The EC has published its Annual Report on the ERC activities and achievements in 2011. The report shows an increase in European Research Council (ERC) budget, but also a steep rise in the number of applications making it increasingly competitive.
The ERC has 2 main types of awards; Starting Grants and Advanced Grants. There are no subject limitations, no budget restrictions or limited durations for grant submissions and this scheme is designed to fund the crème de la crème of European researchers. Examples of UK ERC Grant Holders are below, so you can get a flavour of what the ERC is looking for in applicants and project areas.
Starting Grant: Cathy Craig, Queen’s University Belfast ‘Improving Health and Sports Performance through the Brain’s Control’
Advanced Grant: Peter Jackson, University of Sheffield ‘Impact of Social Anxieties about Food on Policies and Businesses’
I have placed some highlight facts and figures from the 76 page report are below in case you didn’t want to read it yourself…
Starting Grants: The 2011 Call was published in July 2010 with an indicative budget of €661m. In total 4, 080 proposals were received; a 30% increase on the previous year. 485 of these were successfully awarded funding, providing a 12% success rate (slightly lower than the previous year which was 15%). It is reported that the latest Calls for Proposals which closed in January 2012 received even more submissions; an increase of 42% from 2011 so things are set to get even more competitive.
Advanced Grants: The 2011 Call was published in November 2010 with an indicative budget of €661m. In total 2, 284 proposals were received; a 6% increase on the previous year. 294 proposals were successfully awarded funding, providing a 12% success rate (around the same as the previous year).
Over both calls, more than 6, 200 evaluations by 25 different panels (totalling 5650 reviewers) were conducted and around 780 proposals were funded, totalling €1.37b. The report shows the ERC were relatively slow in actually handing out the cash to successful applicants in 2011. They aimed for 75% of proposals to be signed and started within 365 days but the time taken on average was actually 419 days.
So what about the future of ERC grants? Well, it is proposed that the ERC will have a 77% increase in funding under Horizon 2020 so it’s definitely one to start building your career to work towards applying for. It is proposed that because of the increase in applications for the Starting Grants, that this is divided into two separate calls for 2012 ‘Starting Grants’ and ‘Consolidation’ Grants.
Some of the changes that are associated with the ERC under Horizon 2020 are:
- The principle of Excellence only: the support of the best researchers (and their teams) is the most bottom-up approach which will include all areas of research and therefore should remain. Frontier research will be the ultimate pursuit.
- Excellence of the peer review system: there must be a robust and reliable method of assessment which will be guided by the Scientific COUNCIL.
- Simplification: procedures for participating in all EU funded projects will be harmonised and simplified, decreasing the amount of time taken to actually start the research.
- Under-performing States: it is recommended that sa special policy be established for geographically underperforming areas to allow the researchers access to infrastructures to pursue their research.
- Strengthening research effectiveness to enhance its contribution to innovation: EU states must work together to create a shared understanding of how host institutions and research infrastructures can be strengthened to provide a creative environment in which research and innovation are to flourish.