Excellent Money Supply
(August 29th, 2017) Earlier this month, the ERC announced its funding plans for 2018. Besides the familiar grant types, there's a new one.
They have become European scientists' favourite funding scheme – the European Research Council's research grants. In early August, the ERC published its Work Programme 2018, announcing the next grant competitions and how the Council intends to spend the earmarked €1.86 billion. Not much has changed to the previous years: the sole criterion for a successful proposal is still “excellence” - whatever that means. And researchers can again choose between Starting, Consolidator, Advanced or Proof-of-Concept Grants, depending on their career stage.
In addition, there's a new type of grant, or rather, a comeback kid: the Synergy Grant. Back in 2012/2013, the ERC already experimented with it in a pilot project. Now, they are perhaps here to stay. Not less than 250 million have been put aside for this grant, which is to support groups of two to four scientists, who tackle a scientific question together. The ERC awards this collaborative approach with up to ten million euros over a period of six years.
“The reintroduction of Synergy Grants in the 2018 Work Programme has been much anticipated. These grants can trigger unconventional collaborations, allow for the emergence of new fields of study and help put scientists working in Europe at the global forefront. By providing €250 million of funding for the Synergy Grant call, the ERC Scientific Council intends to make possible substantial advances at the frontiers of knowledge which would be impossible for researchers working alone,” said ERC president, Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, in a press release.
With a similar budget to 2017, exactly these 250 million euros for the Synergy Grants have to be drawn off somewhere. Hence, compared to 2017, the Starting Grants were lowered by 24 million euros, from 605 to 581 million and the Consolidator Grants went down 25 million euros, from 575 to 550 million euros. It is, however, the Advanced Grants that had to endure the largest slash: 117 million euros less are available for senior researchers, down to 450 from 567 million euros last year. Calls for Starting and Synergy Grants are already open and close in October and November, respectively.
“This is the starting whistle for the next round of this champions' league of European research within the EU's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. I hope this new series of competitions for excellence in science will identify and reward potential breakthroughs, and will be an investment for the future of Europe,” Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Carlos Moedas, is optimistic.