We highly advise you to start your application process early. Now would be an excellent time to start your preparations, if you haven't done so already. To help you kick off this process now, we offer our "Go/No-Go"-service that evaluates both your CV and your project idea. In short, we evaluate whether your projects's concepts are in line with the requirements of ERC. This evaluation is a very helpful first step in the process.
Based on the outcome of the "Go/No-Go"-evaluation, selected researchers may enter our ERC Mentoring Program, where you can choose between an ERC Standard Package and the ERC Deep Dive Package.
Please contact Thorbjørg Hroarsdottir if you would like more information.
Who is “ERC material”?
The main criteria for selecting a promising ERC Principle Investigator (PI) are:
- Creative thinking
- Outstanding CV and high-impact publications
- Leadership and mentoring
- Basic-research oriented
- Is it the best time?
The ERC expects grantees to reach major scientific breakthroughs in their research field. In turn, this will essentially lead to a real paradigm in the area. To prove this, the PI’s past achievements and track record, as well as present project description, need to reflect creative thinking.
An outstanding CV and an impressive publication list are the bread & butter of successful ERC applications. The important questions are: How well is the PI known in his/her field? Is the PI a main author in most of his/her publications? Have these publications made an impact (i.e high number of citations)? Does the PI have enough invited talks at international conferences?
The ability to lead a research team and mentor young researchers is typical of successful applicants. This is especially important for CoG and AdG applicants.
ERC is looking for the basic-research oriented researches who may shed light on unexplained or unsolved questions, opening the path for more research to follow.
In terms of timing, there are two dimensions to refer to: The PI’s career and the project’s concept. With respect to the former, it is important to ensure that the PI has a relevant outstanding track record to present on one hand, but has not passed his/her career peak on the other hand. With respect to the latter, the PI should assess the maturity and timeliness of the project’s concept. While making sure that it is still groundbreaking and novel, it also has to be established enough in terms of initial evidence of feasibility and competence of the PI to execute it. Hence, the timing issue should have an excellent answer to the question, “Why me, Why now?”
ERC is looking for high-risk, high-gain, investigator and hypothesis-driven projects. ERC strives for frontier research that reflects a new ground-breaking understanding of basic research. By definition, research at and beyond the frontier of understanding is an intrinsically risky venture, proposing to progress new and exciting research areas, hence the essential inherent high risk of an ERC proposal. These elements must be reflected in the research hypothesis presented by the PI.
Selected guidelines for ERC hypothesis drafting:
- Identification of a major open, unresolved question or a gap in a specific research field
- Attempt to tentatively answer this question in the form of a prediction or a statement
- It should not be too specific, which may result in a limited project scope
- It should not be to general either, as it should have a major impact on a specific research field(s)
- A clear presentation of the causal or correlational relations using identified variables
- Avoid “fishing expeditions” such as looking for possible correlates within a new set of data or screening for novel bio-compounds in a newly found source
- Demonstration of its ability to be tested, and either verified or falsified
- Make sure to have a clear distinction between the research questions, the hypothesis (the answer) and the mission statement (objectives and goals)
Since ERC is about expanding the scientific horizon, ERC projects are expected to go way beyond the state of the art and present “high risk, high gain” projects. In that sense, and when comparing ERC to other grants and funding agencies, it challenges the applicant to present a project proposal which dramatically expands the scope of research and innovation in his/her field.