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Women win biggest-ever share of ERC Consolidator grants

Image: European Research Council

Germany and UK share bragging rights as top hosts of latest mid-career awards

The European Research Council, the EU’s top funder of basic research, has awarded 37 per cent of the latest round of its mid-career Consolidator Grants to women—the largest-ever share, it said.

The ERC also announced on 9 December that women had a higher success rate for the round, with 14.5 per cent of female applicants winning funding versus 12.6 per cent of men.

Consolidator grants are awarded to individual researchers with 7-12 years of postdoctoral experience, based on the scientific excellence of the project they propose.

The 2020 round awarded €655 million to 327 researchers. Italians won 47 awards, making them the most successful nationality, while the UK and Germany topped the hosting table, with each to host 50 winning researchers.

Funded researchers will work on areas including the role of vaccination in combating unpredictable infectious diseases, and collective memories of historic empires.

The ERC’s interim president, Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, used the occasion to remind EU leaders that funding such work requires the ERC to be allocated a big enough budget. “Europe must stick to the vision of investing in frontier research, which has proved time and again its crucial added value,” he said.

This sentiment was echoed by the Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities, which on 9 December became the latest university group to insist that the €4 billion top-up politicians have agreed for Horizon Europe, the EU’s 2021-27 R&D programme, should bolster instruments for funding excellent science, including the ERC.

Politicians are due to decide on 10 December how the €4bn should be allocated. The Guild referred to a 2018 ERC grant that funded Uğur Şahin, whose work contributed to the development of one of the first Covid-19 vaccines. “The return on this investment of €2.5m is incalculable,” it said.