Proof of Concept Grants for ERC Grantees

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Objective

The ERC Proof of Concept Grants aim at facilitating exploration of the commercial and social innovation potential of ERC funded research, by funding further work (i.e. activities which were not scheduled to be funded by the original ERC frontier research grant) to verify the innovation potential of ideas arising from ERC funded projects. Proof of Concept Grants are therefore on offer only to Principal Investigators whose proposals draw substantially on their ERC funded research.

Scope

Size of ERC Proof of Concept Grants:

The financial contribution will be awarded as a lump sum of EUR 150 000 for a period of 18 months. The ERC expects that, normally, proof of concept activities should be completed within 12 months. However, to allow for those projects that require more preparation time, the grant agreements will be signed for 18 months. Extensions of the duration of proof of concept projects may be granted only exceptionally.The lump sum will cover the beneficiaries' direct and indirect eligible costs for the project: if the project is implemented properly, the amounts will be paid regardless of the costs actually incurred. The lump sum has been designed to cover the beneficiaries’ personnel costs, subcontracting, purchase costs, other cost categories, and indirect costs.

Profile of the ERC Proof of Concept Eligible Principal Investigator:

All Principal Investigators in an ongoing ERC main grant or in a ERC main grant that has ended less than 12 months before 1 January 2023, are eligible to apply for an ERC Proof of Concept Grant.

For further information please see the ERC Work Programme 2023.

Topic conditions and documents

General conditions

1. Admissibility and Eligibility Conditions: The conditions specific to ERC grants are described in the ERC Work Programme 2023 under the heading 'Admissibility and eligibility criteria' and in the ERC Rules of Submission. An overview is provided below:

Admissible and eligible proposals:
All proposals must be complete, readable, accessible, and be submitted before the relevant deadline. Incomplete proposals may be declared inadmissible (see ERC Proof of Concept Grant proposal submission and description below). The content of the proposal must relate to the objectives and to the grant type set out in the call, as defined in this Work Programme. If a proposal is considered not to relate to the objectives of the grant and/or call for proposals, it will be declared ineligible. Where there is a doubt on the admissibility or eligibility of a proposal, the evaluation may proceed pending a decision following an admissibility and eligibility review committee. If it becomes clear before, during, or after the evaluation phase, that one or more of the admissibility or eligibility criteria have not been met, the proposal will be declared inadmissible or ineligible and it will be rejected.

A maximum of three Proof of Concept Grants may be awarded per main grant project, except for Synergy Grant, in which case a maximum of six Proof of Concept Grants may be awarded per ERC funded project. Proof of Concept Grants may run in parallel provided they comply with the eligibility conditions set out in the Work Programme under which they have been awarded.

Eligible Principal Investigator:
Principal Investigators in an ongoing main grant, or Principal Investigators in a main grant that has ended less than 12 months before 1 January 2023, are eligible to apply for an ERC Proof of Concept Grant under the ERC Work Programme 2023.
Synergy Grant Principal Investigators are eligible to apply to the ERC-2023-PoC call only with the written consent of all Principal Investigators in the same Synergy Grant project.

Principal Investigators may submit only one proposal under the Work Programme 2023 Proof of Concept call. If further submissions are made at different cut-off dates, only the first admissible and eligible proposal will be considered.
A Principal Investigator whose proposal was rejected on the grounds of a breach of research integrity in the calls for proposals under Work Programmes 2021 or 2022 may not submit a proposal to the ERC-2023-PoC call.

Eligible Host Institution:
The Host Institution (Applicant Legal Entity) must engage the Principal Investigator for at least the duration of the proof of concept grant and must be established in a Member state or an Associated Country as a legal entity created under national law. It may also be an international organisation with headquarters in a Member State or associated country. Any type of legal entity, public or private, including universities, research organisations as well as undertakings can host the Principal Investigator and their team (see Annex 3 of the ERC Work Programme 2023).

To be eligible, legal entities from a Member State or Associated Country that are public bodies, research organisations, or higher education institutions (including private research organisations and private higher education institutions) must have a gender equality plan or an equivalent strategic document in place for the duration of the project. The gender equality plan or equivalent must fulfil the mandatory requirements listed in Annex 5 to the ERC Work Programme 2023

Please also refer to Annex 3 - Countries Associated to Horizon Europe and Restrictions Applying to Some Legal Entities.

The PI can submit the PoC proposal with a different HI than the one where the ERC main frontier research grant is currently (or was) implemented, provided that this other HI complies with the eligibility criteria described in the ERC Work Programme 2023

Proposal submission and description:
An Information for Applicants guidance is published on the ERC website and on the EU Funding & tenders opportunities Portal: it describes in detail how the submission forms should be completed. FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) are also available.
ATTENTION: use the new Part A and Part B forms specific to the ERC PoC Lump Sum call under Horizon Europe -  please download the latest version at the submission link below.
A complete PoC proposal is composed of:
• Administrative Part A form, including the Ethics Review Table (available in section 4): is an electronic form, available at step 5 of the submission process, once the draft proposal is created through the submission link below.
(NB: To access the submission tool, you need first to register to the Funding & tender opportunities Participant Portal.)

Proposal Part B form and annexes: download the two templates available from the submission link below (at step 5, after creation of draft proposal), fill in, upload in PDF format only and submit it via the submission tool.
 - Part B (Proposal description): will provide detailed descriptions of the PoC project, its objectives, planning, execution, and required resources.
    It will comprise the following required elements:
      - The idea and justification of the breakthrough innovation potential: max. 3 pages
      - The approach and methodology to explore the innovation potential: max. 6 pages
      - The strategic lead and project management of the Principal Investigator: max. 1 page.
Host Institution Binding Statement of Support Letter (NB: For Principal Investigators in a Synergy grant, only the host institution of the Principal Investigator applying to the PoC call must confirm its association with and its support to the project and the Principal Investigator.)
If applicable, an Ethics review self-assessment (with documentation related to ethics or security issues) and Letters of support or intent from potential stakeholders can be uploaded (in PDF format only).

Proposal templates are provisional and will be available after entering the submission tool below.
To ensure fairness to all applicants a strict limit of ten pages (references excluded) will be applied to the length of proposals. Only the material that is presented within this limit will be evaluated (reviewers will only be asked to evaluate, and will be under no obligation to read beyond, the material presented within the page limit). The following parameters must be respected for the layout: A4 Page format, Times New Roman (or Arial or similar) Font type, at least 11 Font size, Single line spacing, 2 cm side margins, 1,5 cm top and bottom margins.

Complete proposals must be submitted electronically via the submission tool available through the Funding & Tenders Portal. Further detailed guidance in the 'IT HOW TO' wiki site.
Early registration and submission is strongly recommended and should be done as early as possible before the call deadline.

2. Eligible countries:

The conditions specific to the ERC are described in the ERC Work Programme 2023 under the heading Admissibility and Eligibility criteria and in Annex 3. An overview is provided below:

The ERC actions are open to researchers of any nationality who intend to conduct their research activity in any Member State or Associated Country. Principal Investigators may be of any age and nationality and may reside in any country in the world at the time of the application.

A number of non-EU/non-Associated Countries that are not automatically eligible for funding have made specific provisions for making funding available for their participants in Horizon Europe projects. See the information in the Horizon Europe Programme Guide and the Association agreements to Horizon Europe.

3. Financial and operational capacity, security and exclusion

Financial capacity: Please refer to the ERC Rules of submission and evaluation under Horizon Europe section 4, Award Decision and Preparation of Grant Agreements.

Operational capacity:  As indicated in the ERC Work Programme 2023, page 7: Applicants whose proposals are recommended for funding are deemed to fulfil the operational capacity requirements of Article 198(3) of Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 2018/1046 (the 'Financial Regulation'). 

Security: Please refer to the ERC Work Programme 2023, Annex 4.

Exclusion: Please refer to the ERC Work Programme 2023, Page 75 : Applicants that are subject to the administrative sanctions of exclusion or are in one of the exclusion situations set out by the Financial Regulation are banned from receiving EU grants and can NOT participate.

4. Evaluation and award:

The conditions specific to ERC are described in the ERC Work Programme 2023, under the heading "Evaluation criterion" and "Evaluation outcome", as well as in the ERC Rules for Submission and Evaluation. An overview is provided below:

Evaluation criteria:

Proof of Concept Grants are awarded in relation to an ERC-funded project under one of the main grants. The evaluation of admissible and eligible proposals will look into ideas stemming from ERC-funded projects and will select among them the most competitive for further development towards an innovation. The activities to be funded will draw substantially on the ERC-funded research under the main frontier research grant.

For ERC Proof of Concept grants, excellence is the sole criterion of evaluation. It will be applied in conjunction to the evaluation of both: (1) the breakthrough innovation potential, approach, and methodology of the project; (2) the strategic lead and project management of the Principal Investigator.

The detailed evaluation elements applying to the excellence of the project and the Principal Investigator are set out in the ERC Work Programme 2023 .

Evaluation process:

Experts will evaluate independently each admissible and eligible proposal in a single-step process, and mark it as "very good", "good" or "fail" for each of the three evaluation elements: 1.a Breakthrough innovation potential; 1.b Approach and methodology, and 1.c. Principal Investigator - strategic lead and project management.

In order to be considered for funding, proposals will have to be awarded a pass mark (“very good” or “good”) by a majority of experts on each of the evaluation elements. A proposal which fails one or more of the elements will not be ranked and will not be funded.

If there is not enough budget to fund all the proposals which pass all three evaluation elements, those proposals which pass all three evaluation elements will be ranked according to the marks which they received from experts sorted by the order in which the evaluation elements appear above. Proposals will be funded in order of this ranking.

If necessary, experts will meet as an evaluation panel in order to determine a priority order for proposals which have the same ranking.

 A Seal of Excellence will be awarded to proposals that have received a pass mark in all three of the evaluation elements set out in this Work Programme, but cannot be funded due to lack of budget available to the call.

Indicative timeline for evaluation are set out in the ERC Work Programme 2023, under the heading “Summary of complementary funding with indicative budget and timetable. The timetable is also available on our ERC Website Funding-Proof of Concept page (under "ongoing evaluation" and "upcoming calls").

Grant amount and duration of the grant agreement:
The financial contribution will be awarded as a lump sum of EUR 150 000 for a period of 18 months. The ERC expects that normally proof of concept activities should be completed within 12 months. However, to allow for those projects that require more preparation time, the grant agreements will be signed for 18 months. Extensions of the duration of proof of concept projects may be granted only exceptionally.

The indicative budget for the ERC-2023- PoC call is EUR 30 000 000.

5. Legal and financial set-up of the grants: is described in the ERC Work Programme 2023, under the heading “Grant amount, duration and assessment”.
See also: Multi & Mono Grant Agreement for Lump Sum Grants .

6. Open Science

Open science is a core principle of the ERC. The ERC is committed to the principle of open access to the published output of research, including in particular, peer-reviewed articles and monographs. It also supports the basic principle of open access to research data and data-related products such as computer code, algorithms, software, workflows, protocols or any other forms of research output. The ERC considers that providing free online access to all these materials can be the most effective way of ensuring that the results of the research it funds can be accessed, read and used as the basis for further advancement.

Under Horizon Europe, beneficiaries of ERC grants must ensure immediate open access to all peer-reviewed scientific publications relating to their results as set out in the Model Grant Agreement used for ERC actions. Open access has to be provided with full re-use rights. Beneficiaries must ensure that they or the authors retain sufficient intellectual property rights to comply with their open access requirements. Publishing costs can be considered as eligible costs provided that the publishing venue (e.g. journal, book) is fully open access.

In addition, beneficiaries of ERC grants funded under this Work Programme will be covered by the provisions on research data management as set out in the Model Grant Agreement used for ERC actions. In particular, whenever a project generates research data, beneficiaries are required to manage it in line with the principles of findability, accessibility, interoperability, and reusability as described by the FAIR principles initiative, and establish a data management plan within the first six months of project implementation. Open access to research data should be ensured under the principle ‘as open as possible, as closed as necessary’. These provisions are designed to facilitate access, re-use and preservation of the research data generated during the ERC funded research work.

 Call documents:

- Standard application form — call-specific application form is available in the Submission System:
Standard application form (HE ERC POC)

- Information for Applicants to the ERC Proof of Concept Grant 2022 Calls:
https://ec.europa.eu/info/funding-tenders/opportunities/docs/2021-2027/horizon/guidance/information-for-applicants_he-erc-poc_en.pdf

- ERC Guide for Reviewers applying to the Proof of Concept call:
https://ec.europa.eu/info/funding-tenders/opportunities/docs/2021-2027/experts/guide-for-peer-reviewers_he-erc-poc_en.pdf

 ERC Work Programme 2023

Additional documents:

ERC Rules of Submission

Horizon Europe Regulation

Association agreements to Horizon Europe

How to complete your ethics self-assessment

EU Financial Regulation

Rules for Legal Entity Validation, LEAR Appointment and Financial Capacity Assessment

Multi & Mono Model Grant Agreement for Lump Sum Grants

MGA used for ERC actions under Horizon Europe (HE General MGA)

Funding & Tenders Portal Online Manual

Funding & Tenders Portal Terms and Conditions

Funding & Tenders Portal Privacy Statement

Reference Documents: This page includes reference documents of the programmes managed on the EU Funding & Tenders portal starting with legal documents and the Commission work programmes up to model grant agreements and guides for specific actions (select the programme to see the reference documents).

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