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.

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.

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: