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Independent study reaffirms high impact of ERC-funded projects

Image: Grace Eliz for Research Professional

Review commissioned by flagship funder finds four-fifths of projects achieved breakthroughs or major advances

An annual independent review carried out for the European Research Council has found that 81 per cent of projects backed by two of the funder’s main schemes had major impacts on their fields.

Since 2015, the ERC has commissioned an annual review of the projects it funds to track their impact and make sure it is achieving its goal of funding boundary-pushing research.

The latest review, which took place in 2020 and was published on 18 November, assessed 225 projects that ended between July 2017 and June 2018, which had been funded either through the Starting Grants programme for junior researchers or the Advanced Grants programme for established researchers.

It found that 18 per cent of projects were judged to have made a scientific breakthrough, while 63 per cent resulted in a less groundbreaking but still major scientific advance. The projects were judged by a panel of independent scientists, many of whom had participated in ERC evaluation panels.

The results are consistent with previous years, but the percentage of projects achieving either a breakthrough or a major advance has increased from 71 per cent in 2015 to 81 per cent in 2020.

Evaluators also judged that nearly half of the projects evaluated had an impact on non-scientific fields such as policymaking or industry. Such wider impact was more pronounced for Starting Grants than for Advanced Grants.