The European Research Council is a part of Horizon 2020, the EU framework programme for research and innovation. In addition to supporting excellent researchers within the EU, ERC wants to entice prominent researchers from outside the EU into moving their operations to the EU. The total budget for 2016 was almost 1.7 billion euro.

“What is special about the ERC is that the research should be pioneering and ‘high risk’. They talk about high risk/high gain. Excellence in research is the only evaluation criterion. There are projects for which the evaluators are uncertain whether or not the objectives will be achieved, but they believe it is exciting enough to try,” says Ulla Jungmarker from the Research Support Office, who works with ERC Starting Grants and Consolidator Grants.

The ERC grants are extensive, with up to five years of funding worth 1.5-2.5 million euro. They enable researchers to build ambitious projects from scratch and recruit the necessary staff. It is also possible to transfer the grant to another university or organisation within the EU. 

Two-step application process

“The application process is divided into two steps. Two applications should be submitted: one that is aimed at both generalists and specialists, and one that is only aimed at specialists. For those who apply for a Starting Grant or Consolidator Grant and go through to the next round, the next step is an interview in Brussels. In preparation for this, we offer interview training where a senior researcher with experience of the ERC, as well as a researcher who has previously been awarded the grant, will ask difficult questions. This has been highly appreciated,” says Ulla Jungmarker.

The Research Support Office provides various types of support to researchers who are interested in applying for ERC grants. In addition to organising information sessions, they provide individual support where researchers can discuss their research idea and application. See the fact box for more examples of support provided by the Office.

22 grants to the University

Since the start in 2007, 22 researchers at Stockholm University have received ERC grants, two of whom, Maja Schlüter and Torsten Persson, have received a grant twice. At the same time, we should be aware that many researchers who have received ERC grants have applied in the past and been rejected, says Lars Emrén.

“It is good to be prepared for the fact that you might have to apply several times before you receive a grant.


  • to start in good time and contact the Research Support Office early;
  • to write the first part for the right audience, i.e. for both generalists and specialists;
  • to give equal attention to the two project descriptions so that both are adequately thorough;
  • to highlight the right qualities in the CV and “Ten year track”.

Examples of support provided by the Research Support Office

  • Discussions of the research idea and the chances of receiving an ERC grant;
  • Tips and advice on how to design an ERC application;
  • Examples of abstracts from successful applications in your field;
  • Individual consultations with an external consultant to review your draft application;
  • Discussions of the choice of evaluation panel for ERC applications;
  • Feedback on drafts and project budgets;
  • Assistance with the required letter of support (after gaining the support of the head/director);
  • Interview training;
  • Help with reports and audits.