Tips for applying for EU research Funding – ERC Grants

European Union funding for research is an attractive option.
Looking for European Union Research Funding? Try Mendeley Funding!

By Seema Sharma


Horizon 2020 is the EU’s current research, innovation and development framework, offering €80 billion in grant funding to researchers over a seven year period (2014-2020). It differs from its forerunner, FP7, in that it combines all funding directives into a single programme for innovation, education and R&D. The framework splits the majority of the assigned fund available between three areas: excellent science (€24.4 billion), industrial leadership (€17 billion) and societal challenges (€29.7 billion). There are a few areas outside of these, for example — science with and for society, and spreading excellence and widening participation.

The main aim of the European Commission, when outlining the new programme was to simplify and streamline the funding and application processes. One additional goal was to cut decision times on successful applications from an average of a year to eight months. The Horizon 2020 scheme provides a 100% reimbursement of direct costs for research projects and a 25% refund of indirect costs.

Useful background for applying for EU funding

To apply for funding, researchers much go through the open calls for proposals, submitting their project electronically and adhere to the deadlines stipulated. Some applications involve a two-stage submission with a short proposal initially, which if successful, will require a further full proposal.

In order to apply, your organisation needs to be registered and have a 9-digit Participant Identification Code (PIC). All current open calls for proposals are available on the participants portal, where you can perform an advanced search by topic.

Applications are open to those outside Europe, and researchers with a non-EU nationality are encouraged to apply, however the calls for proposals state that the research institution where the project is carried out must either be established in an EU Member State or an associated country, or it may be an International European Interest Organisation (e.g CERN, EMBL, etc.). Further information on what count as associated countries are listed here. You can also direct general enquiries to the National Contact Point in your country.

As an example of the grants available, we’ll be covering the stages of applying for European Research Council (ERC) grants that fall under the ‘excellent science’ category of EU research call for proposals. ERC grants constitute a significant pooled budget of over €13 billion in funding.

Available ERC grants

ERC grant funding covers any individual research projects that are pioneering in frontline research, for example the life sciences, physical sciences and engineering and social sciences. They emphasise that their main selection criteria is the scientific excellence of the researcher and the project. They also prioritise projects with high risk but high gain potential. Currently, five types of grants are available.

  • ERC Starting Grant. This is an award of up to €2M with the criteria that you must have completed your PhD., 2-7 years before the publication date of the grant call. In addition, you must have at least one key publication in a high-ranking journal without the help of your PhD supervisor.
  • ERC Consolidation Grant. This follows on from the Starting Grant and has an award of up to €75M, aimed at those who completed their PhD., 7-12 years prior to applying. Grant criteria stipulate that the researcher should have gained an excellent track record and shown independence and research maturity, with several high-impact publications under their belt.
  • ERC Advanced Start Grant. This is subsequent to the Consolidation Grant, based on increasing levels of research experience. Here applicants must have a significant track record of research achievement gained in the last 10 years. The award is for up to €5M.
  • ERC Proof of Concept Grant. In order to qualify for this fourth type of grant, you must have previously received an award from the ERC. Additionally, you must demonstrate that you have research outputs that can be turned into a valuable commercial or social proposition. If successful, the grant award is up to €150M in value.
  • ERC Synergy Grant. Unlike the other grants that are aimed at an individual researcher applying, synergy grants are available for 2-4 Principal Investigators to collaborate on ambitious projects. The individual PI’s must have either an excellent early track record or more significant experience in the form of a 10 year record of achievement. The maximum award is for €10M to cover a 6 year period. Additional funding is available for PI’s needing to move to the EU as part of the proposal, equipment and access to facilities. This grant is currently on hold and will be re-introduced for 2018.

All grants awarded cover up to 5 years of research and aim to cover all of the direct costs of the project.

Tips on applying for an ERC grant

The administrative and summary forms required to apply for an ERC grant are straight-forward, although they may seem lengthy. It is essential to read the information for applicants for the specific ERC grant you are applying for (see the links at the end of the blog). Leave plenty of time so you can prepare each section with due care and attention. Also, its important to allow time for colleagues to review your application before you submit. Successful applicant researchers we spoke to spent between 3 months to 1 year preparing their ERC grant.

There are two stages to submitting the application. The first section (B1) consists of a 5 page synopsis of the project, with an accompanying 2 page CV and a track record document. Note that in the initial stage, this is all that is seen by the reviewing panel and they base their full decision on it, so it has to be outstanding.

Each panel normally consists of 10-15 experts in your field and they may not be in your direct area of expertise, so aim for clarity and concise statements on the significance of the project for a lay research audience. They are looking for individuals that demonstrate a rigorous scientific approach and management skills.

Include succinct objectives, as well as details of the scientific feasibility of the project with some preliminary data. Use this section to balance out the high risk, high gain aspects of the research. Your CV should be compelling and informative, and together with your track record showcase your expertise and excellence in your research field.

At this first stage the panel evaluates your proposal and grades your application A, B or C. Only those applications that receive an A grade are deemed high quality and will progress to the second stage. In past years one quarter of all application received a grade A to make it through to the second stage.

It is at this point the second part of your application (B2) is taken into consideration. This consists of a fifteen page explanation of your project. This must include detailed objectives, methodology and resources, including time commitments and budget. Make sure you include details of the team members involved and what they will be doing. Make the reviewers task easier by breaking up the prose with relevant figures and data.  Again, ensure you have plenty of time to prepare this part of the application. Get colleagues to review it and use any support available to you — for example your institutes grant office, to help.

If you’re successful for the first stage of the application, you are also invited to an interview in Brussels, where you give a ten minute presentation about your project. Advanced preparation with plenty of rehearsal is key to achieving the clarity the panel are looking for. Successful candidates we spoke too had spent a month preparing and rehearsing the presentation in front of peers. Preempt any doubts that may arise over scientific weaknesses in the project by explaining how you will deal with them. Ensure you provide preliminary data and demonstrate how you would problem-solve if any road blocks occurred. Project your enthusiasm and commitment to the project to the panel. Finally, the panel are looking for a certain degree of honesty, so do not be tempted to over-stress the scientific impact of your work.

Based on your B2 form and interview, your final application will be evaluated and graded A if it is excellent enough to be funded. On average, 40% of grants meet the ERC’s excellence criterion and receive a grant award at this second stage.

Good luck with your application!


  • Leave plenty of preparation time
  • Your synopsis (B1) form is crucial in the decision to get to stage 2
  • Ensure you get colleagues and peers in adjacent fields to review before you submit
  • Demonstrate outstanding knowledge of your scientific field
  • Show time commitment and an exceptional track record
  • Rehearse your interview

Useful links

EU participants portal, current calls for action,

ERC 2018 work programme

ERC information for applicants to Starting Grant and Consolidation Grant

ERC Information for applicants Synergy Grant

EU grant eligible ‘associated countries’

National Contact Point Portal

Need Funding Opportunities? Mendeley Users: visit Mendeley FundingMore Information

Mendeley Brainstorm – Quantum Computing – We Have a Winner!

Is quantum computing ready for prime time?

Many thanks to all those who entered the Mendeley Brainstorm related to Quantum Computing; picking a winner was not easy, however in the end, we selected Rui Santos’s post:

Revolution, as a concept itself, implies a shift in the until now set paradigm of thinking and doing. As offered now, computing runs the output scenario in either ones or zeros. Computation power per second has been increased by augmenting transistor abundance in a chip and by decreasing their size – up to 10nm in some mobile device’s chips nowadays! That’s pretty impressive! But these are still increments – evolution within the same thinking. Ironically, transistors are getting so small, that to regulate them, we actually have to take in account quantum mechanics! Differently, quantum processors function by creating a third state, in which a qubit can be either a zero or a one simultaneously. While a discrete system can only be one thing at the time, a quantum system is all things all the time. If that’s not a revolution what is? The evolution is getting them working at room temperature.

We asked Rui where the inspiration for this post sprang from:

I love technology and although it is not my working area, i like to keep in check the new gadgets that are announce, like a new smartphone. I like to know the geeky details about their processors and technologies the equipments use that are so fantastic and still, very little of us thing about the huge amount of computing power that nowdays we have at the tip of our fingers. We keep forgetting that our current smartphone is thousand times or maybe millions times more powerful than the chips on board of the Apollo rocket missions!

I always enjoy debating about what may come next, and i truly believe quantum computing will revolutionate the way we see and program machines but also their output. I believe it can be a better future if so we desire.

Rui added:

I also want to take the time to thank you and the Mendeley team about the software you provide. I use Mendeley as my daily reference manager. As a PhD student i really need to keep track of publications but also to make my references in reports, papers or monographies. I have synced through multiple devices including my phone and tablet. I simply love Mendeley and always suggest it to whoever asks me about a reference manager. Once again, thank you.

You’re welcome, Rui!

Thanks again to all our participants.

Why Researchers Love Mendeley

The core of Mendeley’s expanding ecosystem is its reference manager; researchers find it a convenient tool to organize their library, read and annotate, write and cite.

Reference Manager is available on desktop (Windows, Mac and Linux), web and mobile devices (iOS and Android).

You can also import papers, web pages and other documents directly into your reference library from search engines and academic databases. Mendeley Web Importer is available for all major web browsers.

The Mendeley citation plugin allows you to cite seamlessly without leaving your word processor (Microsoft Word and LibreOffice). We are introducing new citation styles which will better support researchers in the Arts and Humanities.

Whether you are a senior researcher or just starting your academic career Mendeley enables you to manage your research, stay up to date, find a new role or a funding opportunity, and connect with colleagues.

Find Out What You’ve Missed: Use Mendeley and Stay Up to Date

It’s time to fire up the laptop and the app and get back to work.

The hazy, hot days of summer are behind us, and it’s time to fire up the app and the laptop, catch up on what one may have missed whilst on the beach, and get back to work. With so much information being generated on a daily basis, it can be a daunting task to get on top of several months’ worth of new information.

Mendeley makes that process easier.  We have great features which make it more convenient than ever to stay up to date.


Researchers have come to rely on Mendeley Suggest: as you add documents to your reference manager, Suggest learns what topics may be of interest to you and provides additional articles. The more documents you add, the more Suggest refines its recommendations.


If you are kicking off a new project, why not try using a Mendeley Group to share full-text articles with up to 25 collaborators? Article highlights, annotations and notes within private groups are synchronised to all group members, which is a convenient method to ensure context.


Mendeley Feed provides a convenient way to stay up-to-date with the latest information about your work or field of interest. Start by building your follower network; you can post news links and upload documents of interest as you find items worth sharing with your peers.

A great new feature of Mendeley Feed that you may have missed: You can now easily keep track of new publications authored by your collaborators. Simply link up your Scopus profile to your Mendeley account and we will post to your Feed whenever any of your co-authors publish something new.


You can manage your library, read and annotate documents on the go with the Mendeley Mobile apps for iOS and Android.

We have enhanced the features of the Mendeley Mobile app, making it easier than ever to stay up to date no matter where you are.  Via the app, you can post status and drop comments onto the news feed.  Greater mobile functionality will become available over the autumn months.

Get productive with Mendeley

The transition from summer to autumn, from t-shirts to cardigans, from bathing trunks to full backpacks, will always be a dramatic shift.  But thanks to Mendeley’s features, it can be a productive time as well.

Introducing Elsevier DataSearch – Beta Two

Elsevier DataSearch has been updated and improved.


Elsevier DataSearch ( is a data search engine that allows scientists and researchers to search for many different data types and formats across a variety of domain-specific and cross-domain institutional data repositories and other data sources. Results display datasets in a unified way to facilitate finding relevant and useful research data, and allowing users to quickly preview and assess data in-situ before viewing in the destination repository.  By generating previews of the actual data inline (e.g., spreadsheets, images, interactive maps, etc.), DataSearch helps users scan through multiple potentially interesting datasets much faster.  DataSearch indexes both metadata and data to facilitate the matching of queries to objects described in the research.

DataSearch is one of the complementary offerings in Elsevier’s Mendeley Data Platform for Institutions.

Beta Two

After the initial launch in June 2016, we gathered feedback from users to make iterative improvements in the search experience, especially around relevancy and ranking.  Users can also facet by data type, data source, data source type and publication date. Development is in progress to soon allow users to facet by subject classification, based on Elsevier’s OmniScience taxonomy.

Data sources covered by DataSearch now include:

Many more data sources will be added in the coming months, including life sciences repositories.

If you would like to have your institution’s data repository, local data and /or local active data indexed by DataSearch, please contact us at


DataSearch has a “Pull” API that allows users to embed DataSearch results and data previews in their applications. Development is in progress for a “Push” API that will soon allow any repository to push data directly to DataSearch to make it discoverable and previewable.

Webinar Series for Researchers now in German and French

Researchers are working hard, but what does the internet think of what they do?

Researchers are working hard to achieve results that matter. But what happens to the scientific output, and how does it receive attention? Since the beginning of this year, Elsevier provides PlumX Metrics. These metrics measure the awareness and attention your research receives online. In our first webinar of the series, we want to demonstrate how PlumX Metrics are used, and give you a crash course on alternative metrics.

Join the webinar: “What does the internet think about your research? Alternative metrics to measure research output”:

In German: Scopus Bootcamp – Was denkt das Web über Ihre Forschung? Alternative Metriken zur Messung von Forschungsoutput.”

25 September 2017, 11:30-12:00 CEST


–          Christina Lohr, Product Manager, Research Products

–          Eva Podgorsek, Customer Consultant

–          Anja Zimmermann, Customer Consultant

Register Now

In French: Qu’est-ce que le Web dit de vos publications de recherche ? Des alternatives pour mesurer leur impact.

26 September 2017, 11:30-12:00 CEST

Speaker: Anne-Catherine Rota, Relations Instiutionnelles, Research Intelligence

Register Now

Can’t make the live event? You can still register and you will be notified once the webinar recordings are available!


New webinar on research careers

August is a good time of year for researchers to contemplate their next career move.

Depending on where you are in the world, the month of August can mean the start of a new semester or the lead up to a whole new academic year. Either way, it’s a good time to begin thinking about your next career move. Whether you’re a PhD or postdoc looking for the next academic opportunity, or an adjunct looking to take a leap of faith into a career in industry, Publishing Campus’ upcoming webinar will offer the guidance you need.

Join academic careers book author Natalie Lundsteen & Mendeley Careers product manager Heather Williams for a 40-minute webinar including presentations and Q&A on 24 August, at 1 pm UTC/3 pm CEST/ 9 am EDT.

Can’t make the live event? Register online to be notified once the webinar recording is available!

Make a Career in Research

24 August, at 1 pm UTC/3 pm CEST/ 9 am EDT

Speakers: Dr. Natalie Lundsteen, Assistant Dean for Career and Professional Development & Assistant Professor of Psychiatry in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Heather Williams, Sr. Product Manager for Mendeley Careers.

Register now