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The European Research Council (ERC) grants are awarded to projects led by starting and established researchers working in Europe or planning to move to Europe, regardless of their country of origin.

 

Launched in 2007 under the EU's Seventh Framework Programme for Research, the ERC today represents 17 % of the overall Horizon 2020 budget. Its evolution is characterised by one main objective: to strengthen and shape the European research system.

To achieve this aim, ERC creates competition for funding between the researchers in Europe, explores new fields in research, supports the next generation of research leaders in Europe and nurtures a science-based industry. It also targets new and emerging societal issues.

 

‘I would have never been able to build up my own lab’

By Stefano Bonetti from Italy and Sweden

I have a B.Sc. degree in Engineering Physics from Politecnico di Milano, Italy, and a M.Sc. in Engineering Physics from KTH - Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. I am an Associate Professor of Physics at Stockholm University and at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. I work in the field of ultrafast condensed matter physics.

My project: MAGNETIC-SPEED-LIMIT – Understanding the Speed Limits of Magnetism. The goal is to understand how to control magnetism, which we use to store information in data centers worldwide, at the fastest and smallest scale possible, and in an energy-efficient way.

Benefits of ERC grant: The grant allows you to explore ideas driven purely by scientific curiosity. I would have never been able to build up my own lab without this grant. The funding covered all the needs of my project.

The grant allowed me to find a permanent position and to increase my visibility.

 

There are different types of ERC grants. A brief outline of each is below.

 

Starting grants

Researchers from any field and who have between two and seven years of experience after the completion of their PhD are eligible to apply for a starting grant. The application must be submitted by a single Principal Investigator (PI) together with the Host Institution.

Once the grant has been awarded, the researcher may work in a public or private research organisation (host institution). It can also be the organisation where the researcher already works, or another organisation in an EU member State or associated country.

The allocated sum can reach up to EUR 1.5 million for a period of five years. What’s more, EUR 1 million can be made available to cover eligible “start-up” costs for researchers moving from a third country to the EU or an associated country.

Consolidator grants

Researchers from any field and who have between seven and 12 years of experience after the completion of their PhD are eligible to apply for a consolidator grant. The application must be submitted by a single PI together with the Host Institution.

Similar to the starting grant, the researcher may work in a public or private research organisation (host institution) or the organisation where he/she already works or at any other organisation in an EU member State or associated country.

The allocated sum can reach up to EUR 2 million for a period of five years. As is the case for the starting grant, EUR 1 million can be made available to cover eligible “start-up” costs for researchers moving from a third country to the EU or an associated country.

 

Advanced grants

The recipients of this type of grant are Principle Investigators with at least 10 years of experience in research. The advanced grants shed light on leadership skills.

As is the case with other grants, the researcher also has the possibility to work in a public or private research organisation (host institution) or at the organisation where he/she already works or at any other organisation in an EU member State or associated country.

The allocated sum can reach up to EUR 2.5 million for a period of five years. Similar to the starting or consolidator grants, up to EU 1 million may be made available to cover eligible “start-up” costs for researchers moving from a third country to the EU or an associated country.

 

Proof of concept grants

Researchers who have already benefited from an ERC grant, including an Advanced or Synergy ERC grant (ongoing or has ended less than 12 months before 1 January 2020), are eligible to apply for a Proof of concept grant. This grant funds an idea expressed under a previous ERC grant, by financing activities aiming at turning research outputs into a commercial (or socially valuable) proposition.

Similar to the previous grants, the researcher also has the possibility to work in a public or private research organisation (host institution) or at the organisation where he/she already works or at any other organisation in an EU member State or associated country.

A lump sum of EUR 150 000, for a period of 18 months, is allocated to the project.

 

Synergy grants

These grants aim to fund a group of Principle Investigators (up to four) regardless of their field of research. Much like the other grants, the PIs have the possibility to work in a public or private research organisation. What’s more, scientific excellence is key, as well as the synergetic effect of the proposal.

The allocated sum can reach up to EUR 10 million for a period of six years. An additional sum of EUR 4 million can be made available to cover equipment or to access larger facilities.

 

What’s next for ERC?

The ERC mission will be pursued under the new European framework programme Horizon Europe, which will start in January 2021 and run until the end of 2027.

Excellence in research will continue being at the heart of the ERC strategy. The following was highlighted in a statement by the ERC Scientific Council: “Beyond 2021, Europe needs to increase its overall investment in research and innovation to speed up its progress towards becoming a dynamic knowledge society empowering researchers to develop their boldest ideas broadly.”

 

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