Curing cancer, tackling climate change, forecasting earthquakes - such challenges and other scientific quests are simply too big to address for one researcher - even the most excellent. That is why the ERC awards the Synergy Grants. In the 2019 competition for these grants, 37 research groups will receive funding for their curiosity-driven science. Worth in total €363 million, these special grants will enable groups of two to four top researchers to bring together complementary skills, knowledge and resources in one research project. The recipients have chosen to tackle some of the most complex research problems, often spanning multiple scientific disciplines. This funding is part of the EU's research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020.
On this occasion, Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said: "The selected projects show the added value of EU funding for curiosity-driven research that is clearly relevant to some of people's key concerns, such as healthier lives, a cleaner environment or a fairer economy. With each project gathering the complementary expertise of several ERC researchers, I am confident about the quality of the results of these free scientific endeavours. They are likely to open up new opportunities and equip us to deal with the challenges of the future."
The President of the ERC, Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, commented: "The results of this grant competition is further proof that the ERC is able to provide support to excellent ideas and outstanding people wherever they may be located. I'm glad to see that the share of grantees based in newer EU Member-States has increased since last year. Also, the ERC opened this call for the first time to talent outside Europe. Eight successful projects involve scientists based in US research centres. This will help researchers in Europe to achieve ambitious goals, as well as to increase the global standing of EU-funded research."
Most of the selected proposals span traditional boundaries of disciplines. For example, one group will investigate relationships between climate and cities, and will include geographers, a physicist and a meteorologist. A cancer research project will involve leading experts in different strands of biology and genetics, as well as a paediatrician. Another example is a group aiming to develop a cleaner way to produce chemicals, which will gather researchers in chemistry, spectroscopy and material science. See examples.
The 37 projects involve 126 principal investigators who will carry out their projects at 95 universities and research centres in 20 countries across the European Research Area and beyond. Four of the projects will include one or more researchers from newer EU Member-States, namely Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech republic and Hungary. Eight research groups will include one principal investigator working in the United States. The most common locations are Germany (involved in 20 projects), the UK (12) and France (11). Amongst the grantees, there are 24% women who will take part in 21 out of 37 projects.
The grants, each worth around 10 million euro, will help create some 1,000 jobs for postdoctoral fellows, PhD students, and other staff in the grantees' research teams.
Future calls and deadlines
€350 million is available for the currently open Synergy Grant 2020 competition. If you are interested in applying for this round, then act soon - the deadline for applications is 5 November 2019. More information for applicants.
Building on the experience gained during pilot competitions in 2012 and 2013, in 2018 the ERC Scientific Council decided to reintroduce Synergy Grants for groups of two to four excellent "principal investigators". Applications are open to researchers in all sorts of combinations of fields or domains of science, with no preference made by evaluators between single discipline or interdisciplinary proposals. Grants of up to €10 million may be awarded for up to 6 years. Applicants may request additional funding to cover exceptional costs of up to €4 million. The ultimate goal of the scheme is to support close collaborative interactions that will enable transformative research, which cross-fertilises research disciplines and is capable of yielding ground-breaking scientific results.
About the ERC
The European Research Council, set up by the European Union in 2007, is the premier 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. The ERC has three grant schemes for individual principal investigators - Starting Grants, Consolidator Grants, and Advanced Grants - and Synergy Grants for small groups of excellent researchers.
To date, the ERC has funded more than 9,000 top researchers at various stages of their careers, and over 50,000 postdoctoral fellows, PhD students and other staff working in their research teams. The ERC strives to attract top researchers from anywhere in the world to come to Europe.
The ERC is led by an independent governing body, the Scientific Council. The ERC current President is Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon. The ERC has an annual budget of €2 billion for the year 2019. The overall ERC budget from 2014 to 2020 is more than €13 billion, as part of the Horizon 2020 programme, for which European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Carlos Moedas is currently responsible.