25 August 2021
312 top scientists were selected by the European Research Council (ERC) in its first Consolidator Grant competition. These new grants will allow researchers to strengthen their teams and develop their projects.
Projects selected include: using a geochemical clock to predict volcanic eruptions, exploring the effects of Dark Matter and Dark Energy on gravitational theory, checking responsibility, liability and risk in situations where tasks are delegated to intelligent systems, and investigating the role of genetic and environmental factors in embryo brain wiring. Total funding in this round is €575 million, with an average awarded grant of €1.84 million, up to a maximum of €2.75 million.
The ERC calls target top researchers of any nationality based in, or willing to move to, Europe. In this call, grants are awarded to researchers of 33 different nationalities, hosted in institutions located in 21 different countries throughout Europe, with 9 of them hosting five grantees or more. In terms of host institutions, the UK (62 grants), Germany (43) and France (42) are in the lead. There are also researchers hosted at institutions in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Israel, Belgium, Sweden, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Portugal, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Turkey, Cyprus, the Czech Republic and Norway. In terms of researchers’ nationality Germans (48 grants) and Italians (46) are at the top, followed by French (33), British (31) and Dutch (27) researchers.
Over 3600 proposals were submitted to this first separate ERC Consolidator Grant competition. The share of women amongst the successful candidates in this call (24%) increased in comparison with the equivalent mid-career group in the 2012 Starting Grant call (22.5%). The average age of the selected researchers is 39.
Around 45% of the grantees selected are in the domain ‘Physical Sciences and Engineering’, 37% in ‘Life Sciences’ and almost 19% in ‘Social Sciences and Humanities’. The grantees were selected through peer review evaluation by 25 panels composed of renowned scientists from around the world.
Due to increasing submission numbers, since 2013 the ERC Starting Grant scheme has been split in two: the ERC Starting Grant, targeted at researchers with at least 2 and up to 7 years’ experience after their PhD; and the new ERC Consolidator Grant for researchers with over 7 and up to 12 years’ experience after their PhD. The previous Starting Grant call (2012) had two sub-streams (“starters” and “consolidators”), which corresponded to the current division. The demand for the Consolidator Grants rose by 46% this year, compared to the corresponding group of applicants in 2012.
The ERC Consolidator Grant in brief
For top researchers of any nationality and age, with over 7 and up to 12 years’ experience after PhD, and a scientific track record showing great promise.
Based on a simple approach: 1 researcher, 1 host institution, 1 project, 1 selection criterion: excellence.
Host institution should be based in the European Research Area (EU Member States plus countries associated with the EU research programme). No consortia. No co-funding is required.
Funding: up to €2.75 million per grant for up to 5 years.
The grants in this latest competition will allow the scientists selected to build their own research teams, engaging in total an estimated 1100 postdocs and PhD students as ERC team members. The ERC grant schemes target top researchers of any nationality, based in, or willing to move to, Europe.
Set up in 2007 by the EU, the European Research Council is the first pan-European funding organisation for excellent frontier research. From 2007 to 2013, under the seventh EU Research Framework Programme (FP7), the ERC’s budget was €7.5 billion. Under the new Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (2014-2020), Horizon 2020, the ERC has a substantially increased budget of over €13 billion.