Nearly 2 billion euro investment in top European researchers — the ERC plan for 2018


Credit: ERC

Today the European Research Council (ERC) announces its 2018 grant competitions with a total budget of around 1.86 billon euro, most of which earmarked for early- to mid-career researchers. In addition, the ERC is reintroducing Synergy Grants, the funding scheme for groups of two to four scientists who jointly address ambitious research problems. Two grant competitions – for Starting Grants and for Synergy Grants – will open tomorrow.

The Work Programme, established by the ERC Scientific Council, was pre-announced on 19 July, and adopted today by the European Commission.

Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said: "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."

The President of the ERC, Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, said: "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 euro 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."

The Work Programme includes all the well-known and established ERC funding schemes: Starting, Consolidator and Advanced Grants, as well as Proof of Concept Grants for ERC grantees who wish to explore the innovation potential of their research results.

What is new is the Synergy Grants scheme. Building on the experience of the 2012 and 2013 pilot competitions, the ERC Scientific Council decided to reintroduce Synergy Grants for groups of two to four excellent principal investigators. The grants may be awarded for up to €10 million for 6 years. The ultimate goal of the scheme is to give support to close collaborative interactions that will enable transformative research, cross-fertilizing disciplines and capable of yielding ground-breaking scientific results.

The first 2018 grant competitions will open tomorrow:

  • Starting Grants competition with an application deadline of 17 October 2017;
  • Synergy Grants competition with an application deadline of 14 November 2017.

The other competitions will follow, according to the indicative calendar.

Some 900 new grantees are expected to benefit from ERC funding next year across all schemes. They will employ an estimated 6,000 post-docs, PhD students and other members as part of their research teams. The Work Programme foresees that the ERC will continue to qualitatively analyse the scientific output of its funded projects with a particular focus on any potential breakthroughs and discoveries.


The European Research Council, set up by the European Union and celebrating its tenth anniversary, is the first European funding organisation for excellent frontier research. It now offers four core grant schemes: Starting Grants (up to €1.5 million each), Consolidator Grants (up to €2 million each), Advanced Grants (up to €2.5 million each), and Synergy Grants (up to €10 million). Every year, it selects and funds ambitious and creative researchers of any nationality and age, to run projects based in Europe.

The ERC also strives to attract top researchers from anywhere in the world to come to Europe. To date, the ERC has funded more than 7,000 top researchers at various stages of their careers. The funding also helped them employ around 40,000 members of their research teams.

ERC grantees can recruit talent from around the world to their research teams. This is further encouraged through a set of international agreements with non-European counterparts of the ERC, promoting young researchers to come on research visits and temporarily join ERC teams in Europe. Agreements have been signed to date with the United States (NSF), South Korea, Argentina, Japan, China, South Africa, Mexico, Brazil and Canada.

ERC grants are substantial, but also very competitive: between 10 to 15 % of applicants are awarded grants. The winners can use the money to recruit other researchers and team members, and cover 100% of the direct costs of their research projects for up to five years (and six years in case of Synergy Grants).

The ERC is led by an independent governing body, the Scientific Council, composed of 22 renowned scientists and chaired, since 2014, by ERC President Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon. The ERC has a budget of over €13 billion for the years 2014 to 2020 and is part of the EU research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020, for which European Commissioner Carlos Moedas is responsible.


For more information

ERC Work Programme 2018
ERC Synergy Grants
ERC website
EU Horizon 2020 Framework Programme

Media Contact

Charlotte Kok
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