Preparing and writing a proposal is lengthy and tedious. Before getting started with your ERC application, here are 7 important things for you to consider. In this post, we also share with you some typical rumors regarding ERC grants.

1. Make sure you are eligible. 

First, check the window of eligibility—from your PhD graduation date to the 1st of January of the year of the call. Also check for possible extensions (e.g., maternity, paternity, caring for a family member, military service, medical training, etc). There is no limit to the total amount of years you can ask as an extension. The ERC also pays special attention to applicants with career breaks or with unusual career paths.

2. Find the information early.

Don’t wait to familiarize yourself with the process: register early, get to know the portal, download the information for applicants, and keep it on your desk or computer desktop. Also, talk to your institution’s grant office. They can provide help or even offer support for your grant application. Keep in mind that you will need a document from the host institution offering you support.  Don’t leave this to the last moment. For any questions, you can also write to your National Contact Point (NCP) to help you locally with information about the grants. You can find who to contact on the ERC website.

3. Pick your host institution. 

It must be in the EU or an associated country. What will your position be? What equipment will be available in the host institution? What infrastructure and administrative support will be available?

Rumor: the reputation of the host institution will increase your chances of winning a grant. This is untrue, host institutions are not evaluated. Moreover, the host institution can be changed at any time when the grant is ongoing.

4. Decide when to apply. 

Ok, you have your brilliant idea and all the documents needed. So, when do you apply? Some key points are: make it balanced, be ambitious but consider it must be completed in 5 years; make it convincing, include preliminary data but don’t wait too long so it loses its novelty; be bold, but think about your project’s feasibility and make a plan B; speak to your peers and colleagues so they can guide you; and finally, go for it.

Rumor: you should wait until the end of your eligibility window to apply because you will be “more senior” and more competitive. This is one of the most heart-breaking misconceptions: the feedback from the panel—if you are unsuccessful the first time—is what will help you win a grant when you re-apply. Don’t get discouraged: many successful grantees failed their first time. The ERC’s statistics show that the success rate is equal throughout most of the eligibility window for StG and CoG. So, don’t wait until the last moment!

5. Choose your panel. 

The people who assess your proposal are very important. You want the right experts to evaluate your project. Once you have chosen a panel, you should target your proposal to that audience. If you chose the wrong panel, the ERC will re-assign you to a different panel. In this case, the re-assignment is done if a) there is a clear mistake from the applicant or b) if another panel has better expertise for your proposal. This can happen for very interdisciplinary projects, where panels must agree on the transfer. The expertise covered by each panel is found in the information for applicants, which can change from year to year. So, check your descriptors carefully.

Rumor: people think you can choose your panel strategically to increase your chances of success. This is not true: the success rate is the same for each panel, the funding is proportional to the demand based on the number of proposals received that year. If you’d like, you may look at previous year’s results to check how many projects were funded per panel. Long story short: choose the panel that fits your project best.

6. Think about your project’s keywords. 

You will need to include descriptors and keywords in your proposal. It may sound trivial, but it is used to assign your proposal to the appropriate evaluators. It will also determine whether another panel should get involved. So, think about this well.

Rumor: unlike what some think, panel descriptors don’t represent the ERC’s scientific priorities. They indicate what expertises are present in a panel. Some say that the more cross-panel descriptors, the better because the ERC prioritizes interdisciplinary. This is untrue. Please make sure your proposal comes with the appropriate descriptors and keywords. Many proposals come without them. 

7. Make sure you have the right documents. 

In part A of your application (administrative part), you will need to provide information about your project, your career, your host institution, and how you plan to administer the budget of your project. Make sure you have:

  1. Statement of support from your host institution.
  2. The copy of your PhD or equivalent.
  3. Documents of extension of eligibility (if applicable).
  4. Any information on ethical issues.

Please keep in mind that ERC panel members will only see B1 and B2 documents. So, do not “beef up” part A.

We wish you the best of luck in your upcoming ERC application!

This information was extracted from an ERC video, you can watch it here: https://youtu.be/O7mOFL2tIQ8