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Europe currently offers insufficient opportunities for young investigators to develop independent careers and make the transition from working under a supervisor to being independent researchers in their own right. This structural problem leads to a dramatic waste of research talent in Europe. It also limits or delays the emergence of the next-generation of research leaders, who bring new ideas and energy, and it encourages highly talented researchers at an early stage of their career to seek advancement elsewhere.
ERC Starting Grants aim to support up-and-coming research leaders who are about to establish a proper research team and to start conducting independent research in Europe. The scheme targets promising researchers who have the proven potential of becoming independent research leaders. It will support the creation of excellent new research teams.
ERC Starting Grants in brief
- For researchers of any nationality with 2-7 years of experience since completion of PhD (or equivalent degree) and scientific track record showing great promise
- An excellent research proposal
- Research must be conducted in a public or private research organisation (known as a Host Institution/HI) located in one of the EU Member State or Associated Countries
- Funding per grant: up to € 1.5 million (in some circumstances up to € 2 million)
- Duration: up to 5 years
- Evaluation criterion: scientific excellence
- Calls for proposals: published once a year (Notice regarding Call for Proposals 2014)
For research talents with proven potential only
Applicants for the ERC Starting Grants - called Principal Investigators (PI) - must have already shown the potential for research independence and evidence of scientific maturity
For example, it is normally expected that applicants will have produced independently at least one important publication without the participation of their PhD supervisor.
Applicants should also be able to demonstrate a promising track-record of early achievements appropriate to their research field and career stage, including significant publications (as main author) in major international peer-reviewed multidisciplinary scientific journals, or in the leading international peer-reviewed journals of their respective field.
They may also demonstrate a record of invited presentations in well-established international conferences, granted patents, awards, prizes etc.
Attractive long-term funding
Normally grants will be € 1.5 million for a period of 5 years (pro rata for projects of shorter duration). However, an additional € 0.5 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 and/or the purchase of major equipment and/or access to large facilities.
An ERC grant can cover up to 100% of the total eligible direct costs of the research plus a contribution up to 20% of the total eligible costs towards indirect costs.
Grants are awarded to the host institution with the explicit commitment that this institution offers appropriate conditions for the Principal Investigator independently to direct the research and manage its funding for the duration of the project.
Any type of legal entity, including universities, research centres and undertakings can host the PI and his/her team. Legally the host institution must be based in one of the EU Member States, or one of the associated countries.
The PI does not necessarily need to be working at the host institution at the time when the proposal is submitted. However, a mutual agreement and the host institution’s commitment on how the relationship will be established are necessary, should the proposal be successful.
See also 'Host Institution' for a map of all current ERC host institutions.
In the hands of distinguished peers
Proposals are evaluated by selected international peer reviewers evaluate proposals on the basis of scientific excellence as the sole criterion.
Peer reviewers are in charge of assessing and marking the proposals. Those who pass the quality threshold are ranked. Depending on the call budget available, a budgetary cut-off applies to the ranking list and only the highest ranked proposals are offered an ERC grant until the call's budget has been used.
See also 'Evaluation panels' for more information.
ERC grants support projects carried out by an individual researcher ('Principal Investigator') who can employ researchers of any nationality as team members. It is also possible to have one or more team members located in a non-European country.
Vacancies for team members of an ERC project can be published by the Principal Investigator on the Euraxess-Jobs portal.