€2.4bn available to researchers in ERC’s largest ever grants budget

16 Jul 2021

Image: © niroworld/Stock.adobe.com

With special allowances for researchers impacted by the pandemic, the ERC core grants will provide backing for around 1,100 proposals.

The first of the European Research Council’s (ERC) work programme 2022 grants opened yesterday (15 July) for applications from researchers working in Europe.

The details of the work programme were announced on Wednesday (14 July) and includes more than €2.4bn to fund grants for approximately 1,100 scientists and scholars in the EU and associated countries.

This is the ERC’s second work programme under Horizon Europe, which has an overall budget of €95.5bn and will run until 2027.

The ERC funding will be awarded in a series of grant competitions refereed by panels of researchers. It is intended to support projects that push the frontiers of human knowledge.

Researchers of any nationality and any scientific domain are eligible, as long as they work in Europe or are willing to move from other parts of the world to do so.

“This work programme is backed by the biggest ever annual budget for ERC grants – a powerful sign of Europe’s continuing support for frontier research,” said Mariya Gabriel, European commissioner for innovation, research, culture, education and youth.

“I am also delighted to see that most of the financial support is earmarked for grants for early and mid-career researchers. It is vital that we support this new generation of European talent.”

While the majority of grants will open in the last quarter of 2021, the synergy and proof-of-concept grant brackets opened yesterday (15 July).

All dates provided are subject to change, with the possibility of opening earlier or being delayed by a period of one month. Deadlines may also be extended by two months.

The ERC scientific council previously released a statement (21 April) relating to this work programme, saying it was “particularly concerned about the potential specific impact of the pandemic on the youngest members of the scientific community, in particular women.”

Towards this, researchers will be able to include details in their proposal explaining any gaps in their CV or track record that were caused by the pandemic.

The main ERC grants include starting grants, consolidator grants, advanced grants, and synergy grants. The number of research grants available in each category has increased from those last year due to the increased total budget.

Starting grants are for researchers who are beginning their own team or programme and will provide up to €1.5m in funds, with the potential for €1m additional funding over a period of five years.

There are 502 grants available under the scheme, with calls due to open on 23 September.

Consolidator grants are also for researchers in the earlier stages of their career and will support principal investigators who are solidifying their research teams or programmes.

The funding here clocks in at up to €2m, with €1m available once again as additional funding over the five-year period. These grants will open slightly later on 19 October, with 388 positions on offer.

For researchers who are firmly established within their field, there is more money on the table for individual teams in the form of advanced grants. These have €2.5m available over the five years and the same €1m available in additional support.

The call for these grants will be the latest of the core group, not opening until 20 January 2022. This year’s programme will see 223 of these grants made available.

Finally, synergy grants are back on offer, after being temporarily unavailable last year due to the transition from the previous Horizon programme.

These will allow for two to four principal investigators to join forces and tackle research questions that are too large for individual teams.

The guidelines state that “transformative research funded by synergy grants should have the potential of becoming a benchmark on a global scale”, with up to €10m being granted across six years and the possibility for €4m additional funding.

The call for these is open since yesterday (15 July) and closes on 10 November. Only 33 of these group grants will be made available.

There will also be two proof-of-concept funding calls, spread across four separate deadlines. The first call is now open for €25m in grants of €150,000 each.

Then in November 2021, the ERC will open a call with €25m divided between three deadlines in February, May and September of the following year.

There are also multiple awards for public engagement with research.

The awards will recognise three ERC grantees, with a prize of €10,000 each, in the three categories: Involve for citizen science, Inspire for public outreach, and Influence for media and policy.

The competition is expected to open on 5 October 2021.

Prof Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, interim president of the ERC, commented: “I am pleased that with its 2022 work programme the ERC is again offering the full range of its grants.

“This includes synergy grants, which are especially well fitted to support interdisciplinary research, and proof of concept grants, which help ERC grantees explore the social or commercial potential of their discoveries.”

Sam Cox was a journalist at Silicon Republic covering sci-tech news