The novelties and the new calls of the European Research Council 2024 Work Programme
It has been officially adopted by the European Commission last week, with a budget of around €2.2 billion for grants
The new European Research Council (ERC) 2024 Work Programme, with a budget of around €2.2 billion for grants, has been officially adopted by the European Commission last Monday, July 10th 2023. While following the same lines and principles that previous work programmes, the ERC 2024 calls introduce some important changes, as announced by the ERC Scientific Council, which will have to be considered to prepare a successful proposal in the upcoming opportunities.
In the first place, while the sole criterion for evaluation of ERC proposals will keep on being the scientific excellence that has become the hallmark of this competitive calls, this ERC Work Programme defines the ground-breaking nature, ambition, and feasibility of the research project as the primary focus of the evaluation. On the other hand, Curriculum Vitae and Track Record of the applicant have now been merged in a single document which will have to be submitted to prove the intellectual capacity, creativity, and commitment of the Principal Investigator (PI), but with an emphasis on demonstrating the required scientific expertise and capacity to successfully execute the project.
“The message is clear. In its pursuit to fund excellent science, the ERC will prioritize high-quality high-impact disruptive projects pursuing ambitious and challenging goals. Thus, the PI profile that candidates showcase will have to focus on the perfect alignment between the research project and their capabilities, rather than being a compilation of decontextualized achievements” says Germán Zango, leader of the Science&Education Area and ERC expert at Zabala Innovation.
In addition, the ERC Scientific Council announced some modifications in the primary panel structure in the Life Sciences and Social Sciences and Humanities domains to ensure the coverage of all fields of research in a whole science approach and reflect the evolving nature of disciplines and interdisciplinarity considerations. Apart from modifications in several descriptors, main changes include a new evaluation panel SH8 Studies of Cultures and Arts that has been added to encompass proposals focused on social anthropology, studies of cultures, and studies of arts, and the renaming of panel LS3 Cell Biology, Development, Stem Cells and Regeneration.
Phases and filters
Another highly anticipated change concerns the evaluation procedure that will be implemented in Starting, Consolidator and Advanced Grants calls. Due to the very high number of full research proposals that the evaluation panels had to assess in previous calls, with their corresponding interview with each PI, the new Work Programme has limited to at most 44 the number of proposals per panel that will be admitted to step 2 of the process. As a result, a distinction will be made between proposals with a score A and invited to the interview step, and those with a score A but not selected for this second evaluation step. The good news is that this will not affect the eligibility for future calls of those candidates whose proposals are scored A at step 1 of the evaluation, but not taken to interview, who will be allowed to submit a proposal in the following year.
Finally, another novelty introduced in this call as a pilot will be the use of lump sum funding for Advanced Grants, which will be awarded as a fixed up-front contribution for the entirety of the project with the aim at simplifying their financial management. Following the use and expansion of this payment scheme in other Work Programmes of Horizon Europe, payments will be based on the work carried out and reported, upon completion of the activities in work packages. Thus, the payment of lump sums will not depend on the actual costs incurred for the project or of the successful outcome of the project activities, which are never certain in research, and specially in ground-breaking and challenging projects such as those funded by the ERC grants.
“This funding mechanism will grant higher flexibility to those experienced PIs to use and distribute the ERC contribution the way they consider best to fulfill the commitments they agreed with the EC, allowing them to fully focus on the implementation of their outstanding research projects” explains Germán Zango.
ERC 2024 calls launched
Following the official announcement of the 2024 Work Programme, the ERC Scientific Council has already confirmed the indicative calendar and budget of the 2024 ERC calls:
- ERC Starting Grants. The 2024 call is already open from July 11th 2023, and the deadline to submit applications will extend to October 24th 2023, with an estimated allocated budget of €601 million.
- ERC Consolidator Grants. The 2024 call is expected to open September 12th 2023, and the deadline to submit applications will extend to December 12th 2023, with an estimated allocated budget of €584 million.
- ERC Advanced Grants. The 2024 call is expected to open May 29th 2024, and the deadline to submit applications will extend to August 29th 2024, with an estimated allocated budget of €578 million.
- ERC Synergy Grants. The 2024 call is already open from July 12th 2023, and the deadline to submit applications will extend to November 8th 2023, with an estimated allocated budget of €400 million.