How to win with European Research Council Grants

European Research Council (ERC) Grants have been described by some as “the ultimate fellowship”. With up to €2.5m available over 5 years for ‘risky’ research, pinch yourself because you are not dreaming. Here are some headlines from a UKRO event organised back in April by Research Services.

There are three flavours

Choose from Starting (2-7 years since PhD), Consolidator (7-12 years) and Advanced (Established leaders in field). For Starting and Consolidator Grants, you will need to have a good track record of early achievements with important peer-reviewed publications, awards and relevant invites. They are looking for evidence of maturity and independence.They are essentially investing in a PI (research teams are possible) with some early achievements but future ambitions. For Advanced Grants you would be expected to have a record of achievements over the last 10 years.

High gain, high risk proposals

Take note that your research proposal will drumpf your track record. In fact you can propose new areas for investigation that go quite a bit beyond your previous research. Applications are judged purely on ‘scientific excellence’ rather than impact.The bottom line though is that the European Commission is anxious about being left behind by the US on innovation.They are trying to ensure that European research and innovation is globally competitive.

Learn lessons from previous Kent success

Dr Heather Ferguson from the School of Psychology won with a proposal ‘Tracking the cognitive basis of social communication across the life-span’. Heather’s view was that the Commission is seeking big ideas in new research areas. It is a substantial investment and they want vibrant PIs they can believe in. She advises focus on your strengths and don’t be modest. She also mentioned that she needed more than one go to get over the finishing line with her application and so persevere.

Phil Ward has more on all this in his Research Fundermentals blog.

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