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EU awards 287 early career researchers

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The European Research Council (ERC) has selected 287 top early career scientists for funding in its sixth Starting Grant competition, enabling them to pursue cutting-edge fundamental research. The researchers will receive nearly €400 Million in total, with grants worth up to €2 million each over up to five years. Competition for these prestigious awards continued to increase, with overall demand for grants up by 50% this year. There was also an increase in the share of successful female researchers, from 24% to 30% of all candidates. This Starting Grant competition was the last under the EU’s Seventh Research Framework Programme (FP7). The next calls will fall under the new EU research and innovation programme Horizon 2020, which foresees a major increase in funding for the ERC.

The projects selected cover a wide range of topics, such as designing a unique coastal defence against tsunamis, developing high-tech radiotherapy that can potentially help patients of Head-and-Neck cancer, investigating real-time monitoring of air pollution by means of GPS technology, or producing new low-cost and more effective photovoltaics.

Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said: “The European Research Council has changed the research landscape for young talent, and raised the level of science across Europe. It is funding blue-sky research that is advancing human knowledge, but also producing breakthroughs that could make their way into our daily lives in future. The ERC is now an established label of excellence, and it will go from strength to strength under Horizon 2020.”

This call attracted 3,329 proposals, a 50% increase compared to the corresponding group last year. Due to the substantially increased competition, only 9% of applicants were successful. Grants are being awarded to researchers of 34 different nationalities hosted in 162 different institutions throughout Europe. The Starting Grants are for researchers of any nationality with 2-7 years of experience since completion of PhD (or equivalent degree), and a scientific track record showing great promise. The average age of selected researchers in this sixth competition is around 34 years.


In this call, 44% of the applicants were selected in the domain ‘Physical Sciences and Engineering’, 38% in ‘Life Sciences’ and 18% in ‘Social Sciences and Humanities’. The grantees were selected through peer review evaluation by 25 panels composed of renowned scientists from around the world.

ERC Starting Grants are awarded researchers of any nationality with 2-7 years of experience since completion of PhD (or equivalent degree) and scientific track record showing great promise. Research must be conducted in a public or private research organisation (known as a Host Institution) located in one of the EU Member States or Associated Countries. Funding provided is up to a maximum of €2 million (per grant), provided over up to five years. Calls for proposals are published once a year.

The ERC calls for Starting Grants and other grant schemes target top researchers of any nationality, based in, or willing to move to, Europe. The grants in this latest competition will also allow the funded scientists to build their own research teams, engaging in total over 1,000 postdocs and PhD students as ERC team members. The ERC thereby contributes to supporting a new generation of top researchers in Europe.

Set up in 2007 by the EU, the European Research Council is the first pan-European funding organisation for frontier research. The ERC, which is the newest, pioneering component of the EU’s Seventh Research Framework Programme (‘Ideas’ Specific Programme), has a total budget of €7.5 billion from 2007 to 2013.

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Source: European Commission

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