ERC Synergy Grants

Call illustration

Topic description

Objective:

The aim is to provide support for a small group of two to four Principal Investigators to jointly address ambitious research problems that could not be addressed by the individual Principal Investigators and their teams working alone. Synergy projects should enable substantial advances at the frontiers of knowledge, stemming, for example, from the cross-fertilization of scientific fields, from new productive lines of enquiry, or new methods and techniques, including unconventional approaches and investigations at the interface between established disciplines. The transformative research funded by Synergy Grants should have the potential of becoming a benchmark on a global scale.

Principal Investigators must demonstrate the ground-breaking nature, ambition and feasibility of their scientific proposal. Principal Investigators must also demonstrate that their group can successfully bring together the scientific elements necessary to address the scope and complexity of the proposed research question.

One of the Principal Investigators must be designated as the Corresponding Principal Investigator. At any one time, one Principal Investigator per Synergy Grant Group except the Corresponding one can be hosted or engaged by an institution outside of the EU or Associated Countries.

Size of ERC Synergy Grants

Synergy Grants may be awarded up to a maximum of EUR 10 000 000 for a period of 6 years. The maximum award is reduced pro rata temporis for projects of a shorter duration. This does not apply to ongoing projects.

However, up to an additional EUR 4 000 000 in total can be requested in the proposal to cover (a) eligible ‘start-up’ costs for Principal Investigators moving to the EU or an Associated Country from elsewhere as a consequence of receiving the ERC grant and/or (b) the purchase of major equipment and/or (c) access to large facilities and/or (d) other major experimental and field work costs, excluding personnel costs. As any additional funding is to cover major one-off costs it is not subject to pro rata temporis reduction for projects of shorter duration. All funding requested is assessed during evaluation.

Profile of the ERC Synergy Grant Principal Investigators

The 'Synergy Grant Group' applying for the ERC Synergy Grant must be made up of a minimum of two and a maximum of four Principal Investigators with competitive track records and, as necessary, their teams.

Each Principal Investigator must present as part of the proposal either an early achievement track-record or a 10-year track-record, whichever is most appropriate for their career stage (see Starting, Consolidator and Advanced Grant profiles in the ERC Work Programme 2023). There is little prospect of an application succeeding in the absence of such a record.

For further information, please see the ERC Work Programme 2023.

Topic conditions and documents

1. Admissibility and Eligibility Conditions: described in the ERC Work Programme 2023, section 'Admissibility and eligibility criteria'

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 and submitted by eligible Principal Investigators before the relevant call deadline. A complete proposal needs to include all parts or sections (further details below under 'Proposals page limits and layout' and in the ERC Work Programme 2023 section 'Proposal submission and description'). Incomplete proposals may be declared inadmissible. The content of the proposal must relate to the objectives and to the grant type set out in the call, as defined in the ERC Work Programme 2023. If a proposal is considered not to relate to the objectives of the grant and/or call for proposals, it will be declared ineligible. 

Eligible Principal Investigators: 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 Synergy Grant Group must be composed of a minimum of two and a maximum of four innovative and active Principal Investigators and, as necessary, their teams. 

Each Principal Investigator must present as part of the proposal an early achievement track-record or a 10-year track-record, whichever is most appropriate for their career stage (see the profiles of the Starting, Consolidator and Advanced Grant Principal Investigators and the section 'Proposal description'). 

Synergy Grant Groups are expected to demonstrate that they can successfully bring together those elements – such as skills, knowledge, experience, expertise, disciplines, methods, approaches, teams, access to infrastructures – necessary to address the scope and complexity of the proposed research question. Applicants are expected to describe the contribution of each Principal Investigator, their team and resources to achieving the objectives proposed.

One of the Principal Investigators must be designated as the Corresponding Principal Investigator, who will be the administrative contact point for the group.

Principal Investigators funded through an ERC Synergy grant shall spend a minimum of 30% of their  working time on the ERC project and a minimum of 50% of their working time in the European Union or Associated Country except for a Principal Investigator hosted or engaged by an Institution outside the European Union or Associated Country (see annex 3 of the ERC Work Programme 2023).

The ERC expects the composition of a Synergy Grant Group to remain unchanged throughout the lifetime of the grant. If a Principal Investigator leaves a Synergy Grant Group, the grant may be continued only exceptionally, contingent on scientific evaluation and provided that all eligibility criteria will continue to be met.

Eligible host institution: The host institution(s) (Applicant Legal Entity/ies))  - up to four host institutions - must engage and host the Principal Investigators for at least the duration of the project, as defined in the grant agreement. A host institution, must either be established in the European Union or Associated Country  (see Annex 3 of the ERC Work Programme 2023) as a legal entity created under national law, or it may be an International European Interest Organisation (such as CERN, EMBL, etc.), the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) or any other entity created under EU law. Any type of legal entity, public or private, including universities, research organisations and undertakings can host Principal Investigators and their teams. One of these host institutions, with the exception the corresponding host institution, at any one time, may be a legal entity established outside the European Union or Associated Countries or an international organisation.

Where they bring scientific added value to the project, additional team members may also be hosted by additional legal entities which will be eligible for funding, and which may be legal entities established anywhere, including outside the European Union or Associated Countries, or international organisations. Legal entities established outside the European Union or Associated Countries are eligible for funding provided that their participation is deemed essential for carrying out the action and provided that they are not covered by Council sanctions as set in Annex 3 to the ERC Work Programme 2023.

Restrictions on submission of proposals: The restrictions for submission are related to the outcome of the evaluation in previous calls and are designed to allow unsuccessful Principal Investigators the time necessary to develop a stronger proposal. For further details please consult the paragraph 'Restrictions on submissions of proposals' of the ERC Work Programme 2023 or the Frequently Asked Questions (ERC - FAQs).

Proposal page limit and layout

For each call,an Information for Applicants is published on the ERC website and on the EU Funding & Tenders opportunities Portal; it describes in detail how the electronic forms should be completed.

A complete proposal is composed of:

a) Administrative proposal forms (including Ethics Review Table): available on this page below and online via the submission tool - EU Funding & Tenders opportunities Portal - registration to the EU Funding & Tenders opportunities Portal is required first.

b) Research Proposal (Parts B1 and B2), available in the submission tool below, should be uploaded in the submission tool as PDF files.

Proposal Part B1

Extended Synopsis: max. 5 pages (references do not count towards the page limit)

Curriculum Vitae:     max. 2 pages for each Principal Investigator

Funding ID:              no page limits

Track Record:          max. 2 pages for each Principal Investigator

Proposal Part B2

Scientific Proposal:  max. 15 pages (references do not count towards the page limit).

The Resources and Time commitment section: has to be detailed for each PI, it is not limited to 2 pages and will not count towards the 15 page limit.

c) Host institution(s) binding statement(s) of support template is/are available in the submission tool below and should be uploaded in the submission tool as PDF files.

In the case of Synergy Grants, where the different Principal Investigators may be hosted by more than one host institution, each of the host institutions shall offer their support to the Principal Investigator(s) hosted by them for the duration of the grant. The host institutions must engage the Principal Investigators for at least the duration of the grant. Each host institution letter has to be uploaded at the time of submission.

d) Ethics review self-assessment (if applicable) and supporting documentation.

The Ethics Issues Table can be found in the administrative form in addition to this, where relevant, an ethics self-assessment, as a separate annex, needs to be attached to the proposal. .

Complete proposals must be submitted via the submission tool available through the EC Funding & Tenders opportunities Portal. Further detailed guidance in the 'IT HOW TO' wiki site.

 2. Eligible countries: 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 EU Member State or Associated Country.

The Host Institution that engages and hosts a Principal Investigator must be established in an EU Member State or Associated Country, although the team members of any Principal Investigator, as well as one of the Principal Investigators in a Synergy Grant Group may be based outside of the EU or an Associated Country (see section 'Eligible host institution').

Principal Investigators may reside in any country in the world at the time of the application. ERC Principal Investigators do not have to be based full-time in Europe but if selected for funding, shall spend a minimum percentage of their working time in the European Union or Associated Countries, with the exception of the Principal Investigator – if the case – hosted or engaged by an institution outside the EU or Associated Countries. Further information in the ERC Work Programme 2023 'Profile of the ERC Synergy Grant Group'.

3. Financial and operational capacity and security: 

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, footnote 3: Applicants whose proposals are recommended for funding are deemed to fulfil the operational capacity requirements of Article 198(3) of Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2018/1046 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 July 2018 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union, amending Regulations (EU) No 1296/2013, (EU) No 1301/2013, (EU) No 1303/2013, (EU) No 1304/2013, (EU) No 1309/2013, (EU) No 1316/2013, (EU) No 223/2014, (EU) No 283/2014, and Decision No 541/2014/EU and repealing Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 966/2012 (OJ L 193, 30.07.2018, p. 1) (the 'Financial Regulation').

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

4. Evaluation:

The conditions specific for ERC are described in the ERC Work Programme 2023 under the heading 'Evaluation procedure and criteria' and in the ERC Rules of Submission. An overview is provided below:

Evaluation procedure

A single submission of the full proposal will be followed by a three-step evaluation, including interviews of all the Principal Investigators. The evaluation will be conducted by means of a structure of dedicated panels. The panels may be assisted by independent experts working remotely. The composition of the panels at each step is not predefined but will be decided dynamically in relation to the proposals received.

The applicant Corresponding Principal Investigator can request on behalf of the group during the electronic proposal submission that up to four specific persons should not act as an evaluator in the evaluation of their proposal.

At step 1: One panel is formed with approximately 87 panel members, including 5 chairs, who will assess the extended synopsis of the scientific proposal (only Part B1 - and not the full scientific proposal) and the Principal Investigators’ track records and CVs. 

Proposals will be retained for step 2 based on the outcome of the evaluation at step 1 and a budgetary cut-off level of up to seven times the panel's indicative budget.

At step 2: Panel members from step 1 will be divided in five panels of around 16-18 experts each. They will assess the complete version of the retained proposals (Parts B1 and B2). 

Proposals will be retained for step 3 based on the outcome of the evaluation at step 2 and a budgetary cut-off level of up to four times the panel's indicative budget.

At step 3: The interview panels (that may be reconfigured to ensure the best expertise for the proposals) will assess the complete version of the most competitive of the retained proposals (Parts B1 and B2) and all their Principal Investigators may be invited for an interview to present their project to a panel.

Evaluation criteria

For all ERC frontier research grants, scientific excellence is the sole criterion of evaluation. It will be applied in conjunction to the evaluation of the ground-breaking nature, ambition and feasibility of the research project; and the intellectual capacity, creativity and commitment of the Principal Investigators. Synergy Grant Principal Investigators applying as part of a group for a Synergy Grant will be evaluated according to their individual career stage.

The peer reviewers will need to see that the collaborative working arrangements between the Principal Investigators described as part of the research methodology can ensure scientific excellence. The detailed evaluation elements applying to the excellence of the research project and the group of Principal Investigators are set out in the ERC Work Programme 2023

5. Indicative timeline for evaluation and grant agreement: 

Please refer to the ERC Work Programme 2023 under the heading 'Indicative summary of calls from the 2023 budget'.

6. Legal and financial set-up of the grants:

Please refer to the MGA used for ERC actions under Horizon Europe-HE General MGA

7. 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. The ERC considers that providing free online access to all these materials can be the most effective way of ensuring that the fruits of the research it funds can be accessed, read and used as the basis for further research.

Under Horizon Europe, beneficiaries of ERC grants must ensure open access to all peer-reviewed scientific publications relating to their results as set out in the Model Grant Agreement used for ERC actions. Beneficiaries must ensure that they or the authors retain sufficient intellectual property rights to comply with their open access requirements.

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.

Documents

Call documents:

ERC Work Programme 2023 

SyG 2023 - Information for Applicants

SyG 2023 - Application Forms

SyG 2023 - Guide for Peer reviewers

 

ERC Rules of Submission and evaluation under Horizon Europe

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

Additional documents:

HE Programme Guide

HE Framework Programme and Rules for Participation Regulation 2021/695

HE Specific Programme Decision 2021/764

EU Financial Regulation

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

EU Grants AGA — Annotated Model Grant Agreement

Funding & Tenders Portal Online Manual

Funding & Tenders Portal Terms and Conditions

Association Agreement to Horizon Europe

Funding & Tenders Portal Privacy Statement

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