ERC launches grants scheme for multiple principal investigators

Synergy Grants will be worth a total of €250 million but, when piloted in 2012 and 2013, success rates were under 3 per cent

August 2, 2017

The European Research Council (ERC) has announced €250 million (£223.4 million) worth of grants for a new funding scheme that allows up to four principal investigators on one project.

Synergy Grants, which were piloted in 2012 and 2013, are designed to make "unconventional collaborations" possible.

Calls for proposals open on 3 August, with a planned cut-off date of 14 November. They will be worth up to €10 million over six years, and the ERC expects to award about 30 in total.

The ERC's president, Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, said that the grants had been "much anticipated".

"These grants can trigger unconventional collaborations, allow for the emergence of new fields of study and help put scientists working in Europe at the global forefront," he said in a statement. "By providing €250 million of funding for the Synergy Grant call, the ERC Scientific Council intends to make possible substantial advances at the frontiers of knowledge which would be impossible for researchers working alone."

According to the ERC, the aim of the scheme is to support "close collaborative interactions" that allow "transformative research, cross-fertilising disciplines and capable of yielding groundbreaking scientific results".

However, competition for the new grants could be tough, even by the standards of the ERC, which has long been criticised for wasting grant applicants' time with low success rates.

When Synergy Grants were piloted in 2012 and 2013, the annual success rates stood at 1.5 and 3 per cent respectively. During this two-year pilot period, the council had €150 million to spend each year, 60 per cent of what will be available in 2018.

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