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11-11-2020

UPDATED on 11-11-2020

At the ERC we are aware of the disruptive impact of the pandemic on many of our grantees and their projects. The crisis harmed the ERC too with the majority of our staff working remotely. We are doing our best to remain fully operational during this exceptional period, while ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our own staff and the people with whom we work.

Remote panel evaluations

Since March 2020, all panel evaluations of project proposals are organised remotely. We’ve been able to finish the evaluations of 2020 Starting Grants on time. This year’s Synergy Grants and Consolidator Grants evaluations are in their final stages and proceed on schedule. The Advanced Grants call was closed as planned on 26 August.

During the remote interviews for the Consolidator Grants (September/October 2020), the applicants will be able to present their proposals orally. However, using presentations, screen-sharing and other visual material or support will not be allowed. Each panel has defined the duration of the oral introduction. In order to test the videoconferencing system, before the interview each applicant will be offered a trial session of around 10 to 30 minutes. All applicants have been informed about this new set up of the interviews.

Currently, we do not anticipate any delays in upcoming evaluations. We are grateful to our panel members and applicants for their flexibility and understanding, and to our staff for working under challenging circumstances.

Postponing your project start or extending duration of a project

Many grantees and their teams are facing disruption that requires postponing the start date of new ERC projects or extending the duration of ongoing projects. The ERC provides a flexible framework to introduce such changes to ensure that the highest quality research can go on in Europe despite all the constraints of the health crisis.

Beneficiaries may request a suitable extension of the action. In line with the rules applicable to the whole EU research and innovation programme, any request to extend the initial project duration up to 6 months, due to the COVID-19 situation, would be decided on favourably and in a speedy manner. Requests to extend the initial project duration for more than 6 months due to the Covid-19 situation will be granted on case-by-case assessment by the Agency. These extensions will not count against another potential extension under H2020 ERC grants, which will follow the normal rules and procedures. The ERC will follow the same flexible approach concerning any request to postpone the start date of projects.

We are inviting ERC grantees and their host institutions to inform their usual counterparts in the ERC's scientific and granting departments about any relevant problems they face. We are collecting and analysing these requests and information. Please also consider consulting the FAQs for beneficiaries of the Horizon 2020 Programme to find adequate solutions using the flexibility provided by the grant agreement.

Reorienting your project to COVID-19

Some grantees have contacted us to enquire about the possibility of addressing COVID-19-related problem in their ongoing project. ERC grants make it possible for researchers to adjust their projects, provided that the changes are scientifically justified and broadly relevant to the proposals’ original aims. If you are considering such a change, please contact your usual counterparts in the ERC Executive Agency, so we can see how best to support you and guide you through the process.

Along the same lines, should your ERC project result in any outcome that may be beneficial in providing solutions to COVID-19 crisis (e.g., structural and molecular mechanisms, host-pathogen and/or species interactions, new diagnostic and therapeutic avenues, AI and medical devices, epidemiological aspects, societal behaviour and impact), please do not hesitate to inform us.

Flexibility on teleworking and time commitments

The ERC has introduced maximum flexibility on the eligibility of personnel costs, in particular on teleworking costs. Such costs are deemed eligible for researchers during the confinement period. ERC grantees are also encouraged to shift their tasks, whenever possible, and are assured that the related costs would be assessed in a flexible manner.

Regarding the time-commitments of ERC grantees, the normal rules of the grant apply. However, the time spent on teleworking from outside the EU or the Associated Countries, if the ERC grantee is blocked from returning to the EU or the Associated Countries due to the pandemic, may count as time spent on the ERC project and in the EU or the Associated Countries. The ERC Executive Agency must be notified about such specific arrangements.

Maximum grant amounts

Despite the various flexibility measures put in place to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 crisis, the EU financial contribution to the project cannot be raised. The ERC has no resources to satisfy the requests of ERC grantees to provide additional budget e.g., to extend the contracts of the personnel involved in the implementation of projects. The maximum grant amount indicated in Article 5 of the Horizon 2020 Model Grant Agreement cannot be increased. The additional personnel costs arising from the extended grant duration can only be funded within the defined EU financial contribution.

We are continuing to monitor the situation closely and will provide further information as necessary to grantees and applicants. We invite you to consult this website and our social media accounts regularly for updates.