European Research Council Publishes 2021 Work Programme Launching First Calls of Horizon Europe

The European Commission has adopted the 2021 Work Programme of the European Research Council (ERC), the first Work Programme to be approved under Horizon Europe. The move unlocks €1.9 billion in 2021 to enable approximately 1,000 leading researchers to undertake frontier research in any field of study.

The ERC was founded in 2007 and is the Commission’s leading funding organisation for supporting investigator-driven, frontier research. The ERC has to date supported over 9,500 researchers at various stages of their careers, as well as over 70,000 postdocs, PhD students and other staff.

About two thirds of the funding announced in the Work Programme will go to early- to mid-career scientists and scholars. It will also support jobs for an estimated 6,860 postdoctoral researchers, PhD students and other research staff employed in ERC-funded teams.

The 2021 Work Programme will specifically provide funding in three of the five main grant programmes operated by the ERC to support projects and investigators at progressive stages of development. These grants and their opening and deadline dates are as follows:

Starting Grants – For promising early-career researchers with 2 to 7 years’ experience after PhD: Opening 25 February, closing 8 April 2021.

Consolidator Grants – For excellent researchers with 7 to 12 years’ experience after PhD: Opening 11 March, closing 20 April 2021.

Advanced Grants – For established research leaders with a recognised track record of research achievements: Opening 20 May, closing 31 August 2021.

A budget of over €600 million is available for each of the three Grants. The other two grant programmes run by the ERC – Proof of Concept Grants and Synergy Grants – are expected to launch later in the year under the ERC’s next Work Programme.

A number of changes have been announced as part of the 2021 Work Programme. First, interviews are now part of the evaluation process for those who reach the second step of the Advanced Grants evaluation procedure, bringing these grants in line with the Starting and Consolidator Grants. Second, the ERC’s panel structure has been redefined, with two new evaluation panels added: SH7 – Human Mobility Environment and Space; and PE11 – Materials Engineering. Finally, successful applicants will also now be required to submit a data management plan within the first six months of their project implementation, as required by new Horizon Europe regulation.

While there are currently no countries officially associated to Horizon Europe, the ERC Work Programme confirms that applicants in Horizon 2020 Associated Countries, or in other third countries currently negotiating association to Horizon Europe, including the United Kingdom, are eligible to apply on a conditional basis, and will receive funding if successful provided that an association agreement is signed by the applicant’s country at the time of signature of the grant agreement.

Elsewhere, it is anticipated that all work programmes should be published by April 2021. RESEARCHconnect will provide full coverage of Horizon Europe alongside other funding opportunities from Europe and beyond as they are available.

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