Insights

ERC Advanced Grant: 10 Tips For Your Application

The ERC Advanced Grant is a prestigious funding opportunity designed to support established researchers in pursuing innovative, high-risk, and groundbreaking projects. To stand out in this competitive field, here are 10 tips and tricks:

Tip #1 Seize the Opportunity!

The applicants are expected to be active researchers with a track record of significant achievements in their field. However, there’s no strict eligibility criteria based on years of experience as the focus is on identifying leading, established PIs. In recent years, even mid-career researchers (12-17 years post-PhD) have been successful, with 18% winning grants in the 2023 round. If you have proven track-record of significant achievements and ambitious idea for research, go ahead and apply!

Tip #2 Demonstrate your Track Record and Intellectual Creativity

It’s crucial to highlight all aspects of your experience in the Track Record section in part B1 of the proposal. Showcase your outstanding track record in research excellence, including significant contributions such as publications, patents, and leadership roles. Emphasize your extensive experience and expertise in leading ambitious research projects, demonstrating your ability to manage complexity and drive innovation. Highlight your intellectual creativity and originality by showcasing how throughout your career you have introduced new concepts, methodologies, or paradigms. Also include a personal touch by describing, for example, why you are so passionate about your research topic and/or what drives you as a scientist.

Tip #3 Propose Bold, Ambitious Ideas for the Advanced Grant

With its Advanced Grant, the ERC is aiming to fund visionary projects that push the boundaries of current knowledge, potentially reshaping the field. Thus, take time to think out-of-the-box when designing your ambitious project and avoid work that sounds incremental. Focus on high-impact outcomes by clearly articulating how your project will advance knowledge and Convincingly articulate in the proposal that the ERC Advanced Grant is your key step towards the next phase of your research, enabling ambitious research that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.

Tip #4 Don’t Make it Purely High-risk

While the ERC evaluation criteria encourage high-risk projects, it’s important not to make your proposal purely high-risk. Your application needs to convince the evaluators of the project’s feasibility while aiming for ‘high risk-high gain’ aspects. So, ensure there’s a balance by, for example, including preliminary data in support of high-risk tasks. The proposal should spark curiosity and give evaluators the sense that ‘It would be amazing if this idea works’…! Show a thorough risk assessment and develop a mitigation plan to address any potential challenges.

Tip #5 Do Not Summarize B2 When Creating B1

Remember, in Step 1 of the evaluation, B1 will be reviewed by the panel members (who are not necessarily technical experts from your field), so avoid overly technical details and focus on conveying excellence and feasibility of the proposal. Avoid mere duplication of B2-text when preparing B1. Utilize both documents to convey different aspects: B1 for the bigger picture, ambition, emphasizing scientific and societal relevance; B2 for technical details, planning, including personnel, deliverables, and milestones. Essentially, B2 should convincingly demonstrate that the ambitious objectives mentioned in B1 are achievable in a timely manner through the appropriate use of resources, risk mitigation, and your technical expertise.

Tip #6 Use Multiple Resources to Get Ahead!

Leverage the ERC Datahub for gaining project insights, understanding the ERC standards, and foster interdisciplinary collaboration. Dive into previous projects’ data, grasp trends, to enhance your proposal. Check previous ERC Advanced Grant winners’ track record, project title scope etc. Investigate what kind of projects have been funded by the panels in the past, to provide clues about the panel’s thematic preferences and trends. Use 2023 statistics-  and 2023 winners- lists from previous years to inform your approach. Reach out to colleagues who have successfully secured an ERC Advanced Grant for their proposals. Analyze their approach for insights into successful strategies and formatting.

Tip #7 Be Strategic in your ERC Advanced Grant Panel Selection

Choose the right ERC panel and keywords as it could significantly influence your proposal’s evaluation. Examine abstracts of previously funded projects in your research domain for inspiration and effective techniques. Analyze their structure, clarity, and key elements to learn how to convey the novelty, significance, and feasibility of your research concisely and compellingly. Dive into the panel’s past composition, utilize relevant keywords and align your proposal with their preferences. This historical perspective helps in identifying which panel is best to target.

Tip #8 Be Persistent and Ask for Help!

Seek feedback from peers, mentors, and scientific experts in your field to strengthen your proposal. Take advantage of support offered by your host institute. Don’t be discouraged by rejections as awarded proposals have often been accepted after at least one round of resubmission. Feedback from ERC evaluators are often valuable for refining and resubmitting your proposal. Even if your project isn’t successful, this feedback can still benefit your research. Hence, it’s worth the effort to submit a good proposal!  , we offer tailored-made support to help you prepare a competitive ERC Advanced application.

Tip #9 Do not Ignore Budget Details

ERC evaluators carefully review budget allocation and justification for costs. ERC Advanced Grants operate on a Lump Sum Budget basis, where the full grant amount is paid in two instalments: 80% at the start and 20% upon completion, without the need for cost claims. Instead, you need to report on scientific progress and project implementation. Importantly, you can request for start-up costs related to relocating to the EU or an Associated Country, and major equipment purchases or access to large facilities. You can request up to €1 million additional budget in addition to maximum €2.5 million. In the 2022 round, 14% of awarded ERC advanced projects secured extra funding!

Tip #10 Be Prepared for the Interview!

Be prepared for questions on non-scientific aspects during the ERC interview. Expect detailed inquiries about budget allocation: for example, how you plan to spend on publishing costs, the number of papers you intend to publish, and your recruitment strategy. Anticipate questions on various aspects of budget utilization and project management to ensure a successful interview. At Catalyze, we offer tailored-made support to help you prepare for the ERC Advanced interview, including 1:1 coaching and mock interview training with our own ERC-expert panel.

Please do not hesitate to reach out if you are interested in our expertise and support. Catalyze has a strong track record in supporting ERC applicants. We offer tailored support on specific tasks, such as proposal reviews, portal administration, budget development, concept development via 1:1 coaching, interview preparation and ERC workshops.

Good luck!

 


 

ERC Advanced Grant: Further Reading

Read more about the ERC Advanced Grant

Learn about the European Research Council

Visit official ERC Advanced Grant webpage

 


 

This article was written by Helen Pothuizen, PhD, (Managing Consultant – Innovation Intelligence), and Mithila Burute, PhD, (Innovation Consultant)

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