As Horizon Europe gets underway, we look back at Irish success in Horizon 2020 under the European Research Council calls

Posted: 25 March, 2021

Horizon 2020, the eighth framework programme for research and innovation of the European Union has drawn to a close. It marks Ireland’s most successful engagement with a European funding framework to date with nearly €1.1 billion secured across academia and industry.

The European Research Council (ERC) has played a major role Ireland’s succuss. With an allocation of €13.1 billion, 17% of the overall budget for Horizon 2020, the ERC’s role is to support all career stages of investigator-driven frontier research across all fields. Awards are granted based on scientific excellence through their suite of programmes: Starting, Consolidator, Advanced, Proof of Concept and Synergy. Approximately 9,500 grants were supported through the ERC programmes under Horizon 2020, amounting to over 70,000 team members made up of doctoral students, post-doctoral researchers and support staff.

At the outset of Horizon 2020 Ireland set an ambitious target of securing €100 million in ERC funding, this target was stretched to €125 million as Ireland continued to outperform expectations. At the close of Horizon 2020 this year, Ireland had secured a final total of €142.5 million. Over 108 ERC awards have been announced to date, with the results of the final Advanced Grant 2020 yet to be released. ERC awards are among the most prestigious awards globally that a researcher can secure, with funding per project ranging from €1m to €10m. Irish higher education and research-performing institutions also benefit from the influx of European funding.

2020 saw a first for Ireland as Professors Poul Holm and Francis Ludlow from Trinity College Dublin became the first Irish awardees to win a prestigious ERC Synergy Grant as part of the tri-national programme 4-Oceans. The project, which partners with two additional universities in the UK and Portugal, represents the largest single ERC investment in a humanities and social sciences project in Ireland to date, and will assess the importance of marine life to human societies during the last two millennia.

In 2020, Ireland also experienced success in the ERC Starting Grants with three awards granted to Dr Alessandro Lunghi and Dr Claire Gillan from Trinity College Dublin; and Dr Lorna Lopez from Maynooth University. There were also eight Consolidator Grants awarded including: Dr Padraig Cantillon-Murphy, Dr Andrey Shkoporov and Professor Maria McNamara from University College Cork; Dr David O’Shaughnessy, Dr Thomas Chadefaux, Dr Marcus Collier, and Dr Stephen Dooley from Trinity College Dublin; and Dr Anne O’Connor from National University of Ireland, Galway.

The results of the 2020 Advanced Grants will be announced in the coming months and the latest Starting, Consolidator and Advanced Grants under the newly launched Horizon Europe (2021-2027) will open in February, March and May respectively.

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