The European Research Council, an autonomous branch of the European Union's executive body that offers competitive basic research funding, is piloting a new grant program to encourage collaborative, high-risk, high-reward research that is at least partially based in the European Union. Jose Labastida, head of the council's Scientific Management Department, described the new program this afternoon at the AAAS Annual Meeting in Vancouver.
Like its two existing grant programs aimed at junior investigators and more senior researchers, the new "synergy grants"
will require that at least 50% of the funded research be done at a host institution in a European Union Member State or an Associated State. Also like those awards, the council is intentionally leaving the criteria for the grants vague, asking only that the research be "excellent," Labastida said, as determined by members of a peer-review panel composed of experts from a wide range of disciplines.
However, unlike those earlier awards, the synergy grants require that research proposals have between 2 and 4 principal investigators and that the researchers make a dedicated effort to spending some of their time working in the same physical location. The grants are for between €10 million and €15 million (that is, from roughly $13 million to $20 million) over 6 years and are designed to foster "frontier research" that could only be accomplished by unorthodox collaborations between scientists, Labastida said.
How competitive is the program? Very. In its pilot phase, the program attracted 710 submissions, which will be evaluated during the spring. Labastida said that approximately 15 of these projects will be funded. That's a funding rate of about 2%.