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Q: Should a Synergy proposal for the ERC funding (ERC-2019-SyG) be only a successful collaboration?

Not only. The ultimate goal of the ERC Synergy (SyG) scheme is to allow for a close and genuine collaborative interaction that will enable transformative research at the forefront of science, capable of yielding unpredictable and ground-breaking scientific results and/or cross-fertilizing disciplines, leading to a result that is more than just the sum of Principal Investigators (PIs)' individual contributions.

More information about the ERC-2019-SYG Grant Call is available in the ERC Work Programme 2019 and the Information for Applicants to the Synergy Grant 2019 Call.

Q: How is synergy defined in an ERC Synergy grant (ERC-SyG-2019)?

The term 'Synergy' cannot be defined in one single way. Synergy projects should generally involve composite teams that are capable of tackling bold new research themes that require novel approaches and unique fusions of researchers. Such teams are typically characterised by exceptional combinations of knowledge and skills, in which the 2,3 or 4 Principal Investigators hold a central role. Synergy projects require continuous interlinking, feedbacks and integration amongst the different research teams. A Synergy project could incorporate novel multi- or trans-disciplinary approaches or innovative combinations of knowledge and skills in a single discipline or research field. Each Synergy proposal must demonstrate that its objectives can only be achieved through the specific combination of knowledge and skills brought together by the participating PIs. In other words, a major scientific question of pressing significance, an integrated team and the transformative scientific potential are crucial elements in conceiving a Synergy proposal.

More information about the ERC-2019-SYG Grant Call is available in the Information for Applicants to the Synergy Grant 2019 Call.

Q: According to the conditions of the ERC Starting Grant 2019 call, how does the ERC treat the request to extend the eligibility time-window in the case of clinical training?

For clinical training, the effective elapsed time since the award of the first PhD [for applicants whose first eligible degree is their MD such incidents can be considered from the date of the completion of their MD degree] will be considered reduced by the documented amount of clinical training actually received by the Principal Investigator after the award of the first eligible degree, and by up to 4 years maximum.

In case of part-time clinical training, the exact total training time will be calculated pro-rata to extend the eligibility window. Documented clinical training that has taken place between the award of the first eligible degree and the call deadline can be used to extend the eligibility window up to 4 years maximum.

Clinical training should be documented by an official signed testimonial from the employer indicating the start and end date of the training and preferably also the work pattern (full-time or part-time training).

Q: Under FP7, what are eligible costs for ERC grants?

Generally, costs are eligible if they are incurred during the lifetime of the project and provided that they are in line with the requirements for direct costs as listed in Article II.14 of the General Conditions of the ERC Grant Agreement (Single and Multi-Beneficiary). Costs must be actual, incurred by the beneficiary and according to the usual accounting and management principles and practices of the beneficiary. They must also be identifiable and verifiable.

For more information, see also the rules of the FP7 Guide to Financial Issues.


In FP7 ERC grants, the following costs are eligible under certain conditions:


- Travel and subsistence allowances:Should the Host Institution use flat rates for the daily subsistence costs, in accordance with the above mentioned rules and if allowed in the respective Work Programme, this should be mentioned in the Description of Work to be considered eligible.

- Meals (lunch/evening) during travels:

If the team member already received a daily allowance for travel expenses from the Host Institution, meals are considered to be covered by this allowance; hence they are not considered eligible.However, if the general practice of the Host Institution is to reimburse costs separately, upon presentation of a receipt, and if costs do not constitute reckless or excessive spending, they can be claimed as direct costs.

- Recruitment of a replacement for a team member on parental leave:

While recruitment costs would generally be covered by the overheads, in the light of ERC's specificity some recruitment costs may be accepted as direct eligible costs if they are: justified, part of the general practice of the Host Institution, clearly attributable to the project, and in line with the general requirements.


- Maintenance and repair of equipment, of failures due to the general usage of the equipment:

Any services or other costs related to certain equipment, such as delivery, handling, installation, maintenance or repair of items that are not covered by separate subcontracts, are part of equipment purchase and can be charged accordingly. In case of a separate subcontract for specific services (after-sales service, maintenance), the general rules for subcontracting apply.


- Purchase of spare parts:

Spare parts are eligible for funding as long as they meet the general eligibility criteria for consumables.


- Payments for patent applications:

Intellectual property activities such as the process of applying for a patent, if complying with all general eligibility requirements are direct eligible costs.

- Travel and other costs for experts and regular visitors: Reimbursement of travel expenses for experts who are not employed by the Host Institution may be considered direct eligible costs to the extent that the general requirements for direct costs are fulfilled and that the participation of these experts/visitors is duly foreseen in the Description of Work.


- Scientific text books:

For these costs to be considered eligible, the link between scientific text books and the ERC project needs to be demonstrated for the purchase of these books. Funding must be used for the sole purpose of achieving the objectives of the project and its expected results, in a manner consistent with the principles of economy, efficiency and effectiveness.


- Translation costs:

Translation costs are not the same as publishing costs and should be included under subcontracting if the translation is to be done by an organisation or person external to the beneficiary.If, however, a set of translators is working directly on the core research funded by the project and under direct instructions and supervision of the Principal Investigator, the costs concerned can be considered as personnel costs under the ERC grant.

- Climate compensation fees in addition to travel/ticket cost:

If by climate compensation fee is meant a sort of ecological tax that is identifiable on the invoice, it is not an eligible cost. However, if the payment of this fee is required by an institution to be paid for every plane ride, they can be eligible if:1/ This cost is an airport tax, which is an ecological charge applicable to all the tickets and mandatory under national legislation. It lies in the responsibility of the beneficiary to prove the "non-tax" nature of the "charge"; or2/ If it is included in the overall price and thereof not identifiable, i.e. it is part of the airline ticket.


- Costs charged by journal publishers for the provision of immediate open access to publications (article processing charges - APCs):

These costs are eligible if they are incurred during the lifetime of the project and provided that they are in line with the general requirements for all direct costs.


In case the journal tallows 'green open access' with an embargo period of six months, but "gold open access" is chosen resulting in an article processing charge (ACP), the cost is still eligible provided that they have been incurred during the lifetime of the project and that they are in line with the general rules for eligibility of direct costs as described in the Grant Agreement.If 'gold open access' is chosen, the publication must still be deposited in a repository for scientific publications and open access must be provided immediately to that deposited version (no embargo period).


In case there are several authors, there is no requirement to split open access related costs between the authors. If the costs have been incurred during the lifetime of the project and they are in line with the general requirements for direct costs, then they are eligible in full, regardless of the number of co-authors. However, grantees should consider whether it would be appropriate to ask other authors for a contribution to the costs.


If a former team member of an ERC project publishes an article based on his/her work related to the project and wants to provide immediate open access to it by paying an article processing charge to the publisher, this cost can be considered an eligible cost if it incurred during the lifetime of the project and provided that it is in line with the general requirements for direct costs.


- Open access fees for monographs:

These costs are eligible if they are incurred during the lifetime of the project and provided that they are in line with the general requirements for direct costs.


- Attendance at Conference Costs:Normally researchers participating in a conference are expected to play an active part, e.g. present a paper or a poster.  As well as the usual documents needed to support the costs claimed (purchase orders, invoices and payment (conference, travel and hotel) and evidence of payments), an auditor would expect to see conference registration and conference agenda with names and roles. 

As a best practice it is recommended that a small note is produced by the researcher describing his/her role and the link to the project.


 - Costs for management of the project:

Management costs directly linked to the project and respecting the general eligibility criteria can be considered as direct eligible costs.See also Article 33.4 of the FP7 Rules of participation.

However, management costs such as administrative, technical or logistical costs are cross-cutting costs for all operations of the beneficiary and cannot be attributed in full to the project. These costs should be covered by the 20% flat rate of indirect costs.

- Membership fees of society publisher:

If the net effect of taking out a membership in the society is a reduction in the cost of the article processing charges (APCs) that is higher than the cost of the membership fee, then the membership fee (for the year concerned) is an eligible cost, provided that it is in line with the general requirements for direct costs.


- Costs for the deposit of research data in an open access data repository (run by an external organization):

Yes, these costs are eligible if they generated or collected as part of an ERC project and provided that they are in line with the general requirements for direct costs.


- Consumables for people formally not paid by an ERC grant (e.g. undergraduate students) :

They are eligible as long as they can be attributed directly to a project and are identifiable by the Host Institution as such, in accordance with its accounting principles and its general internal rules (i.e. there is a proven track record of each consumed amount).


- Redundancy payments:

Employment-related costs and termination/redundancy payments are considered eligible costs as long as they are in accordance with the usual accounting practice of the beneficiary, are fair and justified and recognised by national law. It is the Host Institution's duty to foresee possible project changes and include corresponding provisions in the (employment) contract. The ERCEA will examine each case individually.

Q: For ERC projects under FP7, can the Principal Investigator sign timesheets for him/herself?

A Principal Investigator should not validate his/her own timesheet because the person validating a timesheet should have an independent view of the work of the Principal Investigator within the Host Institution (e.g. the Principal Investigator's hierarchical superior).