the quality of the idea and the merits of the researcher. Projects funded by ERC are normally basic-research oriented, with a strong potential of resulting in break-through discoveries that move the frontiers of science.
There are no pre-set priorities within ERC, instead the proposals are evaluated in 27 different thematic review panels, divided into three major research areas;
- Life Sciences (LS)
- Physical science and engineering (PS)
- Social sciences and Humanities (SH)
The generous funding provided by the ERC allows grantees to build or expand their research team, conduct excellent research and establish/consolidate/strengthen their position as research leaders in Europe.
TYPES OF FUNDING
ERC funds individual researchers, as well as small groups of researchers forming interdisciplinary teams, with grants in the following categories;
- ERC Starting Grant (ERC-StG)
Individual grants awarded to young promising researchers, 2-7 years after PhD, with novel research ideas and a proven potential of becoming independent research leaders. ERC-StG grantees are funded with a maximum of €1.5 million for a period of up to five years, with the requirement of conducting their research at a host institution in the EU or in one of the Associated Countries.
- ERC Consolidator Grant (ERC-CoG)
Individual grants awarded to excellent principal investigators, 7-12 years after PhD, who are in the process of consolidating their position as research leaders in Europe. ERC-CoG awardees are funded with a maximum of €2 million for a period of up to five years, with the requirement of conducting their research at a host institution in the EU or in one of the Associated Countries.
- ERC Advanced Grant (ERC-AdG)
Individual grants awarded to excellent principal investigators, who already are established research leaders in their fields and can show a track-record of significant research achievements during the last 10 years. ERC-AdG awardees are funded with a maximum of €2.5 million for a period of up to five years, with the requirement of conducting their research at a host institution in the EU or in one of the Associated Countries.
- ERC Synergy Grant (ERC-SyG)
Large grants awarded to small groups of two to four innovative and active researchers from different scientific disciplines, who by working together can show a strong potential of tackling difficult research questions. ERC-SyG projects are awarded a maximum of €10 million for a period of up to six years. At any one time, one principal investigator per synergy grant group, except the corresponding one, can be hosted or engaged by an institution outside of the EU or Associated Countries.
- ERC Proof-of-concept grant (ERC-PoC)
Grants for principal investigators of ERC frontier research grants, who wish to verify the innovation potential of the results gained in their ERC-funded projects. In order to be eligible for an ERC-PoC grant, you need to either have an ongoing ERC project or a project that has ended less than 12 months before the 1st of January on the year of the deadline for the call. ERC-PoC grantees are supported with a lump sum of €150 000, for a period of 18 months. Calls for ERC-PoC are announced three times each year.
In addition to the grant levels indicated above, all applicants of ERC frontier grants can also apply for additional funding of up to €1 million for the individual grants and €4 million for ERC-SyG, to cover costs including;
- "start-up" costs for Principal Investigators moving to the EU or an Associated Country from elsewhere as a consequence of receiving the ERC grant and/or
- the purchase of major equipment and/or
- access to large facilities and/or
- other major experimental and field work costs, excluding personnel costs.
Similar to other grants within the Horizon 2020 framework programme, ERC provides a flat rate of 25% for indirect costs. Depending on the project design and budget, there may thus be a smaller or larger need for co-funding of ERC grants. At present, ERC is a prioritised funder at SLU, and hence, grants awarded by the ERC are centrally co-funded by the university. For further details, please see the current guidelines for co-funding here.
HOW TO APPLY
Calls for ERC grants are published on the European Commission’s Funding and Tenders portal, roughly four months before deadline. You can find detailed instructions for how to structure an ERC proposal in the annual ERC Work Programme, as well as in the associated “Information for applicants” guidelines, which can be downloaded from the ERC website.
In short, an ERC proposal consist of three parts;
- A-form – Here you fill in administrative and basic information about the applicant/s/ and the project, together with an overall budget and an ethics assessment.
- B1 – A short-version of your proposal, consisting of an extended synopsis of the project description (maximum 5 pages), together with a CV and track-record of each applicant.
- B2 – A full proposal, consisting of a 15-page scientific proposal and detailed budget supported by a budget motivation.
ERC proposals are normally evaluated in two stages (three stages for ERC-SyG), during which the B1 is evaluated in stage one and B2 in stage two. In the final stage of evaluation, researchers that reach stage 2 are also invited for an interview in Brussels.
SUPPORT WITH YOUR APPLICATION
If you are curious about ERC or plan to write an application, you are welcome to contact Grants Office for general advice, as well as receive hands-on support in the application process. Either contact one of the research coordinators directly or mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Swedish Foundations’ Starting Grant
Researchers with a Swedish host institution who have applied for an ERC Starting Grant and received an “A” rating, but missed out on funding due to limited budget, can apply for a Swedish Foundations’ Starting Grant. The grant is awarded for one year at a time and is guaranteed for up to five years; grantees are expected to continue to participate in applicable ERC calls when possible throughout the grant period. For more information, visit their website.