ERC grants: what's in it for researchers in China?

Categories: News | ERC

Tags: ERC | ERC grants

Are you a brilliant researcher with an innovative project in mind? Are you looking for support and funding to develop your ground-breaking idea?

The European Research Council (ERC) provides long-term grants to individual researchers from all over the world to fund high-risk/high gain pioneering projects in any field of frontier research.

A total of 872 researchers from countries other than those of the European Research Area (ERA), that includes EU Member States and Associated Countries, have been funded by the ERC since its founding, representing 8% of all grantees. Among them, 53 are Chinese researchers.

The ERC calls are published annually on the Participant Portal. They fund five-year-projects in public or private research organisations based in the countries of the ERA and covering up to 100% of total eligible direct costs.

Learn more about the funding schemes available and how to prepare a competitive application for ERC grants during our upcoming free of charge webinar on Tuesday 15 September 2020, 17:00-18:00 Beijing time.



The ERC's mission is to encourage the highest quality research in Europe through competitive funding and to support investigator-driven frontier research across all fields, on the basis of scientific excellence.

Facts and figures

  • The ERC represents 17% of the overall Horizon 2020 budget, i.e € 13.1 billion (2014-2020)
  • Since 2007, more than 9,500 projects have been selected for funding
  • ERC grantees have won prestigious prizes, including 7 Nobel Prizes, 4 Fields Medals, 5 Wolf Prize and more
  • Over 150,000 articles published in scientific journals were reported so far
  • Over 6,100 articles are among the top 1% highly cited according to Scopus data 2018
  • Each ERC grantee employs on average six team members, thus contributing to train a new generation of excellent researchers. Currently over 70,000 postdocs, PhD students and other staff working in their research teams.
  • More than 70-80% of projects assessed by an independent study made scientific breakthroughs or major advances, whilst about 25% of them made contributions that are incremental (latest study).

ERC main funding schemes

ERC grants are becoming more and more internationally recognised as awards for scientific excellence. Research projects funded by the ERC can last up to five years and can cover frontier research in any scientific domain, including social sciences, humanities and interdisciplinary studies.

Researchers from China, independently of their current place of work, can apply for all the main ERC grants:


- ERC Starting Grants: up to 2 million Euro for young, early-career top researchers with 2-7 years of experience since completion of PhD.

- ERC Consolidator Grants: up to 2.75 million Euro for independent excellent scientists with 7-12 years of experience since completion of PhD.


- ERC Advanced Grants: up to 3.5 million Euro for active researchers who have a track-record of significant research achievements in the last 10 years.

Under the existing bilateral scheme (Implementing Arrangement) of the ERC with China, there is opportunity for scientists supported by the National Natural Science Foundationto conduct short-term study visits of ERC-funded research teams in Europe. If you are moving to the ERA countries, you can apply for additional funding, which can total up to €2 million for a Starting Grant (instead of €1.5 million for those already established in Europe), €2.75 million for a Consolidator Grant (instead of €2 million) and €3.5 million for an Advanced Grant (instead of €2.5 million).

Watch also the video “How I got my ERC grant? ERC grantee Dr. Ágnes Melinda Kovács explains!”

How to apply?

Applications can be submitted when an ERC call for proposals is opened. For successful applicants an agreement is then signed between the ERC and the institution that will host the research project ("Host Institution") in an EU Member State or an Associated Country.

The selection of proposals is done by highly recognised international peer review panels.

Both the application, granting and reporting processes are very straightforward and user-friendly. Furthermore, researchers have the possibility to change host institution in Europe in the course of your project if useful, as ERC grants are "portable": the money follows the researcher and is not linked to the initial host institution.

Read also the ERC Work programme published yearly and the ERC information for applicants.

Time to spend on the project

Researchers applying for ERC-funding must be strongly committed to the project and spend a significant amount of time on it, at least

• 50% for Starting Grants,

• 40% for Consolidator Grants,

• 30% for Advanced Grants.

Principal Investigators in Starting, Consolidator and Advanced Grants should spend at least 50% of their total working time in an EU Member State or Associated Country whilst carrying out the ERC-funded research.

Participation of team members and publication of vacancies

ERC grants support projects carried out by an individual researcher ('Principal Investigator') and his or her team. The constitution of the research teams is flexible and team members can be of any nationality, European or non-European, depending on the nature of a project.

Vacancies for team members interested in joining an ERC led research project, can be published on the EURAXESS Jobs portal.