ERC Starting Grant 2017: How well did the UK do?

The UK has been awarded 79 grants in the latest round of Starting Grants for the prestigious European Research Council, more than any other EU country. Germany, who won more grants than the UK in 2016, was awarded 67 this year, followed by France (53) and the Netherlands (35).


The ERC is part of Horizon 2020, the 8th EU framework programme for Research and Innovation, which started in 2014 and finishes in 2020. Each ERC starting grant provide up to €1.5 million to the recipient for a period of 5 years.


A special congratulations goes to London Higher Europe Member, Brunel University. Dr Liana Chua, a researcher at the institution, won a grant for her project: ‘GLO-Refiguring Conservation in/for 'the Anthropocene': The Global Lives of the Orangutan.’


The context in which the UK has won these grants is important to bear in mind. Across the sector there has been widespread concern that, despite the UK Government’s underwriting of Horizon 2020 grants post-Brexit, fewer deserving projects by UK-based researchers would be funded. This round of awards confirms evidence from last year (link to previous article) that the ERC has been spared any negative ‘Brexit effect’.


Obviously mobility and nationality of researchers in this context deserves some attention. The UK has always ‘punched above its weight’ in terms of the research environment offered to academics of all nationalities, this is reflected in the fact that UK nationals themselves have never been the largest group awarded ERC grants, but UK institutions have frequently been the largest beneficiaries. The UK relies on its ability to attract talented researchers from the EU and beyond, by creating an excellent environment to conduct ground-breaking research.


Having said this it is still worth bearing in mind that, overall, there was a rise in the number of British national grantees to 31, an increase of almost 50% from last year. The numbers of grantees from other European countries staying in the UK to carry out their research has stayed roughly the same. These figures are encouraging, suggesting that excellent academics are still getting well-deserved recognition despite Brexit. Most importantly the UK continues to offer a world-class cluster of Higher Education Institutions, and remains deeply connected to European Research and Innovation as a tool for solving some of the biggest global challenges that exist today


Link to ERC announcement: