The European Union, the European Commission and their affiliates, such as the European Research Council, have become major players in international research funding over the past decade. What do you need to know about taking your research proposals and your career to the next level via the EU or EC?
A major research funder.
The EU, the EC and their affiliated agencies and departments have become world powers in research funding. Projects in the hard sciences, social sciences, health and medicine are funded—and not just work targeted on the needs of EU member states. To get an idea of the scope of what gains funding, have a look at the magazines research*eu results and Horizon Research and Innovation (see Resources).
Funding is distributed in a number of ways. You can apply for a fellowship, chase a research grant, or submit a tender in response to calls covering specific topic areas. The Joint Research Centre, for example, hires staff on contract for some projects, distributes grant funding for others, and also runs a trainee scheme.
Experienced applicants agree: most of the forms required for EU and EC projects are long and painful, and you will not benefit from interpreting them creatively. Seek assistance from your university’s research support department, because you will need to put all information in specified formats, including maximum lengths. You’ll also need to pay close attention to requirements and preferences. Most calls attract hundreds of responses, and any deviation from the prescribed format will knock your application out of the running.
Typically the most successful applications are interdisciplinary and international. There is often a preference for partnership between Northern and Southern or Eastern European partners, or between European partners and global South. As you explore the possibilities, see whether subject organisations you are a member of or colleagues can help you find and vet potential co-applicants. There are several partner-search sites as well (see Resources).
Applications that show evidence of careful partner selection and collaborative working during the planning stage go further than those that appear to be driven by one dominant partner.
More ways to prepare.
You’ll need to register with ECAS (European Commission Authentication Service: see Resources) as a first step for many actions, and a EuroPASS CV is also a must. It will take a while, but you’ll also need to get to grips with the 1984-ish acronyms that pepper the speech of EU insiders.
It can also be helpful to attend EU-and EC-sponsored conferences, such as the various events that run as part of the Horizon 2020 framework (see Resources). These offer the perfect networking opportunity, as well as early information about coming plans and priorities.
You may also want to consider brushing up your linguistic skills. Most EU grant applicants from outside the UK speak two or more languages, and this can give them an advantage.
BILAT (Bilateral Cooperation in Science Technology Innovation): http://www.bilat.eu/index.php
CHAFEA (Consumers, Health, Agriculture and Food Executive Agency): http://ec.europa.eu/chafea/
CORDIS (Community Research and Development Information Service) and research*eu results magazine: http://cordis.europa.eu/home_en.html
Erasmus Mundus (higher education grants and scholarships, often focused on arts and humanities): http://eacea.ec.europa.eu/erasmus_mundus/index_en.php
European Commission, and Horizon Research and Innovation magazine: http://ec.europa.eu/research/index.cfm
European Research Council: https://erc.europa.eu/funding-and-grants
Horizon 2020 programme: http://ec.europa.eu/programmes/horizon2020/en
Joint Research Centre: http://recruitment.jrc.ec.europa.eu
Marie Curie actions (fellowships and grants): http://ec.europa.eu/research/mariecurieactions/funded-projects/how-to-manage/index_en.htm
Research & Innovation portal: http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/portal/desktop/en/home.html