EURAM E-News, Quarterly, June 2020

The field of Management in the ERC Grant Scheme

As management scholars, we generally tend to feel that management research does not get proper attention and funding from public agencies and bodies, including the EU Commission. We observe that our domain is still most often aggregated to economics. We also observe that most selection committees covering the field of management are controlled by economists who, we fear, orientate funding towards economics away from management through some form of selection bias. Further, we hear that fields of social sciences related to management research (such as economics, sociology, psychology, anthropology) perceive us as easily and significantly funded by Industry. In other words, not only are we accused of being under the influence if not the control of Business, we would also be seen as extensively funded by the private sector, thus not in real need of public research money. As we know, this is wrong to a large extent but remains deeply rooted in some minds. This may lead, in our view, to the legitimization of selection biases from social scientists sitting in committees covering management topics. We usually further argue that the result of the above is a very low incentive for management researchers to submit proposals to agencies and funding bodies. As we see it, a vicious circle is at work: low prospect, low submission numbers, low number of projects funded. QED.

The above line of reasoning seems to be widely shared in our community. Yet, is it empirically grounded? Are we not jointly ruminating anecdotal pieces of evidence that we bring together from our individual experiences?

I put our case to Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, the ERC president. (He left his position end of December but kindly accepted to dig into the matter even just before leaving). As you know the ERC funds frontier research. For decades, and because research was not a shared responsibility of the EU until 2007, the European Commission left it to member States to fund fundamental (upstream) research and focused its research funding on networks to enhance cohesion and on pre-competitive applied research to contribute to wealth creation. This was done under the Framework Programmes. This lasted until 2007 when the ERC was created after much debates. The 8th Framework Programme bears the name of Horizon 2020. The next one will be called Horizon Europe.

The ERC funds four categories of grants: Starting grants (for young scientists 2 to 7 years after PhD completion; up to 1,5 M€ over 5 years), Consolidator grants (7 to 12 years after PhD; up to 2 M€ over 5 years), Advanced grants (for senior scientists; up to 2,5 M€ over 5 years) and Synergy grants (for 2 to 4 scientists without restrictions of affiliation in a Member State or an Associated country, with the possibility for one of them to come from a country outside the European Research Area; up to 10 M€ over 6 years). It also supports ERC grantees with Proofs-of-concept (smaller grants up to 150 k€) to help them bring their research results get closer to markets or to societal needs The bulk of the ERC funding goes to grants under the responsibility of individual scientists. The full ERC scheme reached 2b€ per year in 2019, and 2.2 b€ in 2020. Since 2007, ERC received about 90000 submissions and funded about 9500 projects of which almost half were Starting grants. This is quite remarkable.

The ERC president kindly accepted to have his ERCEA team look at submissions to ERC by management researchers, and the results of the selection process.

Here are the main findings of the investigation that his team conducted on the matter. (Unless indicated otherwise, typically “in italics with quotes”, the wording is mine: I am thus the only one to be blamed for the formulation and interpretation).

1-Management scientist submissions essentially fall under the SH1 category. Below is the total number per year of proposals submitted (in blue) and funded (in red) for the three main categories (Starting/Consolidator/ Advanced) of SH1: since 2007 for Starting grants and Advanced grants and since 2013 for Consolidator grants.


Read full version: EURAM E-News, Quarterly, June 2020


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