The Young Academy of Sweden has interviewed successful researchers in several countries about how to obtain funding from ERC. Based on the answers, we have compiled a new report where we address four recommendations to the government, research funders, and universities on how to strengthen Sweden's success in ERC and Swedish research.

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Signatories: Mia Liinason, Chair, Ewa Machotka, Member, and Jessica Jewell, Member. Photo: Erik Thor/YAS, Magnus Kårdal, Udo Shloegl

The full article in Tidningen Curie (Swedish): Four things that strengthen Sweden's successes in ERC

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Funding from ERC is one of the most prestigious grants a researcher can receive. For the individual researcher, it often provides fantastic opportunities to develop their research and build their scientific career, which in turn strengthens Sweden as a research nation.

But Sweden could perform better in the ERC. Several commendable efforts are currently being made to improve the conditions for those seeking funding from ERC, but these efforts are fragmented and insufficient. For more researchers in Sweden to be able to apply for and receive ERC grants, a range of short and long-term measures are needed, and they need to be implemented by various actors. Our recommendations are:

  1. Strengthen support for researchers writing ERC applications. We propose that both universities and funders provide seed funding. This is common in other countries and enables researchers to develop and improve their proposals through, for example, pilot studies and increased research time. The government should also strengthen the resources for the National Contact Point (NCP) for ERC so that applicants and universities have increased access to high-quality information, advice, and training.
  2. Create favourable conditions for host environments for ERC projects. Indirect costs (overhead costs) do not seem to be a concern in other countries to the same extent as in Sweden. We recommend that the government take action to ensure that indirect costs beyond the 25 per cent funded by ERC do not hinder applications. We also suggest that universities and research funders collaborate to review the existing model for indirect costs, the so-called SUHF model, intending to increase transparency and incentives for applying to ERC. We emphasize the importance of universities introducing incentives that create favourable host environments, drive quality, and support risk-taking.
  3. Ensure good access to unrestricted research funding. To increase the capacity for groundbreaking research of the highest quality at Swedish universities, the government and research funders need to increase the proportion of unrestricted funds for researcher-initiated projects in all subject areas. In turn, universities must ensure that researchers have good conditions to conduct their research and that there is time and resources to develop innovative ideas.
  4. Promote the development of strong research environments with international networks. This requires investment in researcher mobility and recruitment. The government must facilitate migration processes and improve conditions for foreign researchers. Funders should strengthen support for mobility and universities need to invest in long-term and attractive career paths for younger researchers, as well as attract research talent internationally and provide conditions for academic leadership.

The article is signed by:

Mia Liinason, Chair
Ewa Machotka, Member and Project Leader for the Report
Jessica Jewell, Member and Report Author

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