NCP ERC FAQ

Here you will find questions and answers on central issues regarding the ERC application process and how to conduct an ERC project.

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Here you find important questions and answers about the application process and about conducting a European Research Council (ERC) project. This FAQ contains questions and answers also published in our newsletter.

You can also find further questions and answers on the ERC's page.

1. General Information

1.1 What are the most important documents for proposal preparation?

The most important documents for the preparation of your ERC proposal are the:

  • Work Programme
  • Information for Applicants
  • Templates for Parts B1 and B2 of the proposal

The Work Programme is the basis for all calls for proposals and contains the most relevant information (rules for participation, budget, information on the application procedure, panel structure, etc.) for recent ERC calls. Work Programmes are published annually. The year shown on the Work Programme shows the year when funding will commence (for example "Work Programme 2020" is relevant for calls for proposals in 2019 with successful project application receiving funding starting in 2020).

The Information for Applicants contains important tips for applicants during the orientation phase before application. This guide is updated with each call. In addition to information that can also be found in the Work Programme, is also provides the applicant the opportunity to learn more about:

  • How an application is actually structured ("Preparing for an ERC Starting, Consolidator, Advanced or Proof of Concept Grant)
  • What the online templates (A1-5 and B1, B2) look like and what information needs to be provided in them
  • How the budget is calculated (direct and indirect costs, non-eligible costs);
  • Which criteria are important for the evaluation;
  • Which additional documents ("Ethics Self-Assessment", "PhD certificate", "Host Commitment Letter") need to be uploaded.

Please remember that it is obligatory to use the templates provided for Parts B1 and B2!

Additionally, please make sure that you always have the latest version of these documents at hand

1.2 Where can I find information about projects that successfully received ERC Grant funding?

Lists of all projects as well as figures and statistics of all evaluated calls can be found on the ERC’s "Funded Projects" page. Additionally, you can search the database based on funding scheme, year, country and panel (for example, SSH2 or LS8) or enter free text into the search field to find all projects funded in your research field.

In addition to the key data of the project such as host institution, principal investigator and budget, you will also be shown a brief description (abstract).

In the "Stories" section, reports on individual projects and project results are displayed. Here it is now also possible to search by keyword, panel or country of the project.

1.3 What are the success rates when applying for an ERC Grant?

You will find up-to-date numbers regarding success rates and application numbers for all ERC funding schemes on the ERC website

In recent years, success rates for Starting, Consolidator and Advanced Grants have ranged from 9 percent und 15 percent across Europe.

1.4 Is the time window of 2 to 7 years and 7 to 12 years following a doctorate a hard evaluation criterion (Starting and Consolidator Grant)?

Yes. Both the time window for Starting Grants (for researchers 2 to 7 years after defence of PhD) and for the Consolidator Grants (for researchers 7 to 12 years after defence of PhD) are hard criteria for an evaluation, though extensions are possible in exceptional cases).

The relevant dates for reference are the date included on the applicant’s doctoral certificate as well as 1 January of the call year. There are no age restrictions.

Exceptions are made

  • for researchers who have taken parental leave before or after receiving their doctorate. Mothers will automatically receive an extension of 18 months per child, or, if the parental leave taken was longer, for the parental leave actually taken. Fathers will be granted an extension for the exact amount of parental leave they took (if they provide written proof).
  • There are also exceptions for researchers who have suffered a long-term illness themselves (over ninety days for the Principal Investigator)
  • or when an immediate family member (child, spouse, parent or sibling) has suffered a long-term illness following the completion of their doctorate.
  • Extensions may also be granted to researchers who have performed compulsory military service or who have completed a clinical qualification following the completion of their doctorate.

If there is a prolonged case of illness with interruption (especially in the case of several periods of more than 90 days), it must be officially confirmed (employer, health insurance company) that these are absences due to the same case of illness. The exact periods must be indicated on the certificates. This also applies to part-time work due to illness. All four of the above-mentioned exceptional cases must be substantiated by official certificates.

 

1.5 Are Doctors of Medicine eligible to apply for Starting or Consolidator Grants)?

The rules for doctoral equivalency are included in the Annexes of the respective Work Programme. (for example Work Programme 2023 from page 70).

1.6 Are professors also allowed to apply for a Starting Grant or Consolidator Grant?

Yes, professors are allowed to apply for both Starting Grants and Consolidator Grants as long as they are eligible with regards to the respective time window of 2 to 7 or 7 to 12 years following their doctorates. Additionally, it is expected that the ERC Grant will allow researchers to considerably consolidate their research career and scientific independence. This aspect is included as part of the evaluation criteria.

1.7 Will my anonymity be respected when results are published?

You can indicate on the online A1 Form if you are willing to allow your name to be published or whether you want to remain anonymous. The text states: "I allow the ERC to publish my name as well as my proposal's title and acronym in case my proposal is retained for step 2 of the evaluation process."

Generally, the ERC only publishes the names of those projects that have actually been successful.

1.8 Am I allowed to integrate a Co-Investigator into my project?

No. This option is no longer available for Starting Grants, Consolidator Grants and Advanced Grants. Only team members are allowed to work on a project in addition to the Principal Investigator.

1.9 Proof of Concept (PoC): Does the PoC Grant also support ideas from business sciences as well as the social sciences and humanities?

The Proof of Concept Grant is open to ERC projects from all scientific domains. Of course, innovations can also feed into ventures aimed at addressing social and environmental goals which may be in non-profit sectors. Projects of this kind must nevertheless prove a significant societal or economic benefit. The ERC would, for example, not fund scientific conferences with the Proof of Concept Grant.

1.10 Proof of Concept (PoC): Are personnel costs, production costs and material costs for developing a prototype eligible for funding?

Building a prototype within a PoC project is common practice. If the prototype is part of the feasibility study of the project, these costs can be claimed, but a prototype can only be part of the PoC project and not its primary outcome. The main objective of a PoC project should be filling the gaps in a business plan.

1.11 Where can I get advice before submitting a proposal?

The National Contact Point ERC (NCP ERC) supports all applicants with a (future) Host Institution in Germany. We will answer all your questions either via e-mail or telephone. In collaboration with institutions in Germany, we also offer special workshops on the ERC and on proposal submission. It is also highly advisable to contact the EU Office at your (future) Host Institution well in advance.

1.12 How does getting feedback on a proposal from the NCP ERC work?

You can send us your draft proposal at the latest three weeks before the submission deadline. The draft should already consist of the following three parts:

  1. Abstract,
  2. B1, and
  3. B2.

Please ensure that you use the respective templates. The draft should be as complete as possible.

After we have read the draft, you will receive feedback (either by telephone or via e-mail).

Before or in addition to contacting the NCP, you should get in touch with the EU Liaison Officer at your (future) institution to ensure that you have access to support from the Host Institution as early as possible. You should especially contact your Host Institution with questions regarding the project’s budget.

Additionally, you should ask colleagues in your field of research for advice on your proposal in order to get scientific feedback as well.

1.13 Where can I find up-to-date information on the conditions of participation for British institutions in ERC projects following Brexit?

For the latest developments on UK participation, the ERC refers to the following information from the Commission's website.

UK Research and Innovation

2. Proposal Submission and Project Planning

2.1 Is it possible to withdraw my proposal after a call deadline?

As long as your proposal has not yet been reviewed by the panel, it is possible to withdraw it. If you would like to withdraw your proposal, you have to send a signed and scanned request for withdrawal to the specific call’s electronic mailbox. The email should arrive at the latest one day before the date of the first panel meeting. Applicants will receive an acknowledge receipt to confirm the withdrawal. Please check the “Information for Applicants” for further information.

2.2 Can an ERC Grant cover the Principal Investigator's own salary?

Yes, an ERC Grant can cover the salary of the Principal Investigator (PI).

Note: Only personnel costs related to the actual working hours of a person directly carrying out work on the project can be reimbursed. Therefore, if the PI covers their full salary with the ERC Grant, they must consequently spend 100 percent of their total working time on the ERC project. If this is not the case (for example if a PI also has teaching obligations), the PI cannot cover their full salary with the grant.

If the Host Institution completely reimburses the PI’s salary, this should be indicated in the section "B2 Resources". The PI will ensure that they are committing a sufficient amount of time and presence throughout the course of the project to the project in order to guarantee that it is well executed. PIs funded through the ERC Starting Grants should spend at least 50 percent of their total working time on the ERC project. PIs funded through Consolidator Grants should spend at least 40 percent and PIs funded through Advanced Grants and Synergy Grants at least 30 percent of their total working time on the ERC project. There are no restrictions for PIs of a project funded by a Proof of Concept Grant. All PIs are obliged to spend at least 50 percent of their total working hours in an EU Member State or Associated Country, except for PIs receiving a Synergy Grant located at a Host Institution in a third country.

Generally, it is regarded positively when a Host Institution clearly engages and supports an applicant. If the institution has agreed to provide the applicant’s full salary, special equipment or any other support (for example an employment contract beyond the duration of the project), this information should be communicated in the proposal.

2.3 Am I allowed to copy the abstract from A1 (online) to B1 (template)?

Yes, it is possible to use the same text in both, but differences are also possible. Part B1 is provided to the evaluators and the abstract on the front page is likely the first thing they will read. Part A1, meanwhile, is used by the administration to classify the project and to recruit external evaluators for step two of the evaluation process, meaning that no confidential information should be included in Part A1. Special characters should be avoided. The contents of both Parts A1 and B1 are limited to 2000 characters.

2.4 Does cited literature count towards page limits?

No. Cited literature does not count towards the page limits in B1 (5 pages) and B2 (15 pages).

2.5 In which languages can documents (certificates) be submitted?

All documents included in the proposal (doctoral certificate, proof for the prolongation of the eligibility time window, ethics committee approvals etc.) may be submitted in one of the 24 official languages of the EU. Documents in other languages must be translated. Doctoral certificates in Latin are usually accepted.

A list of all official EU languages can be found here.

2.6 In which language should the proposal be submitted?

Generally, proposals may be written in any of the official EU languages. However, as the language used in evaluation panels is English, the proposal should be in English. All administrative forms in the European Commission’s online portal (A-Forms) that are required to be completed must be submitted in English.

2.7 What is part of the Funding ID?

The Funding ID serves to ensure that there are no financial or thematic overlaps with the Principal Investigator’s other projects in cases where an ERC Grant application is successful. To avoid the impression of double funding and to establish that the PI has enough time for the ERC project, the Funding ID should list all relevant existing, past and future grants, projects, an so on.

The following information must be provided:

  • Project title
  • Funding organisation
  • Amount of Funding
  • Duration
  • Role of the PI (or PIs)
  • Possible connections to the submitted ERC project with regards to content

For Starting and Consolidator Grants, the ERC expects the PI to commit a specific minimum of their working time (50 percent for Starting Grants and 40 percent for Consolidator Grants) to the project.

For Advanced Grants and Synergy Grants, a minimum time commitment of 30 percent is expected. There are no restrictions regarding the proportion of working time for Proof of Concept Grants.

At least 50 percent of the total working time must be spent in Europe or in an Associated Country. Applicants should also show finished projects in their CV – including two clearly identifiable categories for existing and past grants is recommended.

A template for the Funding ID is included in the B1-Template. There is no page limit for the Funding ID and it does not count towards the Part B1 page limit.

2.8 How is the budget divided among thematic domains?

For the Starting, Consolidator and Advanced Grant calls, the budget is proportionally divided based on the applications submitted to the individual panels.

2.9 What is the difference between "Host Institution" and "Additional Organisations"?

As a general rule: A "Host Institution" is an institution that hosts the ERC project’s Principal Investigator. "Additional Organisations" are institutions that deliver relevant scientific contributions to the project.

"Additional Organisations" should only be organisations that may also benefit from ERC funding (not just any cooperation partner). Additional Organisations should clearly greatly benefit an entire project in order to be added and the reason for their inclusion must be justified (for example by highlighting team members’ expertise or the necessity to use specific equipment). The scientific added value to the project must be demonstrated in the proposal and the A2 Form must be completed by Additional Organisations.

The "Commitment Letter of the Host Institution" must only be signed by the PI’s Host Institution, not by the Additional Organisations.

An additional facility can also be brought into the project during the project terms. A formal contract amendment is required for this.

2.10 What is the Participant Identification Code (PIC)?

Applicants at a Host Institution that already has a Participant Identification Code (PIC) can use this number to identify the institution in the European Commission’s electronic proposal submission system. Once the PIC has been entered, parts of the A-Forms will be completed automatically. Please note that in cases where a PIC is not available, the organisation details will be able to be entered manually in order to allow a proposal to be submitted.

PICs are automatically assigned once an organisation has registered itself. Principal Investigators can check whether their institutions have already registered themselves for a PIC by visiting the following website:here.

2.11 Do I have to describe the Host Institution in my proposal?

The quality of the Host Institution is NOT an evaluation criterion. Even so, certain aspects regarding the Host Institution can be included in the proposal, especially in the "Resources" section in Form B2. These aspects might count towards the general impression or the feasibility of the project:

  • the infrastructure provided by the host;
  • possible financial contributions towards the project and support for the PI;
  • existing cooperations with other universities, research organisations or research areas that might also offer intellectual support to the PI and for the project.

2.12 Are there any special requirements regarding the project team?

There is no preferred size for an ERC team. Applicants should follow the ERC’s budget requirements. The proposed size of the research team should reflect the nature and objectives of the project. Furthermore, it is always possible to carry out ERC projects as a Principal Investigator (PI) alone (with the exception of Synergy Grants).

The composition of the research team should also reflect the project’s nature and objectives. Commonly, a research team will involve the PI and other researchers associated with the PI's Host Institution. These team members may already be employed by the Host Institution at the time of proposal submission. Team members can be of any nationality, age and occupational status. It is also possible to employ team members without a doctorate (technicians or doctoral students). Furthermore, research teams may also involve team members from other research facilities or even team members located in Third Countries.

Team members can be identified at the proposal stage, but do not necessarily need to be. Nevertheless, the roles, profiles and expertise of team members who will be required for the project as well as the distribution of tasks should be described in the project proposal. Panels only evaluate the Principal Investigator’s achievements and attributes of individual team members will not be taken into consideration at this stage. Once funding is granted, vacant positions can be advertised (internationally). It should be noted that a written Declaration of Consent must be submitted by all persons named in the application.

2.13 Do I have to have the approval of all potential project team members when submitting my proposal?

In case you name potential team members in your proposal, their written approval is mandatory and this approval should be dated at the latest by the date of submission. It is not necessary to submit these approvals via the EU Funding and Tenders Portal at the time of submission, but they need to be uploaded upon request.

2.14 Is the search for team members from third countries supported by the ERC?

The ERC has signed an "Implemention Arrangements" with certain third countries. If a PI expresses interest, junior researchers for ERC Research Groups can be found through national research agencies. The agencies then select and provide funding for these researchers. In order to make use of this possibility, the ERC project is required to continue running for at least another 18 months.

Further information can be found here

2.15 What is meant by the benchmark stating that an applicant for a Starting Grant should have at least one independent publication?

This criterion will be evaluated by the panels and is not criterion for exclusion. The ERC recognises that there are different scientific environments that might affect the possibility of researchers publishing independently from their doctoral supervisor.

An applicant’s overall potential to conduct independent research will be evaluated. In this regard, the applicant’s career stage also plays a vital role (specifically the number of years following doctoral completion).

2.16 What is needed to document parental leave?

In cases of maternity leave, the submission of birth certificates is sufficient as proof. This will extend the eligibility period by 18 months for each child born before or after a doctoral degree was awarded. If maternity leave was taken for a longer period, official documents providing evidence of the total time taken must be submitted (for example a signed letter from the employer or medical insurance company).

For paternity leave, the eligibility period will be extended by the actual amount of time taken in paternity leave for each child born before or after the doctoral degree was awarded. The paternity leave must be formally certified or proven by documentary evidence.

2.17 How much time do I have to spend on my project?

The evaluation panels will determine whether the PI is strongly committed to the project and whether they will devote enough time to the project. All proposals should therefore clearly state the amount of active time the PI will spend on the project. Uncertainty should be avoided.

Starting Grants
Applicants are expected to spend at least 50 percent of their working time on the ERC project. At the same time, they should spend at least 50 percent of the total amount of their working time in Europe (Member State or Associated Country).

Consolidator Grants
Applicants are expected to spend at least 40 percent of their working time on the ERC project. At the same time, they should spend at least 50 percent of the total amount of their working time in Europe (Member States or Associated Country).

Advanced Grants
PIs must spend at least 30 percent of their time on their ERC project. At the same time, they should spend at least 50 percent of their total working time in Europe (Member State or Associated Country).

Synergy Grants
PIs should spend a minimum of 30 percent of their working time on the ERC project. They must spend a minimum of 50 percent of their working time in an EU Member State or Associated Country, except for PIs hosted or engaged by an institution outside of the EU or Associated Country.

Background:
ERC funding is granted to individuals and therefore requires a considerable contribution from PIs in return. The ERC is looking for active researchers who not only will lead their project, but will also be involved in the research to a considerable degree. The proposal should state that the future ERC project will be the PI’s priority in the coming years.

2.18 How can PI's prove their time commitment?

PIs must provide proof of the percentage of their working time spent on the project in addition to the percentage of their working time spent in Europe. It is now mandatory to prove the amount of working time spent on the action and spent in Europe in working hours. In order to determine this, a two-step calculation is necessary:

Step 1:
Determine the total working time per year, either

  1. based upon the standard full-time equivalent at the Host Institution or
  2. based upon a standard of 1,720 hours as a fixed full-time equivalent.

This full-time equivalent serves as the upper limit of the required number of working hours.

Step 2:
Determine the total number of hours spent on the project. The percentages of time spent working on the project and spent in Europe must be achieved for the overall duration of the project.

This means that even if no personnel costs are charged to the project, time records must be kept.
The detailed regulation can be found in the AMGA, p. 395/396. (Annotated Model Grant Agrrement for Horizon 2020)

Please also note that the time statement for Horizon Europe follows different rules.

2.19 May the PI already have a position at the Host Institution at the time of the application?

Yes, the PI may already have a position at the institution that will host the project team. This is, however, not a prerequisite.

2.20 What are ethical issues?

Ethical issues do not necessarily only play a role in projects involving aspects such as animal testing or stem cell research, but also include a number of other aspects that might not be reviewed by national funding bodies. One question, for example, relates to the possibility of research results being used for military or terrorist purposes (dual use). Projects from the social sciences often have ethical issues if they deal with personal data collection or work with minors.

Applicants in all domains must complete the "Ethical Issues Table" as part of the application on the EU Funding & Tenders Portal. All questions on the list must be answered with either “Yes” or “No”.

As soon as one question has been answered with “Yes”, an Ethics Self-Assessment must be written to explain how ethical issues will be dealt with.

There is no official template for the Ethics Self-Assessment. The applicant uploads a separate Ethics Self-Assessment document - including their name and the project’s acronym - into the EU Funding & Tenders Portal. The document should describe how ethical issues will be dealt with in the project and which approvals are required.

The necessary documents (for example the permission to conduct experiments) should not be submitted with the proposal. The Ethics Self-Assessment should clearly indicate which kinds of documents will be available.

If the project is recommended for funding, an extra ethics review will be conducted for which additional documents may need to be provided. The researcher will explicitly be asked for the relevant documents if this is the case.

Guide to completing the "Ethics Self-Assessment".
Leitfaden des Bundesarbeitskreises der EU-Referentinnen und EU-Referenten H2020-Juni 2017

2.21 What is the difference between a consortium and a Synergy Grant team?

A consortium is a collaboration between several institutions while a Synergy Grant puts the focus on collaboration between two to four individual researchers. These two to four researchers, who equally lead a Synergy Grant project, will be evaluated separately during the application procedure according to the ERC’s excellence criteria. They can be located at the same or at different Host Institutions as long as the Host Institutions are based in an EU Member State or Associated Country. Since 2019, one PI per Synergy Grant can also be located at a Host Institution in a third country. The general rule for PIs to spend at least 50 percent of their working time in Europe does not apply to these researchers.

Strong collaboration among the teams involved is crucial for ERC Synergy Grants, where experts from different disciplines should work together on projects regarding fundamental scientific questions that would not be feasible for the PIs if they were working alone. Bringing together scientists with different skills may potentially result in unforeseen, completely novel research outcomes.

2.22 Is Open Access mandatory when publishing ERC project results?

Yes, every project funded by Horizon 2020 or Horizon Europe is contractually obliged to Open Access with regards to the publication of project results via peer-reviewed publications and project data via a repository (Open Data).

This means that both publications and research data have to be accessible for third parties both electronically and free of charge. It is important to note that this obligation only applies for researchers who decide to publish their results. The right to protect results in form of patents, to keep them secret for further research or to use them in another manner is not impacted by this rule. Violation of the Open Access rule regarding publications will be sanctioned by the European Commission, for example by requiring funding to be reimbursed.

The European Commission’s general rule concerning Open Data is “as open as possible, as closed as necessary”. Unlike Open Access, Open Data has an opt-out option. ERC projects may drop out from Open Data at any time.

The costs for Open Access and Open Data are eligible for funding if they are incurred during the project’s timeline.

For further information, see Horizont 2020 and Horizont Europa

Online Manual

2.23 Can I submit a Proof of Concept application if I apply for a Synergy Grant at the same time?

Yes, it is possible to submit a Proof of Concept application and apply for a Starting, Consolidator, Advanced or Synergy Grant at the same time.

The following applies to the current work programme: A Proof of Concept application can be submitted for an ongoing grant or for a completed grant. The latter must have been completed no later than twelve months of the year the call is being made.

The restrictions mentioned in the work programmes, for example having only one active grant, do not apply to Proof of Concept applications which always require an existing ERC research project (Starting Grant, Consolidator Grant, Advanced Grant or Synergy Grant).

More than one Proof of Concept grant can be awarded to a single ERC project. However, only one Proof of Concept grant can valid at any given time for the same ERC project.

3 Evaluation and Resubmission

3.1 How does the Principal Investigator choose the right evaluation panel (Starting Grant, Consolidator Grant, Advanced Grant and Synergy Grant)?

For Starting Grant, Consolidator Grant and Advanced Grant, the panel in which the proposal is to be reviewed must be specified when submitting the proposal. The overview of the 25 thematic panels (10 panels for "Life Sciences", 10 panels for "Physical Sciences and Engineering", 5 panels for "Social Sciences and Humanities") is included in the respective application guide in the appendix. You should choose the panel in which the thematic focus of your project lies. The keywords given for each panel can help you to classify (see Information for Applicants). For further guidance, you have the option of looking at the lists of panel members from previous calls.

The selection of the correct evaluation panel is important, as the application will usually be evaluated in the panel you specify as "primary panel" in the application. Only in exceptional cases will the application be passed on to another panel. You have the option to specify a "secondary panel" if you think it would be beneficial to have members from another panel also evaluate the proposal.

For Synergy Grants, there are no predetermined panels in the first stage of evaluation. Applicants should therefore carefully consider the selection of predetermined keywords. Additional free keywords should describe the project as precisely as possible. The predefined and free keywords as well as the abstract are used to select the reviewers for the Synergy Grants who will read the application first.

3.2 Proof of Concept (PoC): Who evaluates the proposals?

Proof of Concept proposals are evaluated by independent experts in a peer review process. Reviewers are mostly representatives from industry, ministries or national public agencies as well as experts for knowledge and technology transfer. In contrast to the evaluation process for other ERC funding schemes, Proof of Concept Grants are evaluated in a single step and the process does not necessarily include panel meetings.

The proposals will be rated "very good", "good" or "fail" by independent reviewers. These refer to the individual evaluation criteria of "excellence" (in this case innovation potential), impact, quality (of the Proof of Concept plan) and efficiency of implementation. In order to be funded, a project must have received the mark "very good" or "good" for each of the criteria from a majority of the reviewers.

If there is not enough budget available to fund all proposals that meet all three evaluation criteria, the proposals that meet all three evaluation criteria will be ranked according to the marks they received from the evaluators and sorted in the order in which the evaluation criteria are listed above. Proposals will be funded in the order of this ranking. Where appropriate, evaluators will meet as an evaluation group to establish a ranking for peer proposals.

Evaluation: Panel Chairs or Panel Members 

3.3 Is there a possibility to exclude certain reviewers?

Yes, applicants may exclude up to three specific persons as peer reviewers for their proposal. Such a request can be made at the time of proposal submission in Part A (the administrative forms), where applicants can name the person or persons to be excluded. The ERC Executive Agency will thoroughly consider such a request and treat it confidentially.

Further information can be found in the documents related to each call (ERC Rules for Submission and Evaluation).

3.4 How long does the evaluation process take? When can the project start?

After the proposal submission deadline, it usually takes about ten months until the evaluation process is finished. Afterwards the grant preparation phase starts, which can take several weeks. After the grant agreement is signed (by the Host Institution and the ERC Executive Agency), the project starts the following month by default. It is possible to include a later start date, but this must be accepted by the ERCEA and is usually for a date no later than six months following the invitation to grant preparation.

3.5 What role does the interview during step two of the evaluation play for Starting Grants, Consolidator Grants and Synergy Grants?

During step two of the evaluation process, interviews with all successful applicants will be conducted in Brussels by the relevant ERC Evaluation Panel. Travel expenditures will be reimbursed by the ERC.

Depending on the panel, interviews will usually last up to a total of 30 minutes. The first 5 to 15 minutes will be devoted to the PI’s or PI team’s presentation of the research project’s outline. The remaining time will be devoted to a question-and-answer session. In the subsequent panel meeting, panels will take into account the results of the interviews in addition to the other elements, i.e., the individual reviews and the preliminary ranking.

In order to prepare candidates for this interview, the NCP ERC offers Starting Grant, Consolidator Grant, Advanced Grant and Synergy Grant applicants.

3.6 When am I allowed to resubmit my proposal if my project is rejected?

Each year, the ERC publishes a work programme with the deadlines for the ERC funding lines. With regards to the work programmes, certain waiting periods may apply- these depend on the evaluation results. These waiting periods are connected to individual researchers regardless of the ERC funding line.

An example for the 2022/2023 work programme for Starting (StG), Consolidator (CoG) and Advanced (AdG) Grants:

  • Researchers who submitted proposals graded A or B in the second evaluation step in 2022 could submit a proposal again in the application round 2023.
  • Researchers who submitted proposals graded B in the first evaluation step in 2022 needed to wait one year before submitting a proposal again (meaning they were not allowed to submit a proposal in 2023).
  • Researchers who submitted proposals graded C in 2022 needed to wait two years before submitting a proposal again (meaning they were not allowed to submit a proposal in 2023 or 2024).

Only one ERC application is allowed per work programme across all funding schemes. In cases where more than one ERC proposal has been submitted for review (for example a Synergy Grant proposal with a deadline of 5 November 2020 and an Advanced Grant proposal with a deadline of 26 August 2020), only the first eligible proposal will be evaluated. A researcher can only have one grant active at a single time. The topic of new submissions (whether they are the same, similar or different to previously submitted proposals) has no impact on the rules regarding subsequent submissions.

For Synergy Grants (SyG), the following reapplication rules applied in the ERC Work Programme 2022:

  • Researchers who receive a grade of "B" at stage 1 or 2 in a 2021 Synergy Grant application may resubmit to the Synergy Grant and other ERC grants in 2023. This also applies to a grade of "A" or "B" at Stage 2.
  • Researchers who were rejected with a "C" at Stage1 in 2021 is ineligible for the 2023 Advanced Grant and Synergy Grant work program.
  • Researchers who were received a grade of "B" at Step 2 or a grade of "A" or "B" at Step 3 on a Synergy Grant application in 2022 is not restricted from applying in the 2023 Work Program.
  • Whoever received a grade of "B" at Step 1 on a 2022 Synergy Grant application is restricted from applying for SyG in the 2023 Work Program. Anyone who received a "C" on a SyG in 2022 is blocked from AdG and SyG in the 2023 work program.

In the case of breaches of scientific integrity, researchers are suspended for one year from all ERC funding lines.
Ineligible proposals that were not evaluated may be submitted again to any call.

3.7 Is a scientist excluded only from the current funding line (i.e. Starting Grants) after having been rejected with grade B or C?

No, the rejection applies for all funding lines apart from Synergy Grants.

An applicant for a Starting Grant who applies 7 years after completing their doctorate and who receives a Grade C needs to wait two years before submitting another application for an ERC Grant. The applicant would be ineligible to apply for a Consolidator Grant immediately after being rejected from the Starting Grant. Once two years have passed, the applicant would be eligible to apply for a Consolidator Grant.

3.8 Am I allowed to hand in another application when my grant expires?

Yes. However, a researcher participating as PI in a current ERC research project may not submit a proposal for another ERC Grant unless the current project will end no more than two years after the call deadline. Furthermore, one researcher may not hold more than one grant at the same time. This means that the first project must be finished before the second project starts.

3.9 How long can I submit a Proof of Concept application after the end of my ERC Frontier Research Grant?

You can apply only once for a Proof of Concept Grant within each Work Programme. A prerequisite is that the ERC Frontier Research Grant is still running has or ended in the previous year. Therefore, the end date of the ERC Frontier Research Grant agreement can be crucial in determining eligibility. For further information, see: NCP ERC - Proof of Concept

3.10 Is there a possibility for redress against the ERC's decision?

Yes. The PI or the Host Institution have the possibility to initiate a redress procedure within one month of receiving the negative evaluation of their project. However, this process only is applicable in cases where there are serious doubts regarding the outcome of the evaluation based only on formal mistakes. Grounds for a redress procedure cannot be based upon content or an evaluator's qualification.

Further information can be found in the "Information for Applicants" in the "Documents" section. Information for applicants

4 Financial and Legal Regulations

4.1 How are direct and indirect costs calculated?

In ERC projects, 100 percent of all eligible costs are reimbursed. These costs must be directly linked to the project (for example personnel costs, equipment, travel costs, consumables).

Indirect costs are estimated as a flat rate of 25 percent of all direct costs (excluding costs for subcontracting as well as all costs that are covered by Third Parties and are not provided for by the grantee’s host (such as equipment not located on the premises)).

Indirect costs are not directly related to the project (and can include rent, heating, installed equipment, insurances) and do not have to be verified individually. Direct and indirect costs together equate the total amount of costs for the project. The sum may not exceed the maximum amount of the funding set for specific call.

Non-refundable costs include currency exchange losses, non-deductible VAT or provisions for future losses or debts.

The Proof of Concept lump sum of 150,000 euro also covers all of the project’s direct costs in addition to the indirect costs totalling a maximum of 25 percent of the direct costs. The direct costs need to be explained in the application. The lump sum can only cover costs that would also be funded within an ERC Frontier Research Grant.

4.2 Do I have to integrate regular audits into the financial planning?

Yes, these costs should always be considered.

An audit is only necessary at the end of a project if the EU contribution reaches or exceeds 325,000 euro as reimbursement of actual costs and unit costs (excluding the flat-rate for overhead costs). The costs for audits can be accounted for in two different ways:

  • Externally: Should your Host Institution not have an internal accounting department, external auditors must be hired. The costs for these audits can be accounted for as "services" in the section "other direct costs".
  • Internally: Should your Host Institution have an internal accounting department, these costs will then be listed under "personnel costs".

Important: Please consult your Host Institution before applying and ask about the institution’s audit modalities.

4.3 Am I allowed to apply for a cost-neutral grant extension?

Yes, in exceptional cases it is possible to extend the duration of an ERC-funded project. An extension to the Grant Agreement must be justified mainly on scientific grounds and requested in an amendment to the Grant Agreement.

The following rules apply for such a request:

  • The request for extension must be submitted during the last twelve months preceding the end of the project, but no later than six months before the end date. The request may not be submitted before the scientific mid-term report.
  • An ERC project cannot be extended for longer than twelve months. Parental leave is an exception to this rule.
  • Only one extension request per project is permitted. You cannot submit another request after you have been granted an extension.
  • The extension of the project’s duration does not have any effect on the project budget. The ERC does not provide additional funding beyond the budget specified in the Grant Agreement.

Late start-ups or delays during the early stages of a project do not automatically lead to an extension of the duration of the grant. In such cases, the extension must also be requested and justified in an amendment to the Grant Agreement.

4.4 Is it advantageous to apply for less than the maximum amount of possible funding?

No, the amount of funding applied for as such does not have any influence on the evaluation. The resources requested must logically and realistically match the individual items applied for (for example staff, consumables and travel allowances). The project budget should be reasonable and fully justified in the proposal, especially when expensive equipment is to be purchased.

4.5 It is possible to request a certain sum that exceeds the maximum budget?

It is possible to request a sum that exceeds the maximum budget in all four ERC funding lines for certain reasons, for example when the Principal Investigator has to move to Europe for the ERC Grant or if larger equipment has to be purchased for the project. The decision to grant additional budget is always made on a case-by-case basis by the panel reviewers. Therefore, any additional costs requested should be sufficiently explained, well justified and explicitly pointed out in the proposal.

4.6 Who signs the Grant Agreement with the ERC?

The Grant Agreement for successful proposals are signed by the legal representative of the Host Institution and the ERC Executive Agency. The Grant Agreement will only be signed electronically via the so-called L-SIGN on the EU Funding & Tenders Portal. The scientific and technological description of the project forms an integral part of the Grant Agreement. The corresponding Grant Agreement regulations can be found in the Model Grant Agreement. Additionally, a "Supplementary Agreement" between the Host Institution and the Principal Investigator needs to be signed.

4.7 What should the Principal Investigator discuss with the Host Institution before submitting an application?

Close consultation with the Host Institution is essential for the project’s application phase to run smoothly. For example, the following aspects should be discussed in advance with the Host Institution:

4.8 When do I need a “Host Commitment Letter”?

In order to complete your application, a “Host Commitment Letter” from your Host Institution is needed. This letter confirms that the required infrastructure will be provided and that you will be independent in conducting your project in addition to other details. During the grant preparation phase, a “Supplementary Agreement” between the PI and the Host Institution will also be necessary.

If additional institutions are involved in your project, no extra support letters or similar statements are required from them. Even so, it is recommended to involve these institutions early in the application process, especially with regards to budget calculations. Additionally, contractual arrangements between all participating institutions are recommended even if this is not an ERC requirement.

4.9 What happens once a proposal has been approved?

Once a proposal has been approved, the grant preparation process begins. This process as well as the communication between the grantee and the project officer of the European Research Council Executive Agency (ERCEA) will be managed via the Funding and Tenders Portal. Messages can be found under “Manage my Area” -> “My formal Notifications”.

Following approval, the PI and the contact person of the Host Institution will receive an Invitation Letter by e-mail or, alternatively, a notification that an Invitation Letter is available in the Funding and Tenders Portal.

The Invitation Letter provides information about documents and declarations that must be submitted via the Funding and Tenders Portal in addition to the project officer’s contact details and the grant preparation schedule.

The online manual explains the procedure and the steps in case of acceptance: H2020Horizon Europe

4.10 How do I sign the Grant Agreement?

The Grant Agreement is signed online via the Funding and Tenders Portal. A signature via hardcopy is not necessary. As soon as the grant preparation is finished, the project officer and the contact person at the Host Institution are informed by e-mail. Additionally, a corresponding notification will become available on the Funding and Tenders Portal. The Host Institution representative must sign the Grant Agreement first. Once they have signed, a representative from the European Commission / the ERCEA will sign. In case additional Institutions are involved in the project, they are requested to sign a membership agreement in the 30 days after both sides having signed the Grant Agreement.

Further information on “Grant Signatures” and digital signatures can be found under: here.

Every institution is obliged to nominate a Legal Entity Appointed Representative (LEAR). This person is the primary contact person for the European Commission with regards to all legal matters relating to the Host Institution.

4.11 What does Annex I of the Grant Agreement include?

Annex I of the Grant Agreement includes the “Description of the Action” (DoA) and is divided into Parts A and B. Part A is generated automatically based on the data entered into the A-Forms on the Funding and Tenders Portal. Among other things, it includes the proposal abstract.

For Part B of the DoA, both Parts B1 and B2 need to be merged and uploaded to the Funding and Tenders Portal. Successful applicants will receive information about how to complete this step along with the invitation letter for “Grant Preparation”.

The Guide of how the “Description of the Action” should be written can be found here: Description of the Action

4.12 Can I transfer an ERC Grant to another Host Institution?

Yes, you can transfer an ERC Grant to another Host Institution as long as the transfer is explained and justified and is approved by the ERC Executive Agency (ERCEA).

Possible reasons can include an appointment to another institution or the non-compliance of the current Host Institution with contractual promises. The new Host Institution should be able to provide similar conditions to ensure that the project remains feasible. The total budget cannot be modified.

In cases where a Principal Investigator transfers to a new Host Institution, the first Host Institution is required to transfer the remaining funds to the new Host Institution.

4.13 What are the Principal Investigator’s obligations with regards to conducting the project?

By accepting an ERC Grant, Principal Investigators commit themselves to taking all appropriate steps towards the effective execution of the project. They are additionally in charge of the scientific reporting (both midterm (at month 30) and at the end of the project (at month 60)) and must effectively contribute to the financial management reporting conducted by the Host Institution (four times over the course of a project, specifically at months 18, 36, 54 and 60). The financial reporting is done online via the Funding & Tenders Portal

4.14 Can the grant be used to cover the Principal Investigator's own salary?

Yes, the grant can cover the Principal Investigator’s salary.

4.15 Can I reduce my working hours because of other activities?

Yes, this is possible. However, as a reduced working time might have an impact on the project's outcome, the ERC Executive Agency will consult its scientific department and the evaluation panel might then have to re-evaluate the project proposal on scientific grounds. If the reviewers find that the scientific work of the project cannot be carried out as foreseen with less time commitment from the Principal Investigator, the request will not be accepted. This type of change often leads to an amendment to the Grant Agreement.

4.16 Are costs for a part-time secretary for project management eligible?

In principle, it is possible to finance this type of position via the ERC Grant. Usually administrative and secretarial assistance is covered by the overheads/indirect costs. However, in cases where the secretarial work is directly and exclusively related to the project, and if this is in line with the Host Institution’s general management and accounting practices, these costs might alternatively be considered direct costs.

4.17 Can members of the research team be dispatched to other facilities for research purposes?

Yes, team members can be dispatched to other research facilities for research purposes. Especially in the case of long-term secondments, the respective proposal should explain the planned arrangements in advance. Furthermore, an ERC Grant team may also involve team members associated with institutions other than the Principal Investigator’s Host Institution over the course of the entire project, though this arrangement should be justified in the application.

4.18 During my project, I plan to host some experienced researchers at our institute for a short visit. Can costs arising from these visits be funded through the ERC Grant?

In general, only travel and accommodation costs for team members working on the ERC-funded project can be reimbursed through the ERC Grant. Travel expenses for external experts who contribute the project on a selective basis can also be funded, though this should be set out in Annex I in advance. Travel and accommodation costs should be reimbursed according to the standard conditions foreseen by the institution (for example on the basis of the German State Travel Expenses Act (Landesreisekostengesetz) for public universities in Germany).

4.19 How is equipment financed in ERC projects?

Regarding the financing of equipment, Host Institutions must use their normal accounting practices with regards to depreciation rates of research equipment. The ERC can only be charged with the depreciation rates incurred over the lifespan of the ERC project. Buying major equipment is usually done with credit from the Host Institution as the ERC only pays financial contributions according to predetermined financing periods in which a certain percentage of the overall funding amount will be distributed (usually on a yearly basis).

4.20 I want to finance equipment through my ERC Grant. Do I have to submit different price quotations with my proposal?

No, the ERC does not ask for price quotations during the application phase, but this information might be important during negotiations for the Grant Agreement as well as for project audits.

4.21 Is it possible to lease equipment as part of an ERC Grant instead of buying?

Yes, this is possible. The decision of whether to lease or to buy equipment should be in accordance with beneficiary’s regulations (the Host Institution’s regulations). The Principal Investigator will have to explain this decision during the Grant Agreement negotiations as well as during audits.

The following rules generally are applicable: The costs claimed for durable equipment leased with an option to buy cannot exceed the costs that would have been incurred if the equipment had been purchased and depreciated under normal practices. In case there is no possibility to buy the equipment (operational leasing), depreciation does not play a role. The costs in this case are eligible in accordance with the Host Institution's normal practices and where the costs do not exceed the costs of purchasing the equipment.

4.22 Is it possible to request funding for maintenance costs?

In general, this is possible, but it depends both on how the equipment is used as well as on the Host Institution’s usual accounting practices. Computers and laptops, as basic office equipment, usually would be accounted for as indirect costs. However, if the equipment can be directly and exclusively linked to the project and if in accordance with the Host Institution’s usual accounting practices, such costs may also be accounted for as direct costs (for example a computer with high processing power necessary for the project and usually not used as standard office equipment).

4.23 Is it possible to account for computers/laptops as direct costs?

In general, this is possible, but it depends both on how the equipment is used as well as on the Host Institution’s usual accounting practices. Computers and laptops, as basic office equipment, usually would be accounted for as indirect costs. However, if the equipment can be directly and exclusively linked to the project and if in accordance with the Host Institution’s usual accounting practices, such costs may also be accounted for as direct costs (for example a computer with high processing power necessary for the project and usually not used as standard office equipment)..

4.24 Are there general rules for shifting the budget?

The rules for shifting the budget, such as personnel costs not spent in one period or shifting the budget to the second reporting period, are handled very flexibly by the ERC Executive Agency. Shifts do not need to be approved by the ERC and, in most cases, a notification to the Project Officer is not necessary.

However, the budget needs to be updated/adjusted and justified in the next financial report. In the financial reports template, there is a section called "budget follow-up" where budget redistributions for the next reporting period can be indicated.

There are two exceptions to this general rule:

4.25 Can the grant be used to finance a teaching substitute for the Principal Investigator?

Only costs that are directly related to conducting an approved project can be financed, meaning that personnel costs can only be claimed if the person is directly contributing to the project. As a teaching substitute does not directly contribute to the project, the respective personal costs cannot be reimbursed by the ERC Grant.

However, it is up to the Host Institution to decide whether the reimbursement of the Principal Investigator's salary can be used to finance an appropriate teaching substitute.

4.26 Do the costs for the Principal Investigator’s or a team member’s parental leave count as eligible costs?

Costs linked to the Principal Investigator’s parental leave or that of team members are eligible costs and the amount that is eligible must correspond to the time they devote to the ERC project, provided that the Host Institution’s usual accounting and administrative practices and the eligibility criteria for project costs are complied with.

In cases where parental leave costs are covered by national social insurance, they are not eligible for ERC funding (no double funding).

Additional payments exceeding the statutory amount reimbursed are eligible for ERC funding as long as the following conditions are met:

The additional benefit must apply to all projects and employees at the Host Institution, meaning that the benefit scheme should be implemented in a consistent manner within the institution.

4.27 Are relocation costs eligible for funding?

It depends on the common practice of the Host Institution whether relocation costs are eligible for funding or not. If relocation costs are generally accepted and funded, including costs for transport, renting or realator fees, these are eligible for funding within ERC projects if they are directly connected with the project. However, this only applies for costs incurred during the project’s lifespan.

4.28 When is a "Supplementary Agreement" necessary? How should it be submitted?

The ERCEA can only sign the Grant Agreement if a Supplementary Agreement has been submitted. The signed document has to be presented to the ERCEA before the Grant Agreement is signed. During the grant preparation phase, a first draft of the Supplementary Agreement can be provided. The Supplementary Agreement can be uploaded in the EU Funding & Tenders Portal. If technical difficulties occur, please contact your project officer.

A Supplementary Agreement template can be found here.

  • How the Principal Investigator’s own salary might be covered by the grant;
  • Depreciation rules for research equipment;
  • Where to get the signature for the statement from the Host Institution (Commitment of the Host Institution).
  • You can talk about such issues with the "EU-Referenten/innen" (EU liaison officers) at your facility. If you are not sure who they are, you can look at the list of EU liaison officers at German universities, created and periodically updated by KoWi in cooperation with the Working Group of European Research Administrators at German Universities (BAK).
  • Note: Only personnel costs related to actual hours worked by a person directly carrying out work on the project can be reimbursed. This means that if the Principal Investigator requests their full salary to be covered, they must consequently spend 100 percent of their total working time on the ERC project. If this is not the case (for example due to teaching obligations), the Principal Investigator cannot request their full salary.
  • subcontracts always need an amendment;
  • changes that have an impact on the scientific work always need an amendment.
  1. The additional benefit must comply with the eligibility criteria of Art. 6 of the Grant Agreement.
  2. The additional benefit must be provided for in the Host Institution’s internal regulations and/or practices.