FAQ (English)

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General information

  1. What are the most important documents for the preparation of a proposal?
  2. Where can I find profiles of successful ERC grants?
  3. What are the success rates when applying for an ERC grant?
  4. Is the time window of 2 to 7 years and 7 to 12 years after PhD a hard evaluation criterion?
  5. Are MDs eligible?
  6. Are professors also allowed to apply for a StG or CoG?
  7. Will my anonymity be respected when results are published?
  8. Am I allowed to integrate a Co-Investigator into my project?
  9. Proof of Concept: Does the Proof of Concept grant also support ideas generated in ERC projects from the Social Sciences and Humanities?
  10. Where can I get advice before the proposal submission?
  11. How does feedback on a proposal work?

Proposal submission and project planning

  1. Can the grant cover the Principal Investigator’s own salary?
  2. Am I allowed to copy the abstract from A1 (online) to B1 (template)?
  3. Does cited literature count towards the page limit?
  4. Do all certificates and documents have to be translated into English? In which language does the proposal have to be?
  5. What is part of the Funding ID?
  6. How is the budget divided between the thematic domains?
  7. Where is the difference between "host institution" and "additional organisations"?
  8. What is the Participant Identification Code (PIC)?
  9. Do I have to describe the host institution in the proposal?
  10. Are there any special requirements regarding the project team?
  11. What is meant by the benchmark stating that an applicant for a StG should have at least one independent publication?
  12. What is needed to document parental leave?
  13. How much time do I have to spend on my project?
  14. May the PI already have a position at the host institution at the time of the application?
  15. What are the Ethical Issues?

Evaluation and Resubmission

  1. How does the Principal Investigator choose the right evaluation panel?
  2. Proof of Concept: Who is evaluating the proposals?
  3. Is there a possibility to exclude reviewers?
  4. How long does the evaluation process take? When can the project start?
  5. Which role does the interview during step two of the evaluation play for StG and CoG?
  6. In which cases am I allowed to resubmit my proposal in case of rejection?
  7. Is a scientists excluded only from the current funding line (i.e. Starting Grants) after having been rejected with grade B or C?
  8. Am I allowed to hand in another application when my grant expires?
  9. Is there a possibility for redress against the ERC's decision?

Financial and legal regulations

  1. How are direct and indirect costs calculated?
  2. Which type of bank account does the host institution have to open?
  3. Do I have to integrate regular audits into the financial planning?
  4. Am I allowed to apply for a cost-neutral grant extension?
  5. Does it have any advantages to apply for less than the maximum amount of funding?
  6. It is possible to request a certain sum that exceeds the maximum budget ?
  7. Who negotiates the Grant Agreement with the ERC?
  8. What should the PI discuss with the host institution before the application?
  9. Is it possible to transfer the grant to a new host institution?
  10. What are the obligations of the Principal Investigator regarding the implementation of the project?
  11. Can the grant cover the Principal Investigator's own salary?
  12. My position is not financed by the ERC grant. Do I still have to provide evidence of my working hours for the project?
  13. In my proposal I stated that I would spend 100% of my working time on the ERC project. Due to other activities I have to reduce the amount of working time. Is that possible?
  14. Are costs for a part-time secretary for project management eligible?
  15. Can members of the research team be dispatched to other facilities for research purposes?
  16. During my project visiting senior researchers will join our institute for a short period of time. Does the ERC grant cover the costs for these stays?
  17. How is the financing of equipment handled in ERC projects?
  18. I want to finance equipment through the ERC grant. Do I have to submit different price offers with my proposal?
  19. Is it possible to lease equipment within an ERC grant instead of buying?
  20. Is it possible to request funding for maintenance costs or animal care?
  21. Is it possible to account for computers/laptops as direct costs?
  22. Are there general rules for the shifting of budget?
  23. Can the grant be used to finance a teaching substitute for the Principal Investigator?
  24. Are the costs for parental leave of the Principal Investigator or a team member eligible costs?
  25. When do you need a „Supplementary Agreement“? How does it have to be submitted?

General Information

  1. What are the most important documents for the preparation of a proposal?

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

  • 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.) on the recent calls of the ERC. It is published annually and is recognizable through its date, which always gives the year the funding money will be spent (e.g., "Work Programme 2017" for calls for proposals of 2016, which will be funded in 2017).

The Information for Applicants contains important tips for the orientation phase before the application. This guide will be updated with each call. It offers information which can also be found in the Work Programme, but also gives the applicant the chance to find out more about:

  • How an application is actually structured ("Preparing for an ERC Starting, Consolidator or Advanced Grant);
  • What the online templates (A1-5 and B1, B2) look like and which information you need to give in them;
  • Which formal criteria need to be taken into account (font size, page limit, etc.);
  • How the online application works;
  • 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 B1 and B2!

Please make sure that you always have the latest version of these documents at hand!

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  1. Where can I find profiles of successful ERC grants?

There is a section on the ERC website called "Funded projects". You will find lists of all projects as well as figures and statistics of all evaluated calls. Additionally, you can search the database for funding scheme, year, country and panel (e.g., SH2 or LS8). You can also enter free text in the search field. In this way you will find all projects funded in your research field.

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  1. What are the success rates when applying for an ERC grant?

You will find all up-to-date success rates and application numbers for all ERC funding schemes on the ERC website: https://erc.europa.eu/projects-figures/statistics

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  1. Is the time window of 2 to 7 years and 7 to 12 years after PhD a hard evaluation criterion?

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

Reference dates are the one on the PhD certificate and 1 January. There are no age restrictions.

Exceptions are made for researchers who have taken parental leave before or after their PhD. Women will receive an extra 18 months per child and men will be granted the exact amount of time they have spent on paternity leave if they provide written proof. There are also exceptions for researchers who have suffered a long-term illness (over ninety days for the Principal Investigator or a close family member (child, spouse, parent or sibling)), who have performed military service or who have accomplished a clinical qualification after their PhD award.

There are no restrictions regarding academic titles for the Advanced Grants.

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  1. Are MDs eligible?

For the ERC Starting and Consolidator Grants, a PhD or a similar title is required for the submission of a proposal. A medical doctoral degree (MD or "Dr. med.") is not recognized by the ERC as a PhD-equivalent title. Medical doctors without a PhD need a proof of an appointment that requires PhD equivalency (e.g., postdoc fellowship, professorship). In this case, the time window is postponed by two years: for Starting Grants 4 to 9 years after the award of a Dr. med or MD and for Consolidator Grants 9 to 14 years.

If a researcher has been awarded an additional PhD in another discipline, the earliest degree that makes eligible (MD + post-doc position or PhD) counts towards the eligibility.

Also for MDs it is possible to extend the time window in documented exceptional cases such as maternity / paternity, long-term illness, military / civil service and clinical training.

The proof of research experience (especially "peer-reviewed publications") in the CV is necessary in any case.

The rules for the PhD equivalency are part of the Annexes of the respective Work Programme.

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  1. Are professors also allowed to apply for a StG or CoG?

Yes, professors are allowed to apply for both a StG or a CoG as long as they are eligible with regard to the respective time window of 2 to 7 or 7 to 12 years after their PhD. It is furthermore expected that the ERC grant allows the researchers to consolidate their research career and scientific independence considerably. This is part of the evaluation criteria.

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  1. Will my anonymity be respected when results are published?

You can indicate on the A1 form online if you are ok with the publication of your name or if you want to remain anonymous. The text says: "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."

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

No. This option is no longer available in StG, CoG or AdG. Apart from the PI there are only "team members" on the project team.

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  1. Proof of Concept: Does the Proof of Concept Grant also support ideas generated in ERC projects from 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.

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  1. Where can I get advice before the proposal submission?

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 the proposal submission.

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  1. How does feedback on a proposal work?

You send us your draft proposal latest two weeks before the deadline. The draft should already consist of the following three parts: 1. Abstract, 2. information on the researcher, and 3. information on the project. Please be sure to 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 parallel to contacting the NCP, you should always get in touch with the EU liaison officer of your institution to ensure that support from the host is available as early as possible. Especially regarding budget questions, you should get in touch with your host institution.

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

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Proposal submission and project planning

  1. Can the grant cover the Principal Investigator's own salary?

Yes, the grant can cover the salary of the Principal Investigator (PI).

Note: Only personnel costs related to actual working hours of a person directly carrying out work under the project can be reimbursed. Thus, if the PI requests a full salary, he or she must consequently spend 100% of the total working time on the ERC project. If that is not the case (e.g., if a PI also has teaching obligations), the PI cannot request a full salary.

If the host institution completely reimburses the PIs salary, this should be indicated in the section "B2 Resources". The Principal Investigator shall ensure a sufficient time commitment and presence throughout the course of the project to guarantee its proper execution. PIs funded through the ERC Starting Grants shall spend at least 50%, PIs funded through Consolidator Grants at least 40%, and PIs funded through Advanced Grants at least 30% of their total working time on the ERC project. All PIs are obliged to spend at least 50% of their total working hours in an EU Member State or Associated State.

In principle, a host institution's support of the applicant is regarded positively. If the institution has agreed to provide the full salary, special equipment or any other support (e.g., an employment contract beyond the duration of the project), this should be mentioned in the proposal.

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

Yes, it is possible to use the same text, but there may also be differences. Part B1 will be given to the evaluators and the abstract on the front page is probably the first thing they will read. The A1 part is used by the administration to classify the project and to recruit external evaluators for step 2 of the evaluation process. So there should be no confidential information included here. Special characters should be avoided and in A1 as well as in B1 no more than 2000 characters are allowed.

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  1. Does cited literature count towards the page limit?

No. Cited literature does not count anymore towards the page limit in B1 and B2.

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  1. Do all certificates and documents have to be translated into English? In which language does the proposal have to be?

No. All documents included in the proposal (PhD certificate, written proof to prolong the eligibility time window, approval of ethical committees, etc.) may be submitted in one of the 24 official languages of the EU. Documents in other languages must be translated. PhD certificates in Latin are usually accepted.

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

Generally, the proposal may be written in any of the official EU languages. However, as the language of the evaluation panels is English, the proposal should be in English. All administrative forms, which need to be filled out online, must be in English.

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  1. What is part of the Funding ID?

The Funding ID serves to ensure that there are neither financial nor thematic overlaps with other projects of the PI, in case of a successful application for an ERC grant. To avoid the impression of double funding, and to clarify that the PI has enough time for the ERC project, the Funding ID should list all existing, past and future grants, projects etc., which might be relevant in that respect.

The following information must be given:

  • Project title
  • Funding organisation
  • Funding
  • Duration
  • Role of the PI
  • Possible connection to the ERC project, regarding content

For the Starting and Consolidator Grants, the ERC expects a minimum time commitment of 50% (StG) and 40% (CoG) from the PI. For the Advanced Grants a minimum time commitment of 30% is expected. At least 50% of the total working time must be spent in Europe or in an Associated Country.

Applicants should also indicate finished projects in their CV – it is recommended to create two categories of existing and past grants.

There is a template for the Funding ID included in the B1-template. There is no page limit for the Funding ID and it does not count towards the page limit of part B1.

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  1. How is the budget divided between the thematic domains?

For the Starting, Consolidator and Advanced Grant calls an indicative budget will be allocated to each panel in proportion to the budgetary demand of its assigned proposals.

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  1. Where is the difference between "host institution" and "additional organisations"?

As a general rule: A "host institution" is an institution which hosts the Principal Investigator of an ERC project. "Additional organisations" are institutions which deliver a relevant scientific contribution to the project.

"Additional organisations" should only be such organisations which can also benefit from the ERC funding (not just cooperation partners). Adding an additional institution should be of high use for the whole project and must be duly justified (e.g., by pointing out the expertise of the team members or the use of necessary equipment). The scientific added value for the project must be pointed out in the proposal and the A2 form must be filled out for the second institution.

The "Commitment Letter of the Host Institution" must only be signed by the actual host of the PI, not by the additional organisations.

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  1. What is the Participant Identification Code (PIC)?

Applicants at a host institution possessing a Participant Identification Code (PIC) can use this number to identify themselves in the electronic proposal submission system of the European Commission. On entering the PIC, parts of the A forms will be filled in automatically. Please note that in cases where a PIC is not available, it will always be possible to submit a proposal by entering the organisation details manually.

The process for assigning a PIC is triggered by a self-registration of an organisation. Principal Investigators can check whether their institutions have already registered themselves for a PIC by visiting the following website: http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/portal/desktop/en/organisations/register.html.

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  1. Do I have to describe the host institution in the proposal?

The quality of the host institution is NOT an evaluation criterion. The following aspects might nevertheless be part of the proposal, especially of the part "Resources" in B2, and might count towards the general impression or the feasibility of the project:

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

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  1. Are there any special requirements regarding the project team?

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

The composition of the research team must also reflect the nature and objectives of the project. Commonly, a research team will involve the PI and other researchers associated with the PI's research institution. These team members may already be employed by the host institution by the time of proposal submission. Team members can be of any nationality, age and occupational status. There is also the possibility to employ team members without a PhD (technicians or PhD students). Furthermore, research teams may also involve team members from other research facilities or even team members located in Third Countries. However, such arrangements (and possible funding of the respective team members) are subject to appraisal by the ERC peer review evaluation panels.

Team members can, but do not necessarily need to be identified at the proposal stage. Nevertheless, the roles/profiles and expertise of team members required and the distribution of tasks should be clarified in the project proposal. The panels will then evaluate only the achievements of the Principal Investigator and the proposed project, whereas individual attributes of team members will not be taken into consideration at this stage. Once the funding is granted, vacant positions can be advertised (internationally).

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  1. What is meant by the benchmark stating that an applicant for a StG should have at least one independent publication?

This criterion will be evaluated by the panels and is not a hard criterion. The ERC recognizes that there are different scientific environments, which might affect the possibility of researchers to publish independently from their PhD supervisor.

What is evaluated is the potential an applicant has to conduct independent research. In this regard, the career stage is also relevant (years after PhD).

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  1. What is needed to document parental leave?

For maternity: the submission of birth certificates is sufficient. Extension of the eligibility period: 18 months per child born before or after the PhD award.

For paternity: accumulation of documented amount of paternity leave actually taken for each child born before or after the PhD award. This time-off has to be formally certified or proven by documentary evidence (e.g., signed letter from the employer, medical insurance company).

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

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

  • Starting Grants
    The applicants are expected to spend at least 50% of their working time on the ERC project. At the same time, they should spend at least 50% of the total amount of time in Europe (Member States or Associated Countries).
  • Consolidator Grants
    The applicants are expected to spend at least 40% of their working time on the ERC project. At the same time, they should spend at least 50% of the total amount of time in Europe (Member States or Associated Countries).
  • Advanced Grants
    The PIs must spend at least 30% of their time on the project. At the same time, they should spend at least 50% of the total amount of time in Europe (Member States or Associated Countries).
  • Background
    The ERC funding is granted to the individual person and thus asks for a considerable contribution of the PI. The ERC is looking for active researchers, who not only lead the project but are also involved in research to a considerable amount. The proposal should state that the future ERC project will be the main interest of the PI in the coming years.

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  1. 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, which will later be the host of the project team. However, this is not a prerequisite.

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  1. What are the Ethical Issues?

The Ethical Issues do not necessarily only touch topics like animal testing or stem cell research, but also a number of other aspects which might not be asked about by national funding bodies. One question is, for example, related 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 children/youths.

Applicants of all domains must fill out the "Ethical Issues Table" as part of the application on the Participant 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 Ethical Self Assessment must be written which explains how ethical issues are dealt with.

There is no official template for the Ethical Self Assessment. The applicant uploads a separate  “Ethics Self Assessment” document - indicating his/her name and the acronym of the project - into the Participant Portal. The document should describe how ethical issues will be dealt with in the project and which approvals are required.

New The necessary documents (e.g. 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 might have to be delivered. The researcher will explicitly be asked for these documents in that specific case.

Guide to fill our the document "Ethics Self-Assessment".

Link Particpant Portal: http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/docs/h2020-funding-guide/cross-cutting-issues/ethics_en.htm

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Evaluation and resubmission

  1. How does the Principal Investigator (PI) choose the right evaluation panel?

The choice of an evaluation panel might be especially difficult for interdisciplinary projects. First, the PI should have a look at the keywords representing the research fields involved in each panel (a list is available in the "Information for Applicants"). Additionally, the panel chairs and panel members of previous calls can serve as guidance. Looking at their research profile might give you an impression of how the respective panel is composed.

Also, it is important to ask yourself whom you want to address with your proposal, i.e., who will understand and appreciate the innovative character of your project idea.

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  1. Proof of Concept: Who is evaluating 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 in other ERC funding schemes, the Proof of Concept Grants are evaluated in a single step and the process does not necessarily include panel meetings. Independent reviewers will evaluate each proposal on each of the evaluation criteria on a "pass/fail" basis. The evaluation criteria for Proof of Concept Grants are: excellence (innovation potential), impact, as well as quality and efficiency of the implementation (quality of the proof of concept plan). To be funded, proposals have to be awarded a "pass" mark by a majority of the reviewers on each of the evaluation criteria.

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  1. Is there a possibility to exclude reviewers?

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

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

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

After the deadline for the submission of proposals, 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 by default starts the next month. However, it is possible to indicate a later start date if it is accepted by the ERCEA, usually no later than six months after the invitation to grant preparation.

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  1. Which role does the interview during step two of the evaluation play for StG and CoG?

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

Depending on the panel, interviews will usually last up to 30 minutes in total. The first 5 to 15 minutes will be devoted to a presentation of the outline of the research project by the PI. 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 alongside the other elements, i.e., the individual reviews and the preliminary ranking.

In order to prepare candidates for this interview, the NCP ERC offers special interview trainings for Starting Grant / Consolidator Grant applicants.

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  1. In which cases am I allowed to resubmit my proposal in case of rejection?

Proposals that were rejected for formal reasons can be resubmitted without any restriction. 

The following regulation applies starting with Work Programme 2017. If an evaluated proposal is not recommended for funding a re-submission is possible under the following circumstances:

  • Proposals which were ranked with an A may be resubmitted in the next round.
  • Proposals which were ranked with a B in the second evaluation step may be resubmitted in the next application round.
  • Proposals which were ranked with a B in the first evaluation step may be resubmitted after two years.
  • Proposals which were ranked with a C may be resubmitted after three years.

Only one application per year is allowed within the ERC (across all funding schemes). Only one grant can be active at the same time for one researcher. The topic of the proposal (similar, different or the same) is not relevant for the question of resubmission.

Ineligible proposals that were not evaluated can be submittted again in all calls.

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  1. Is a scientists 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.

An applicant for a Starting Grant who is 7 years after PhD and receives a C, needs to pause 2 years before submitting again to the ERC. He would not be eligible to apply for a Consolidator Grant immediately after the rejection in the Starting Grant. In the third year he is again eligible to apply for a Consolidator Grants.

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

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

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

Yes. The PI or the host institution have the possibility to initiate the redress procedure within one month of receiving the negative evaluation of their project. However, this only applies if there are serious doubts regarding the outcome of the evaluation based on formal mistakes only. Reasons regarding content or an evaluator's qualification cannot constitute grounds for a redress procedure.

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

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Financial and legal regulations

  1. How are direct and indirect costs calculated?

In ERC projects, 100% of all eligible costs are reimbursed. These have to be directly linked to the project (e.g., personnel costs, equipment, travel costs, consumables).

As a flat rate for the indirect costs, 25% of all direct costs may be estimated (excluding costs for subcontracting, as well as all costs which are provided by Third Parties and are not provided for by the host of the grantee).

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

Non-refundable costs include, e.g., currency exchange losses.

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  1. Which type of bank account does the host institution have to open?

For projects that have a Grant Agreement dating from 1 January 2013 onwards, it is no longer necessary to open interest bearing bank accounts (recital no.8 of the EU Financial Regulation).

For projects already running, host institutions only had to declare interest until 31 December 2012. As of 1 January 2013, no interest has to be declared for these projects. If further interest occurs, it may be retained. It neither has to be paid back to the European Commission, nor be declared as revenues in the Form C. A change of the individual Grant Agreement is not necessary for this.

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

Yes, these costs should always be considered.

  • Projects under FP7 (2007-2013):
    Audits are due as soon as the EU contribution reaches or exceeds 375,000 euros. The certificate on the financial statements shall be submitted together with the financial report. For projects under FP7, the reporting is due four times during a lifetime of a project.
  • Projects under Horizon 2020 (2014-2020):
    An audit is only necessary at the end of a project if the EU contribution reaches or exceeds 325,000 euros (which is usually the case with ERC projects). The certificate on the financial statement must be submitted together with the final report at the end of the project. For projects under Horizon 2020, the submission of a certificate on the financial statement is due only at the end of the project.

The costs for these audits can be accounted for in two different ways:

  • externally: Should your host institution not have an internal accounting, 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 organisation have an internal accounting, these costs will then be listed under "personnel costs"
    Important: Please consult your host institution prior to applying and ask about the audit modalities.

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  1. 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 of 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 before 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 leaves are an exception.
  • It is only permitted to request for one extension per project. You cannot submit another request after you have been granted the first extension.
  • An extension of the project duration does not have any effect on the project budget. Apart from the budget specified in the Grant Agreement, the ERC does not provide additional funding.
  • 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.

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  1. Does it have any advantages to apply for less than the maximum amount of 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 (e.g., staff, consumables, or travel allowances). The project budget should be reasonable and fully justified in the proposal, especially when expensive equipment is purchased.

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

In all three ERC funding lines, e.g. if the Principal Investigator has to move to Europe for the ERC grant or if larger equipment has to be purchased for the project. The granting of additional budget is always a case-by-case decision by the panel reviewers. Therefore, the requested costs should be sufficiently explained, well justified and explicitly pointed out in the proposal.

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  1. Who signs the Grant Agreement with the ERC?

The Grant Agreement of successful proposals will be signed by the host institution and the ERC Executive Agency. The scientific and technological description of the project forms an integral part of the Grant Agreement. The corresponding regulations of the Grant Agreement can be found in the Model Grant Agreement. Additionally, a "Supplementary Agreement" between the Host Institution and the Principal Investigator needs to be signed.

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  1. What should the PI discuss with the host institution before the application?

Close consultation with the host institution is essential for a smooth process during the application phase of the project. For example, the following aspects should be discussed:

  • Covering the own salary by the grant;
  • Depreciation rules for research equipment;
  • Signature for the statement of the host institution (Commitment of the Host Institution).

You can talk about such issues with the "EU-Referenten/innen" (EU liaison officers) of your facility. You can find them in a list of EU liaison officers at German universities which was created and will be periodically updated by KoWi in cooperation with the Working Group of European Research Administrators at German Universities (BAK).

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  1. Is it possible to transfer the grant to a new host institution?

The ERC Executive Agency normally expects the Principal Investigator (PI) to conduct the funded research project in association with the original host institution. However, it is possible to transfer the grant to another institution if, for example, the PI receives a call for professorship or the original host institution does not respect the given commitments.

As a general rule, any such transfer will require the approval of the ERC Executive Agency. In case of a grant to be transferred to another institution, the current host institution has to transfer any funds not covered by an accepted cost claim to the new host institution.

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  1. What are the obligations of the Principal Investigator regarding the implementation of the project?

By accepting an ERC grant, the Principal Investigator commits himself/herself to taking all appropriate steps towards the effective execution of the project. Also he or she is in charge of the scientific reporting (midterm, month 30, and at the end of the project, month 60) and must contribute effectively to the financial management reporting conducted by the host institution (four times, months 18, 36, 54 and 60). In the near future, the financial reporting will be done online via the Participant Portal.

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  1. Can the grant cover the Principal Investigator's own salary?

Yes, the grant can cover the salary of the Principal Investigator (PI).

Note: Only personnel costs related to actual hours worked by a person directly carrying out work under the project can be reimbursed. Thus, if the PI requests a full salary, he or she must consequently spend 100% of the total working time on the ERC project. If that is not the case (e.g., if a PI also has teaching obligations), the PI cannot request a full salary.

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  1. My position is not financed by the ERC grant. Do I still have to provide evidence of my working hours for the project?

Yes, the time devoted to the ERC project will have to be recorded in some way, e.g., by keeping time sheets. If a researcher works 100% on an ERC project it might be acceptable not to record productive hours spent on the project. However, there should be an appropriate alternative evidence to support the declared working arrangements or it should be compliant with the beneficiary’s standard practices. It is highly recommendable to keep time sheets. More information on time sheets in the Guide for Grant Holders (page 34).

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  1. In my proposal I stated that I would spend 100% of my working time on the ERC project. Due to other activities I have to reduce the amount of working time. Is that possible?

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 reevaluate 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 of the Principal Investigator, the request will not be accepted. In any case, a change will often lead to an amendment to the Grant Agreement.

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  1. 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, when the secretary work can be accounted directly and exclusively to the project, and if this is in line with the host institution’s usual management and accounting practices, the costs might be considered as direct costs.

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  1. 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 host institution of the Principal Investigator during the entire course of the project. However, this arrangement should be justified in the application.

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  1. During my project visiting senior researchers will join our institute for a short period of time. Does the ERC grant cover the costs for these stays?

Generally, travel costs can only be reimbursed, if they are related to team members of the ERC project. Travel costs for external experts can be accounted for under "other direct costs". The participation of those experts should be justified in Annex I. Travel costs are reimbursed according to general accounting practices at the Host Institution.

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  1. How is the financing of equipment handled in ERC projects?

Concerning the financing of equipment, the host institution must use their normal accounting practices concerning depreciation rates of research equipment. The ERC can only be charged with the depreciation rates which occurred during the lifetime of the ERC project. Buying major equipment is usually done with credit from the host institution, because the ERC does only pay the financial contributions according to predetermined financing periods in which a certain percentage of the overall funding amount will be distributed (mostly on a yearly basis). In Horizon 2020, non-deductable VAT is reimbursable.

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  1. I want to finance equipment through the ERC grant. Do I have to submit different price offers with my proposal?

No, the ERC does not ask for price offers in the application phase but such information might be important for the negotiations for the Grant Agreement and audits of the project.

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  1. Is it possible to lease equipment within an ERC grant instead of buying?

Yes, it is possible. The decision whether to lease or to buy equipment should be in accordance with the rules of the beneficiary (the host institution). The Principal Investigator will have to explain this decision in the negotiations for the Grant Agreement as well as in the audits.

In principle, the following rules apply: The costs claimed for durable equipment which is leased with an option to buy cannot exceed the costs that would have incurred if the equipment had been purchased and depreciated under normal practices. In case there is no possibility to buy the equipment (operational leasing), there is no depreciation involved but the costs are eligible if this follows the beneficiary's normal practices and does not exceed the costs of purchase of the equipment.

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  1. Is it possible to request funding for maintenance costs or animal care?

Yes, but only if the maintenance costs are part of the purchase deal when buying the equipment. If a company has to be hired for maintenance of the equipment "on top" of the purchase, it needs to be accounted for as subcontracting. As far as animal keeping is concerned, the coverage of maintenance costs can be applied for as long as the person is hired especially for these purposes.

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

In principle, it is possible, but it depends on how the equipment is used as well as on the usual accounting practices of the host institution. Usually, computers and laptops, being basic office equipment, would be accounted for as indirect costs. However, if the equipment can be directly and exclusively linked to the project and if it is in accordance with the usual accounting practices of the host institution, such costs may also be accounted for as direct costs.

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  1. Are there general rules for the shifting of budget?

The rules for budget shifts, e.g. personnel costs which have not been spent in one period, or the shifting of 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 template for financial reports there is a (new) section called "budget follow-up" where redistributions of budget for the next reporting period can be indicated.

There are two exceptions to this general rule:

  • subcontracts always need an amendment;
  • changes which have an impact on the scientific work always need an amendment.

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

Only costs which are directly related to the execution of the project can be claimed, i.e., personal costs can only be claimed if the person is directly contributing to the execution of the project. As a teaching substitute does not directly contribute to the execution of 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 costs will be used to finance an appropriate teaching substitute.

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  1. Are the costs for parental leave of the Principal Investigator or a team member eligible costs?

The costs linked to the parental leave of the Principal Investigator (PI) and team members are eligible pro-rata to the time devoted to the ERC project, provided they follow the usual accounting and administrative practice of the host institution and comply with the eligibility criteria for project costs.

In case the costs of a parental leave are reimbursed by national social insurance, they are not eligible for ERC funding (no double funding).

Additional payments exceeding the statutory amount and paid by the host institution are not eligible costs, as they are not mandatory. However, when the statutory amount is topped up by the host institution, the host institution's extra costs could be eligible for ERC funding as long as the following conditions are met:

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  1. The additional benefit must comply with the eligibility criteria of the project.
  2. The additional benefit must be provided for in the internal regulations and/or practices of the host institution.

The additional benefit must apply to all projects and employees of the host institution, i.e., the benefit scheme should be implemented in a consistent manner within the institution.

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  1. When do you need a "Supplementary Agreement"? How does it have to 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 signature of the Grant Agreement. During the Grant Preparation phase, a first draft of the Supplementary Agreement can be provided. The Supplementary Agreement can be uploaded in the Participant Portal. If technical difficulties occur, please get in touch with the project officer.
There is a template available online:
https://erc.europa.eu/sites/default/files/document/file/h2020-erc-suppl-aggr_en.docx