On 22 February the European Commission presented the Work Programme 2021 of the European Research Council (ERC).
This is the first work programme under Horizon Europe, Europe's new Framework Programme for Research and Innovation for 2021-2027.
- The ERC provides EU funding to support researchers pursue ground-breaking, high-gain/high-risk research to drive advancements at the frontiers of knowledge and to set targets for frontier research across Europe.
- The ERC Work Programme for 2021, is a legal document setting out how the ECR will allocate its funding for the corresponding year. It includes three main calls for proposals for frontier research actions for a total amount of €1.9 billion:
- The first call to be launched is the European Research Council's Starting Grants, which will support top researchers to start their own independent research team or programme. A Starting Grant Principal Investigator must have 2-7 years of experience since completion of PhD, a scientific track record showing great promise and an excellent research proposal. The call will be launched on 25 February, with a budget of €619 million and a deadline for 8 April.
- The second call to be launched is the Consolidator Grants for researchers who are consolidating their own independent research team or programme. A Consolidator Grant Principal Investigator must have 7-12 years of experience since the competition of PhD, a scientific track record showing great promise and an excellent research proposal. The call will be launched on 11 March with a budget of €633 million and a deadline on 20 April.
- The third call for proposal to be launched is the Advanced Grants for leading advanced investigators. ERC Advanced Grant Principal Investigators are expected to be active researchers and to have a track record of significant research achievements in the last 10 years. The call will be launched on 20 May with a budget of €626 million and deadline for 31 August.
- Synergy Grants are not available and are likely to resume as from Work Programme 2022. The ERC Proof-of-Concept Grant currently under revision by the ERC Scientific Council, also does not appear in this Work Programme.
- The Work Programme also covers other actions and public procurement to allow the Scientific Council to carry out its duties and mandate, including the appointment of independent experts during the evaluation of proposals and the preparation of the calls. It also covers the Scientific Council's obligations to establish the ECR’s strategy and to monitor the quality of the programme's implementation from the scientific perspective.
- For the moment, there are no countries associated to Horizon Europe. However, the ERC invites researchers based in the UK and from Switzerland, Israel and other countries associated in Horizon 2020, to make ‘conditional’ applications for funding.
- Researchers who wish to apply for ECR grands must do so through the EU Funding and Tenders Portal..
- National Contact Points providing support with applications in national languages are not expected to be available before April 2021.
- The new 2021 Work Programme for ERC is an important step that paves the way for the launch calls for research funding under the new Horizon Europe Programme. The rollout of Horizon Europe was delayed by the late budget negotiations, which resulted in a political agreement in December 2020. This late political agreement on the EU budget has impacted the timing of the first Horizon Europe calls with the European Parliament yet to approve the second part of Horizon Europe legislation.
- Nevertheless, the ERC decided not to wait any longer to launch the 2021 Starting Grant calls. In return, the ERC decided to cancel its proof of concept and synergy grant calls in 2021 in due to the late start to Horizon Europe.
- The European Research Council, set up in 2007, is the premiere European funding organisation for excellent frontier research. Every year, it selects and funds the very best, creative researchers of any nationality and age, to run projects based in Europe.
- Over the entire long-term EU budget 2021-2027, the ERC is set to receive over €16 billion from Horizon Europe, which represents an increase of 22% vis-à-vis Horizon 2020.