Horizon Europe: Excellent Science - European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grants

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Entitat convocant:
European Commission
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Horizon Europe is the ninth European Research and Innovation Framework programme (2021-2027). In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is one of the key instruments of the European Union's efforts to steer and accelerate Europe's recovery, preparedness and resilience. In the context of a new European Research Area for research and innovation, it aims to strengthen Europe's knowledge base through frontier research, spur breakthrough innovation and support the development and demonstration of innovative solutions, and help restore industrial leadership and open strategic autonomy.

The first Horizon Europe Strategic Plan (2021-2024) which sets out key strategic orientations for the support of research and innovation, was adopted on 15 March 2021.

Activity under Horizon Europe is primarily organised under three 'pillars':

  • Pillar I - Excellent Science
  • Pillar II - Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness
  • Pillar III - Innovative Europe

The European Research Council (ERC) is part of Pillar I - Excellent Science and provides attractive, long-term funding to support excellent investigators and their research teams to pursue ground-breaking, high gain and high risk research. The ERC is a key component of Horizon Europe and complements other European research and innovation platforms, such as those of the national research funding agencies.

The ERC operates five main grant programmes to support projects and investigators at progressive stages of development: this Advanced Grant, plus the Proof of Concept Grant, Starting Grant, Consolidator Grant, and Synergy Grant.

Research funded by the ERC is expected to lead to advances at the frontiers of knowledge and to set a clear and inspirational target for frontier research across Europe. It operates using an 'investigator-driven' approach based solely on scientific excellence to solicit new opportunities and directions in any field of research, as identified by researchers themselves, rather than support priorities set by parties outside of the research community. This 'bottom-up' attitude to research funding ensures that support is aimed primarily at new and promising opportunities, with a greater degree of flexibility.

Running in parallel with its research funding support objectives, the ERC also aims to fortify and shape the European research system, piloted by high quality peer review, the establishment of international benchmarks of success, and the provision of up-to-date information on who is succeeding and why.

Overall, the ERC aims to:

  • Support the best of the best in Europe across all fields of science, scholarship and engineering.
  • Promote wholly investigator-driven or 'bottom-up' frontier research.
  • Encourage the work of the established and next generation of independent top research leaders in Europe.
  • Reward innovative proposals by placing emphasis on the quality of the idea rather than the research area.
  • Raise the status and visibility of European frontier research and the very best researchers of today and tomorrow.

ERC Advanced Grants are designed to support excellent Principal Investigators at the career stage at which they are already established research leaders with a recognised track record of research achievements. Applicant Principal Investigators must demonstrate the ground breaking nature, ambition and feasibility of their scientific proposal.

Applications may be made in any field of research. Support is available for frontier research. Proposals that cross disciplinary boundaries, pioneering ideas that address new and emerging fields and applications that introduce unconventional, innovative approaches are particularly encouraged.

Beneficiaries of ERC grants must ensure open access to all peer-reviewed scientific publications relating to their results.

Additional Information

Association to Horizon Europe is the closest form of cooperation with non-EU countries, which allows entities of associated countries to participate in programme actions on equal terms with entities of EU countries. It is offered not only to EU neighbouring countries, but also to any country in the world with a strong research and innovation capacity that share common values.

There are four categories of countries eligible for association with the programme:

  • Members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) which are members of the European Economic Area (EEA).
  • Acceding countries, candidate countries and potential candidates.
  • European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) countries.
  • Other third countries and territories that fulfil a set of criteria related to their economic, political and research and innovation systems.

For the purposes of the eligibility conditions, applicants established in Horizon 2020 Associated Countries or in other third countries negotiating association to Horizon Europe will be treated as entities established in an Associated Country, if the Horizon Europe association agreement with the third country concerned applies at the time of signature of the grant agreement.

A full list of countries associated to Horizon Europe is available at the European Commission website.

For UK Applicants: As of 1 January 2024, researchers and organisations in the UK are able to participate in Horizon Europe and Copernicus on par with their counterparts in EU Member States. The UK will also have access to services from the EU Space Surveillance and Tracking, a component of the EU Space Programme.

For Swiss applicants: On 18 March 2024, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and President of the Swiss Confederation Viola Amherd launched negotiations to implement the measures outlined in the Common Understanding endorsed by the Swiss Federal Council and the European Commission in November 2023. The Common Understanding foresees an association agreement covering at least the following programmes: Horizon Europe, Euratom Research & Training, International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, Digital Europe, Erasmus+, Creative Europe, EU4Health and Copernicus. The exact scope of association for each programme will be defined during the negotiations. The Common Understanding confirms both sides' ambition to conclude negotiations in 2024.

Following the launch of the negotiations, the Commission opens the possibility to Swiss entities to apply for the European Research Council calls opening in 2024. Swiss applicants will be treated as if Switzerland is an associated country from admissibility and eligibility to evaluation, up until the preparation of grant agreements.

Value Notes

A total of €703 million is available in 2024 to fund an estimated 285 grants.

Individual grants provide up to a maximum of €2.5 million for a period of five years. Additionally, up to €1 million can be requested to cover:

  • Eligible 'start-up' costs for Principal Investigators moving to the EU or an Associated Country from elsewhere as a consequence of receiving the ERC grant.
  • Purchase of major equipment.
  • Access to large facilities.
  • Other major experimental and field work costs, excluding personnel costs.

Eligible project costs will be reimbursed at a funding rate of 100% for direct costs plus a flat-rate of 25% for indirect costs.

The grant will be awarded as a single lump sum contribution for the entirety of the project. The lump sum will cover the beneficiaries' estimated costs for the project. The payment of the lump sum contribution will be based on the work carried out and reported, irrespective of the actual costs incurred for the project and/or the successful outcome of the project activities. The Principal Investigator will have the flexibility to use the lump sum contribution as they see fit, as long as the project is implemented as agreed.


Eligibility Criteria

Applicants are expected to be active researchers and to have a track record of significant research achievements in the last ten years. They are expected to have achieved one or more of the following benchmarks:

  • Ten publications as main author in major international peer-reviewed multidisciplinary scientific journals, and/or in the leading international peer-reviewed journals and peer-reviewed conferences proceedings of their respective field.
  • Three major research monographs.
  • Five granted patents.
  • Ten invited presentations in well-established internationally organised conferences and advanced schools.
  • Three research expeditions led by the applicant PI.
  • Three well-established international conferences or congresses where the applicant was involved as a member of the steering and/or organising committee.
  • International recognition through scientific or artistic prizes/awards or membership in well-regarded Academies or artefact with documented use.
  • Major contributions to launching the careers of outstanding researchers.
  • Recognised innovation leadership.

PIs of any age and nationality may apply to carry out research in a host institution established in an EU Member State or Associated Country. The researcher may be residing in any country in the world at the time of application, but the host institution must be in an EU Member state or Associated Country.

PIs must intend to spend at least 30% of their working time on the ERC project and at least 50% of their time in an EU Member State or Associated Country.

The grant is awarded to the institution that engages and hosts the Principal Investigator. Public or private institutions, including universities, research organisations and undertakings can host the Principal Investigator.

Where they bring scientific added value to the project, additional team members may also be hosted by additional legal entities which may be established anywhere, including outside the EU or Associated Countries, or international organisations. Such entities are eligible for funding when they host additional team members, provided that they are not covered by Council sanctions.

Researchers with different levels of experience are advised to consider applying to one of the following funding streams:

  • Starting Grant - The Principal Investigator should have been awarded their first PhD more than two years, and less than seven years prior to the Call for Proposals. Applicants are expected to have produced at least one important publication without the participation of their PhD supervisor.
  • Consolidator Grant - The Principal Investigator should have been awarded their first PhD more than seven, and less than twelve years prior to the Call for Proposals. Applicants are expected to have produced several important publications without the participation of their PhD supervisor.

Most third countries associated to Horizon 2020 are expected to be associated to Horizon Europe with an intention to secure uninterrupted continuity between Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe. In addition, other third countries can also become associated to Horizon Europe during the programme. For the purposes of the eligibility conditions, applicants established in Horizon 2020 Associated Countries or in other third countries negotiating association to Horizon Europe will be treated as entities established in an Associated Country, if the Horizon Europe association agreement with the third country concerned applies at the time of signature of the grant agreement.


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