The aim is to provide support for a small group of two to four Principal Investigators to jointly address ambitious research problems that could not be addressed by the individual Principal Investigators and their teams working alone. Synergy projects should enable substantial advances at the frontiers of knowledge, stemming, for example, from the cross-fertilization of scientific fields, from new productive lines of enquiry, or new methods and techniques, including unconventional approaches and investigations at the interface between established disciplines. The transformative research funded by Synergy Grants should have the potential of becoming a benchmark on a global scale.
Principal Investigators must demonstrate the ground-breaking nature, ambition and feasibility of their scientific proposal. Principal Investigators must also demonstrate that their group can successfully bring together the scientific elements necessary to address the scope and complexity of the proposed research question.
One of the Principal Investigators must be designated as the Corresponding Principal Investigator. At any one time, one Principal Investigator per Synergy Grant Group except the Corresponding one can be hosted or engaged by an institution outside of the EU or Associated Countries.
Size of ERC Synergy Grants
Synergy Grants may be awarded up to a maximum of EUR 10 000 000 for a period of 6 years. The maximum award is reduced pro rata temporis for projects of a shorter duration. This does not apply to ongoing projects.
However, up to an additional EUR 4 000 000 in total can be requested in the proposal to cover (a) eligible `start-up¿ costs for Principal Investigators moving to the EU or an Associated Country from elsewhere as a consequence of receiving the ERC grant and/or (b) the purchase of major equipment and/or (c) access to large facilities and/or (d) other major experimental and field work costs, excluding personnel costs. As any additional funding is to cover major one-off costs it is not subject to pro rata temporis reduction for projects of shorter duration. All funding requested is assessed during evaluation.
Profile of the ERC Synergy Grant Principal Investigators
The 'Synergy Grant Group' applying for the ERC Synergy Grant must be made up of a minimum of two and a maximum of four Principal Investigators with competitive track records and, as necessary, their teams.
Each Principal Investigator must present as part of the proposal either an early achievement track-record or a 10-year track-record, whichever is most appropriate for their career stage (see Starting, Consolidator and Advanced Grant profiles in the ERC Work Programme 2022). There is little prospect of an application succeeding in the absence of such a record.
A single submission of the full proposal will be followed by a three-step evaluation, including interviews of all the Principal Investigators. The evaluation will be conducted by means of a structure of dedicated panels. The panels may be assisted by independent experts working remotely. The composition of the panels at each step is not predefined but will be decided dynamically in relation to the proposals received.
At step 1:One panel is formed with approximately 85 panel members and chairs who will assess the extended synopsis of the scientific proposal (only Part B1 - and not the full scientific proposal) and the Principal Investigators¿ track records and CVs.
Proposals will be retained for step 2 based on the outcome of the evaluation at step 1 and a budgetary cut-off level of up to seven times the panel's indicative budget.
At step 2:Panel members from step 1 will be divided in five panels of around 17 experts each. They will assess the complete version of the retained proposals (Parts B1 and B2).
Proposals will be retained for step 3 based on the outcome of the evaluation at step 2 and a budgetary cut-off level of up to three times the panel's indicative budget.
At step 3:The interview panels (that may be reconfigured to ensure the best expertise for the proposals) will assess the complete version of the most competitive of the retained proposals (Parts B1 and B2) and all their Principal Investigators may be invited for an interview to present their project to a panel meeting in Brussels.
For all ERC frontier research grants, scientific excellence is the sole criterion of evaluation. It will be applied in conjunction to the evaluation of both:the ground-breaking nature, ambition and feasibility of the research project;and the intellectual capacity, creativity and commitment of the Principal Investigators. Synergy Grant Principal Investigators applying as part of a group for a Synergy Grant will be evaluated according to their individual career stage.
The peer reviewers will need to see that the collaborative working arrangements between the Principal Investigators described as part of the research methodology can ensure scientific excellence. The detailed evaluation elements applying to the excellence of the research project and the Principal Investigator are set out in the ERC Work Programme 2020.