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Who can apply?
A group of two to maximum four Principal Investigators (PIs) – of which one will be designated as the corresponding PI (cPI) – working together and bringing different skills and resources to tackle ambitious research problems. No specific eligibility criteria regarding the academic training are foreseen for ERC Synergy Grants. PIs must present an early achievement track-record or a ten-year track-record, whichever is most appropriate.
Proposals will be evaluated on the sole criterion of scientific excellence which, in the case the ERC Synergy Grants, takes on the additional meaning of outstanding intrinsic synergetic effect.
What proposals are eligible?
Applications can be made in any field of research.
The ERC's grants operate on a 'bottom-up' basis without predetermined priorities. In the case of the ERC Synergy Grants, applications must demonstrate that the proposed research cannot be carried out by a single PI working alone.
Research must be conducted by all PIs in a public or private research organisation (known as a Host Institution, HI). It could be the HI where the applicant already works, or any other HI established in one of the EU Member States (see also eligibility of UK legal entities) or Associated Countries
- For the first time under the 2019 Work Programme, one Principal Investigator per Synergy Grant group at any one time can be hosted or engaged by an institution outside of the EU or Associated Countries.
Applications for an ERC Synergy Grant must be submitted by a minimum of two to a maximum of four Principal Investigators (PI), with one of the PIs acting as corresponding PI (cPI). The cPI will act as a contact point of behalf of the group.
PIs can apply within the same HI or through different HIs. Where the different PIs may be hosted by more than one HI, each of these HIs shall offer their support to the PI(s) hosted by them for the duration of the grant. At submission stage, however, only the cHI must provide the host support letter for the cPI and any other PI that will be hosted by the cHI.
The ERC Synergy Grant is awarded to the cHI that engages and hosts the cPI for at least the duration of the grant, and to any other HI that engages and hosts other PIs participating in the project. The host institutions must engage the PIs for at least the duration of the grant and must offer appropriate conditions for PIs supported to independently direct the proposed research and manage the project's funding for its duration.
The PIs do not necessarily need to be working at the HI indicated in the proposal at the time when it is submitted. However, a mutual agreement – called supplementary agreement – and the host institutions' commitment on how the relationship will be established are necessary, should the proposal be successful.
ERC Synergy grants support projects carried out by a group of two to four individual researchers who can employ researchers of any nationality as team members. It is also possible to have one or more team members located in a third country.
Vacancies for team members interested in joining an ERC led research project can be published on the Euraxess-Jobs portal.
Synergy Grants can be up to a maximum of € 10 million for a period of 6 years (pro rata for projects of shorter duration). However an addition € 4 million can be requested in the proposal in total to cover:
- eligible 'start-up' costs for Principal Investigators moving to the EU or an Associated Country from elsewhere as a consequence of receiving an ERC grant 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 of 25% of the total eligible costs towards indirect costs.
How to apply?
ERC grant applications can only be submitted in response to a Call for Proposals.
The ERC has yearly calls for proposals covering all scientific fields.
For an ERC grant application to be complete, it needs to include the administrative forms, the research proposal and the supplementary documents. The completed proposal should be submitted by the specified closing date.
Calls are published on this page, the European Commission’s Participant Portal and in the Official Journal of the European Union.
Before the call is published:
- Find out which ERC grant and which call is suitable for you.
- Think carefully who could be a suitable PI to complement your expertise to best address the complex and ambitious research question.
- Each PI should identify their Host Institutions. Note that the portability of the action applies to each PI.
- Identify further team members you would like to work with, and think of justifying their presence in the project (see also the online research partner search services). Please note that the written consent of any researcher mentioned in the proposal as participating in the project is required.
- Contact the National Contact Point (NCP) in your country for support or contact the Synergy applicants' mailbox: ERC-2018-SYG-APPLICANTS@ec.europa.eu
Once the call is open:
- Read the call related documents, such as the ERC Work Programme and Information to Applicants to the Synergy 2018 call, carefully.
- Together with the other PIs elaborate the research idea, making sure that besides the research goals the synergetic aspects are considered as well.
- Contact the host institution and gather all the details you need for the application.
- Start writing your proposal. Work tightly with the other PIs and allow time for others to review the draft proposal. Your NCP, peers and other scientists can all give you helpful support and feedback.
- Familiarise yourself with the Participant Portal’s submission service. This is the online system through which proposals must be submitted (see also the online guide to using the proposal submission service and the H2020 Online manual).
- Submit your proposal as early as possible well before the deadline. Deadlines cannot be changed. You can update your submitted proposal any time before the deadline by simply submitting a new version, which will overwrite the old one. Do not leave the submission of the proposal to the last day as you may encounter unforeseen difficulties.
- You will get an ‘acknowledgement of receipt’ by e-mail for each submission.
After the deadline:
- The ERC will check whether your proposal meets the call’s eligibility criteria.
- External experts will evaluate all the eligible proposals.
- About 4-5 months after the call deadline, you will receive a letter from the ERC informing you on the result of the first step evaluation.
- At each of the three steps of the evaluation process you will get a feedback about the results.
See ‘Ongoing evaluations’ for the feedback timetables for calls.
A single submission of the full proposal will be followed by a three-step evaluation, including interviews. Synergy evaluations will be unique, fit for complex projects and without predefined panels.
Proposals are evaluated by selected international peer reviewers who evaluate proposals on the basis of excellence as the sole criterion. It will be applied to the evaluation of both the research project and the Principal Investigators, taking into account the synergetic aspects of the proposed research. Panel Members are selected by the ERC Scientific Council on the basis of their scientific reputation.
At step 1, the extended synopsis and the Principal Investigators’ track-records and CVs will be assessed (and not the full scientific proposal). At step 2 the complete version of the retained proposals will be assessed. At step 3 Principal Investigators will be invited for an interview to present their project to a panel in Brussels and the most competitive of the retained proposals will be identified.
The composition of the panels in step 1 is not predefined. The step 1 panel will be formed from approximately 85 panel members and chairs. Five panels in step 2 will be formed in a dynamic way after the step 1 filtering to ensure the best expertise for the retained proposals. The five step 2 panels will be composed using the step 1 panel members, grouping them by around 15-18 experts in each panel. In step 3, the interview panels may be reconfigured to ensure the best expertise for the proposals. In addition to the Panel Members, who act as 'generalists', the evaluation relies on the input from experts external to the panel, including the so called remote referees. They are scientists and scholars who bring in the necessary specialised expertise, but they are not participating at the panel meetings.
Those who pass the quality threshold at step 3 - scored 'A' - 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 exhausted.
After the call opening, the names of the Panel Chairs are published on the ERC website. Similarly, the names of Panel Members are published, however, only after the evaluation process is concluded. Applicants are requested not to contact reviewers under any circumstances as they risk having their proposal rejected from the evaluation.