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The ERC frontier grants in the 2018 Work Programme

August 07 2017

On August 2nd, the 2018 Work Programme of the European Research Council (ERC) was published, detailing the aims, objectives and budgets of the highly prestigious frontier grants. What changes do we see in this new Work Programme compared to the previous years? 

Continuation of ERC StG, CoG, AdG and PoC

For the well-known ERC frontier grants (Starting, Consolidator, Advanced and Proof of Concept), the 2018 Work Programme is very much a continuation of the previous years.

Similar to the previous Work Programme, the ERC will host one call for application for the ERC Starting (aimed at researchers 2-7 years post-PhD), ERC Consolidator (aimed at researchers 7-12 years post-PhD) and ERC Advanced (aimed at researchers >12 years post-PhD) grants in 2018. For the ERC PoC grants there will be three separate cut-off dates. Also, the timing of the deadline dates (see table 1), and the time to grant, is similar to the previous Work Programme.

New opportunity for collaboration between excellent scientist: ERC Synergy

The 2018 ERC Work Programme sees the return of the Synergy Grants, which were piloted in 2012 and 2013. At the time, Synergy grants were perceived as the most prestigious ERC grant. They enable a small group (2-4) of excellent scientists to bring complementary skills, knowledge and resources together to jointly address research problems and sport an impressive €10M maximum budget per collaborative project (that can run up to six years).  During their pilot in 2012-2013, the Synergy Grants struggled with extremely low success rates (average 2.1%), but provided unprecedented possibilities to fund small collaborative efforts that led to great breakthroughs. The Synergy is now back, with a higher budget, which will hopefully increase the success rates.

Lower budget for individual grants to allow for Synergy

The return of the Synergy Grants provides an important new opportunity for collaborative research efforts, but it does come at a price; the budget for all individual grants is markedly lower in the 2018 Work Programme compared to 2017. Most probably, this was done to make room for the €250M budget for the newly installed Synergy Grants. The lower budgets will very likely affect the success chances and make the prestigious ERC grants even more competitive.  


[1] Indicative date, call not published yet. [2] Average 2007-2016. [3] 2016 data. [4] Average 2013-2016. [5] Additional €0.5 M for start-up costs (moving from third country)/ large equipment/access to facilities. [6] Additional €0.75 M for start-up costs (moving from third country)/ large equipment/access to facilities. [7] Additional €1 M for start-up costs (moving from third country)/ large equipment/access to facilities. [8] Part of 2017 Work Programme. [9] Average 2008-2015. [10] 2015 data. [11] Additional €4 M for start-up costs (moving from third country)/ large equipment/access to facilities. [12] Average 2012-2013. [13] 2013 data. [14] Average 2011-2015. 

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