Saturday, 9 July 2011

ERC Launches New 'Synergy' Scheme

At the UKRO Conference yesterday the EC’s Ben Turner gave some more detail of the European Research Council’s (ERC) new scheme, ‘Synergy’, which will be launched shortly with the new Work Programme in July. The Council already runs three schemes:
  • Starting Grants: offering €2m over 5 years
  • Advanced Grants: offering €3.5m over 5 years
  • Proof of Concept: which provides existing award holders with funding to explore the commercial viability of the products of their research.
These – and in particular the first two – had proved to be very successful. The first round of the Starting and Advanced grants had been heavily oversubscribed, and the resulting success rate was around 4%. Since then it had risen to around 15%.However, whilst the budget had increased so had the number of applications; Starting Grants had risen by 42% for the last call. This is still a tough funder.

The Synergy Grant will be piloted in 2011-12. It will be allocated €150m so, whilst smaller than the Starting Grants (€730m) and Advanced Grants (€680m), it will be larger than FET. The intention of the new scheme is to provide funding for new collaborations. It will fund small groups of investigators (2-4) who can make the case that together they can achieve more than they can individually. They will fund 10-12 projects initially. The scheme is very open: the ERC has avoided being at all prescriptive. It’s been debating the new instrument for around two years, and intially toyed with the idea of restricting it to interdisciplinary projects, or cooperation with colleagues outside the EU. In the end it kept it simple. Almost nothing has been ruled out. There is an ‘expectation’ that it will be interdisciplinary, and that the investigators will be physically in the same place. But this is an expectation, not a requirement.

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