The council

The ERC's mission is to encourage the highest quality research in Europe, fostering the work of established researchers as well as the next generation of independent research leaders. ERC grants, which are awarded through open competition, aim to support investigator-driven frontier research across all fields of research on the basis of scientific excellence—the only criterion for selection. Its goal is to recognise the best ideas, while raising the status and visibility of European research.

The ERC has already played a significant role in funding great European research; under the FP7 framework programme (2007–2013) a budget of €7.5 billion funded over 4500 grants. It now continues to support the most talented and creative individuals and their teams under Horizon 2020, the current integrated programme that covers research and innovation funding throughout Europe. The ERC is the main component of the ‘Excellent Science’ pillar of Horizon 2020, and its budget is expected to rise to a total of €13 billion, to be spent over 2014–2020.

Over the FP7 era, Irish-based researchers were successful in winning 35 grants across the various schemes offered by the ERC. However, this corresponded to a success rate over that period that was somewhat lower than might have been expected given the contribution made by Ireland to the EC budget. Considering the combined results from Starting and Advanced Grant during the seven-year FP7 period, Ireland’s success rate was approximately 6%, compared with 7.6% across all applicant countries, and 7.0% across EU countries.

In particular, applicants to the Advanced Grant scheme in Ireland have been less competitive than those applying to the early-career schemes. Regrettably, between 2010 and 2013, there was a year-on-year decline in the number of applications to the Advanced Grant scheme, occurring at a time where it had become more challenging to gain funding from national programmes owing to economic conditions. In contrast, applications for Starting and Consolidator Grants have been maintained at a reasonably healthy level. In partnership with the Irish Research Council (IRC), SFI has set out to dramatically increase our participation and success in all ERC schemes, and in particular will endeavour to bring about a more positive national response to the annual calls to the Advanced Grant scheme.

In line with the targets set by SFI and the Irish Government, which were initially described in the Agenda 2020 document published in 2012, it is expected that Irish-based researchers will succeed in ERC schemes such that, at the very least, the value of awards will exceed Ireland’s “juste retour”, that is, at least 1.06% of the total funding made available (for comparison, the funding gained from the ERC during the FP7 era corresponded to 0.73% of the total ERC funds available). Meeting this target will ensure that our gain from EU schemes reflects Ireland’s economic contribution to EU programme funding. Hence, it is imperative that the community (researchers and support agencies alike) works together to meet this challenging but achievable goal and to succeed with the ERC at a more competitive level. The initial signs are very encouraging – the response to the 2014 ERC calls has been positive, and there is strong evidence that researchers in Ireland will display a higher level of success through these calls. We will endeavour to work with our community to ensure that this progress is maintained throughout the Horizon 2020 era.

ERC Advanced Grants allow exceptional established research leaders to pursue ground-breaking, high-risk projects that open new directions in their respective research fields or other domains, and target researchers that have already established themselves as independent research leaders in their own right. Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and the Irish Research Council (IRC) are working together to ensure that the national research community becomes increasingly aware of the opportunities provided by the ERC, with particular emphasis placed on excellent, well-established researchers, who have demonstrated the ability to be competitive in upcoming Advanced Grant calls.

The 2015 call opened on the 10th February – to accompany this, SFI and the IRC presented a joint Webinar on the 12th February, which provides detailed information, relevant to all areas of expertise, about the ERC and, in particular, the Advanced Grant scheme. View the ERC Advanced Grant Webinar February 2015.

For more detailed information about the various ERC grants as well as related SFI awards, please see:

For information from Science Foundation Ireland in relation to The European Research Council, contact:

Dr. Graeme Horley
SFI Programme Manager 
ERC National Contact Point for Life Science, Physical Science and Engineering

A message from the ERC National Contact Point for Life Science, Physical Science and Engineering

The ERC—already recognised as being the most highly regarded source of funding for “frontier research” in Europe under FP7—represents the most significant part of the Excellent Science pillar of the new Horizon 2020 framework, both in terms of scale and prestige.

SFI, along with colleagues in the Irish Research Council (IRC), act as National Contact Points (NCPs) and as the National Delegate for this highly important programme and work together to provide the best support possible to our research community. The increased budget afforded to the ERC under Horizon 2020 will provide greater opportunities that must be harnessed by researchers here in Ireland. Thus, it is the intention of SFI to dramatically increase national participation and success in all ERC schemes. To achieve this, we are strengthening our resources and, as a starting point, providing our community with more comprehensive information and support to assist in preparing applications. Further, we will continue to support two ERC-related national programmes—the SFI ERC Support Programme and the SFI ERC Development Programme—which provide additional funding opportunities to Ireland’s researchers and institutions.

The ERC is all about excellence and, in particular, an excellent idea; an exciting, challenging and thought-provoking idea that has the potential to effect change in thinking or action in areas across the whole breadth of science, technology and humanities. We understand that it takes time to create and develop excellent ideas, and as such, we ask you to plan carefully and apply to the ERC at the right time. Do not rush into an application; prepare the groundwork, and obtain all of the necessary preliminary data to ensure that your idea has clear potential.

We invite you to read and utilise the information in these pages, which act as a complementary service to on-going activities carried out by the ERC NCPs here in Ireland. We hope that, with our continued support, you will look to apply to the ERC in the near future. We are fortunate to have many excellent researchers across all disciplines in Ireland; we must now demonstrate to Europe and further afield that we can compete and win in this challenging but hugely rewarding arena.

Dr Graeme Horley

ERC National Contact Point for Life Sciences, Physical Sciences and Engineering

Helpful links

The most up-to-date documents can be found on the ERC website. Further information about ERC grants can be found on the following external websites: