Researchers in UK snap up fifth of ERC ‘consolidator’ grants

UK-based researchers have claimed the lion’s share of the European Research Council’s new consolidator grants, announced today

The grants are aimed at mid-career academics, between 7 and 12 years beyond their PhDs. Previously such academics were eligible to apply for ERC starting grants, but growing demand has seen that scheme split into two, with starting grants now restricted to those between 2 and 7 years beyond their PhDs.

Despite the division, the success rate for the consolidator grants was just 8.5 per cent, compared with 24 per cent for grants from the Medical Research Council, which had the lowest success among UK research councils in 2012-13. The number of applications - 3,673 – is a 46 per cent rise on applications received from the corresponding group in 2012.

Of the 312 awards announced in the €575 million (£478 million) scheme today, 62 (20 per cent) have gone to UK-based researchers. German institutions have attracted 43 grants and French institutions won 42.

However, among nationalities, British researchers won just 31 grants, compared with 48 by Germans, 46 by Italians and 33 by French researchers. Women won 24 per cent of the grants.

Institutions in 21 EU member countries won at least one grant, with nine countries winning five or more grants.

Around 45 per cent of the grants are in physical sciences and engineering, with 37 per cent in the life sciences and 19 per cent in humanities and the social sciences.

The grants are worth up to €2.75 million each, with an average of €1.84 million per grant.

New ERC president Jean-Pierre Bourguignon said: “Judging by the ever increasing demand for ERC grants, especially from early-and mid-career researchers, it is clear that funding of this kind is much needed.

“It’s pivotal for Europe to create conditions for its new generation of researchers to thrive while following their scientific curiosity.”

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