About the Scheme
The European Research Council (ERC) funds excellent researchers to carry out high-risk, high-reward research. Projects should be driven by the Haldane principle of academic curiosity. Impact is not assessed in proposals, a unique feature of EU projects. The expectation is that the resulting step-change in knowledge will lead to impact via innovative societal or industrial application beyond the project.
Watch the video below to see how an ERC project should look.
ERC Fellowships and eligibility conditions
There are 4 primary schemes available, for different career stages. ERC grant-holders can also apply for a fifth type, the ERC Proof-of-Concept (PoC) grant.
Starting Grant (StG)
The ERC Starting Grant is for early-career researchers to establish their own (and often first) research group. They will then obtain independence through excellent research.
Eligibility: 2-7 years post Ph.D
Duration: up to 5 years
Budget: €1.5 million (pro rata)
Next deadline: 25th October 2022 (tbc)
Consolidator Grant (CoG)
The ERC Consolidator Grant is for researchers to consolidate their independence with a view to becoming a future research leader.
Eligibility: 7-12 years post Ph.D
Duration: up to 5 years
Budget: €2 million (pro rata)
Next deadline: 17th March 2022
Advanced Grant (AdG)
The ERC Advanced Grant is for excellent researchers making breakthroughs through high quality research ideas. Applicants must still be active researchers and have a strong track record over the previous 10 years.
Eligibility: >12 years post-Ph.D. but usually Professorial researchers
Duration: up to 5 years
Budget: €2.5 million (pro rata)
Next deadline: 28th April 2022
The ERC Synergy Grant provides funding for 2-4 Principal Investigators (PIs) to propose an ambitious, interdisciplinary research project. Projects will lead to breakthroughs not possible by any individual PI working with a single team.
Eligibility: No specific criteria but all PIs are assessed for ERC quality relative to career stage
Duration: up to 6 years
Budget: €10 million (pro rata)
Next deadline: 08th November 2022 (tbc)
Proof of Concept (PoC)
ERC Proof of Concept grants are only open to current or recent ERC grant holders to demonstrate potential commercialisation opportunities that have arisen from their ERC-funded research.
Eligibility: Current ERC grant, or grant ending in last 12 months
Duration: 18 months
Next deadlines: 15th February 2022, 19th May 2022, 29th September 2022
Although there are three deadlines annually, a PI may only apply to one of these. Resubmissions in the same call year are not allowed.
Differences from H2020
The ERC under HEu is largely a continuation from H2020. The only significant difference is the addition of an interview stage for the Advanced Grant.
How to Apply
All proposals are submitted electronically via the Funding and Tenders Portal. We can help to set you up with a submission account.
The ERC is based solely on excellence. Proposals will only be successful if:
· You have a strong track record for your career stage
· You have a ground-breaking research idea
· Your proposal is high risk/high reward.
Most proposals fail on the last point. An ERC project necessitates risk to achieve a step-change in research knowledge. Proposals are funded on the potential of a breakthrough rather than the expectation of one. As long as the project will achieve useful results, it does not matter if the primary aim is fully successful.
The ERC follows the standard HEu reimbursement rate of 100% Direct costs + 25% Indirect costs. Budget thresholds for each scheme are listed above.
Evaluation process and success rates
ERC Grants (full proposals) are submitted to a single deadline but are evaluated in two stages. The scientific excellence of the PI and project are the sole criteria of evaluation.
Stage 1 is panel review. Only an extended synopsis and the PI’s track record and CV are assessed at this stage. Approximately 22-25% are retained for Stage 2. Panellists are in broad subject areas, so stage 1 is written for a more general audience within your wider field.
Stage 2 involves peer review evaluation of the full proposal plus an interview. Reviewers include panellists from Stage 1 plus external, subject-specific experts. Around 40% proposals that get to Stage 2 are retained for funding.
Applicants who do not make it to Stage 2 may not resubmit for the following 1 or 2 deadlines, depending on the score obtained.
The overall success rate is c.12-14% in the 3 individual schemes, around 30% for the PoC and 5-8% in the Synergy Scheme
ERC Fellowships are recognised globally as a brand of excellence. In addition to career benefits, it helps to attract top researchers to your group. It can also be a great way to attract external academic talent, as the grant will cover a proportion (at least 30%) of salary.
The ERC is also very flexible with implementation. The paradigm-shift nature of the projects means that alterations to the research plan are supported to fit developments in the research area.
The University has been awarded 42 ERC Fellowships across all Faculties. The UK hosts the most ERC Fellowships and has a better-than-average success rate overall.
If you have any queries related to ERC, please contact Ben Williams.