Before familiarising yourself with the FAQ, please read through the application and evaluation guidelines. FAQ is not an official document and not all the important details have been covered here. The applications will be processed and evaluated only in accordance with the documents concluded by a directive of the Management of the Council.
- In the call of 2023, the priority is the development of the key areas of the Estonian Green Policy. However, this is not basis for qualification and the application can be still submited even if it is not connected to the key areas of the Estonian Green Policy.
- The key areas of the Estonian Green Policy are areas pointed out in the report compiled by the Green Policy Expert Group. These areas are energetics, knowledge-intensive and internationally competitive green economy, transport and mobility, sustainable food system, circular economy and waste, spatial planning and buildings, biodiversity, land use and valorisation of bioresources, and adaptation to climate change.
- The Evaluation Guidelines contain an additional evaluation criterion (“7. Contribution to the development of the key areas of the Estonian Green Policy “). This criterion is assessed on a 3-point scale (“Appropriate” – “4”; “Partially appropriate” – “2”; “Inappropriate” – “0”). The score of this criterion is used in ranking when there are applications of equal standing.
- The new maximum fixed amount of the proof-of-concept grant is 150,000 euros.
- Projects must start by 1.12.2023 at the latest.
- In justified cases, it is possible to extend the grant period for up to six months. The amount of the grant will no change if the grant period is extended.
- The evaluation process in this proof-of-concept grant call has a single stage and no preliminary applications are submitted.
- The principal investigator must be employed full-time at the institution and have a place of work in Estonia at the time of implementing the project.
Compiling the application
- What is the aim of the proof-of-concept grant?
The aim of the proof-of-concept grant is to enhance technology transfer, the application of research outcomes in entrepreneurship as well as in the society at large, and increase the societal and economic impact of research through supporting experimental development projects. The proof-of-concept grant is modelled on the Proof of Concept Grant of the European Research Council.
- Which are the research fields in which one can apply for the proof-of-concept grant?
It is possible to apply for the proof-of-concept grant in all six R&D fields, but the applications will be processed in, evaluated, and funded according to a single ranking list (i.e., there will not be field-specific ranking lists). In order to do all that, the Evaluation Committee of the Estonian Research Council (hereinafter Council) will form a proof-of-concept Expert Panel consisting of researchers from various fields as well as of entrepreneurs. In the call of 2023, the priority is the development of the key areas of the Estonian Green Policy.
- How many applications can be submitted?
One can simultaneously apply for only one proof-of-concept grant.
- Can the PI, a member of the senior research staff, or a member of the other research staff of another research project apply for the proof-of-concept grant?
The proof-of-concept grant is a separate funding instrument and therefore no restrictions apply to the applicants concerning their participation in another research project funded by ETAG.
- What is the grant period of the proof-of-concept grant and what does it mean that in justified cases it is possible to extend the period of the proof-of-concept grant for up to six months?
The grant period of the proof-of-concept grant one can apply for is one year.
In justified cases, it is possible to extend the grant period for up to six months. For example, in case it has been impossible to achieve the objectives of the project during the grant period due to a delay in receiving the ordered instruments or subcontracting services necessary for conducting experimental development activities. The amount of the grant will no change if the grant period is extended, but the grant money can be used until the end of the extended period. In order to request the extension of the grant period, the PI and the institution have to submit a justified request to the Council at least one month before the end of the grant period.
- How is the evaluation process of applications organised?
Each application will be given justified evaluations and scores by at least two independent reviewers. The Expert Panel will rely on the evaluations and scores of the reviewers when forming their own evaluations and scores, and submit them to the Evaluation Committee. The Evaluation Committee is responsible for giving each application its final evaluation and score and will do that by relying on the evaluations given by the Expert Panel. Based on the scores, the Evaluation Committee will compile a ranking list for all proof-of-concept applications and make the initial financing proposals.
- What has to be the technology readiness level (TRL) of the research outcomes on which the proof-of-concept project is based on?
The TRL of the research outcomes on which the proof-of-concept project is based on has to be at least 4 and not more than 6. A more detailed description of the TRL scale can be accessed here and the descriptions of TRL adapted for Social sciences, and Humanities and Arts here. The applications in which the TRL of the research outcomes is less than 4 or more than 6 do not qualify for applying for a proof-of-concept grant.
- What is meant by previous research?
Previous research includes the basic or applied research the applicant has conducted (as the PI, a member of the senior or other research staff of a research project). The applicant has to be the author of the publications and/or intellectual property items presenting the results of the research project on which the idea for the proof-of-concept project is based on.
- In which language do I have to fill in the preliminary and full application?
The application has to be filled in in Estonian. The application can be submitted in English if the applicant and/or the member(s) of the research team have no knowledge of Estonian.
- What is meant by the requirement to adhere to the principles of research ethics during the implementation of the project?
It means that the applicants are required to consider and describe all ethical issues involved in the proposed project. The applicants have to consider the ethical risks of any procedure involving human participation, the collection and use of personal data, and animal testing. The description of the principles of research ethics must specify how the principles of voluntary participation, informed consent, confidentiality, and anonymity of the subjects will be followed as well as how such data will be stored and protected. More specific information can be found in the document “Guidelines for Completing Your Ethics Self-Assessment for Application of Personal Research Funding”.
The use of the research methods that require a review or approval from a specific ethics committee should also be clearly indicated in the application. If the project necessitates compliance with the Nagoya Protocol, the applicant has to mention whether he/she already has or has to obtain the due diligence declaration.
If no ethical issues discussed in the document “Guidelines for Completing Your Ethics Self-Assessment for Application of Personal Research Funding” arise during the implementation of the project, then this, too, has to be explained in the application.
- What is the Nagoya Protocol?
The Nagoya Protocol is a convention on biological diversity aimed at sharing the benefits arising from the access to and utilisation of genetic resources in a fair and equitable way.
Guidance document on the scope of application and core obligations of Regulation (EU) No 511/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the compliance measures for users from the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilisation in the Union was adopted on December 14, 2020. Overview of conditions for applicability of the EU ABS regulation can be found in Annex 1. Specific guidance on the concept of utilisation is presented in Annex 2.
It is important to be certain if the project necessitates compliance with the Nagoya Protocol before submitting the application. If human genetic resources will be used, then the Nagoya Protocol does not apply to the project. If it becomes apparent that the planned R&D activities are related to genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge and therefore necessitate compliance with the Nagoya Protocol, then it will be necessary to declare the due diligence declaration in the international database DECLARE. If such a project is funded, then the due diligence declaration has to be submitted to the Council in the final report at the latest. The due diligence declaration is necessary for gaining access to genetic resources. Should you wish to discuss whether your research and research objects necessitate compliance with the Nagoya Protocol, please contact a Research Funding Officer working at the Council or a contact person working at the Ministry of the Environment before submitting the application.
- By which date is it necessary to present the approval from a human ethics or bioethics research committee?
If the corresponding approvals have been obtained by the application deadline, they are valid during the period of the project, and they have been issued to the Principal Investigator (PI) or to the members of the research staff, then the approvals should be attached to the application. In other cases, the approvals must be submitted no later than before the beginning of human and animal experiments. If the licence from a human ethics or bioethics research committee has not been submitted prior to the beginning of human or animal experiments, then the Council is entitled to revoke the decision of approving the application and terminate the grant contract.
- What should be described in the section for data management?
In the section for data management, please describe if and which data will be created, managed, or collected; which methods and standards will be applied; will the data be shared or made public and in which way; how the data will be stored during the period of the project and preserved after the end of the project.
The guidelines for compiling a data management plan can be found on the webpage of the University of Tartu Library: https://sisu.ut.ee/rdm_course1/data-management-plan
- Are there any restrictions regarding the workload of the PI at the host institution?
The workload of the PI of the proof-of-concept project at the institution has to be full-time. There are no other restrictions. The place of work must be Estonia at the time of implementing the project
- Can the PI be replaced?
It is possible to request the replacement of the PI of the proof-of-concept project, but only in justified cases (e.g., in case of her pregnancy, maternity and/or his/her parental leave, the suspension of the employment contract, long-term incapacity to work, relocation to another country, or death). In order to do that, the PI and the institution have to submit a joint well-reasoned request to the Council.
- Is it possible to change the institution?
No, it is not possible to change the institution of a proof-of-concept project.
- Can a project be temporarily suspended?
No, it is not possible to temporarily suspend a proof-of-concept project.
- Can a researcher who is on parental leave apply for a proof-of-concept grant?
Yes, he/she can apply.
- How important is the (ETIS) CV of the applicant?
The CV of the applicant is very important, since the reviewers and/or the Expert Panel need additional information for evaluating the applications (e.g., information regarding previous research experience, a full list of publications, etc.). Therefore, an ETIS CV attached to the application that has not been updated may have a negative impact on the overall assessment of the application.
NB! Please keep your ETIS CV public and up to date!
- Do the members of the research staff need to have an employment contract with the institution?
No, they do not. The members of the research staff can also work at a different institution which is instrumental for the implementation of the project (e.g., at an enterprise with which there is cooperation related to the proof-of-concept project). The remuneration costs have to be agreed upon between the institutions.
- What are the selection criteria for the reviewers?
The Council tries to find the most suitable and professionally most qualified reviewers for each application from the respective database and with the help of the members of the Expert Panel who also suggest suitable reviewers. The applicant can also mention suitable as well as unsuitable reviewers. If the applicant considers some reviewers unsuitable, e.g., due to a conflict of interest, it is necessary that he/she justifies that.
- Under which conditions can the Expert Panel change the scores of the reviewers? How does the Expert Panel use these opinions and scores?
The Expert Panel relies on the opinions and scores of the reviewers when forming their own opinions and scores. Each application is evaluated by two reviewers. If their opinions differ considerably, including a third reviewer will be considered. At the Expert Panel meeting, the opinions of the reviewers are discussed and these generally serve as the basis for the consensual decision made by the Expert Panel. The opinions and scores resulting from the Expert Panel discussion may deviate from the opinions and scores of the reviewers if the reviewers have missed certain important information (e.g., maternity leave, the position of the applicant among the authors of a publication). If the opinions of the Expert Panel differ from those of the reviewers, the Panel has to justify their decision in the combined evaluation. The final evaluation given by the Evaluation Committee will be based on the combined evaluation given by the Expert Panel, but some changes can be made if necessary. Therefore, the final score for the application is neither the arithmetic mean of the scores given by the reviewers nor the sum of these.
- How is the importance of the project for Estonian economy, society, public policy, and/or services evaluated?
When evaluating this criterion (depending on the research field and the specifics of the project), the following considerations will be taken into account: the impact of the applicability of the proposed project; the impact of the results for the quality of life, social welfare, environmental protection, or national security; the topicality of the project (e.g., relation to the societal challenges or strategic objectives set by the state); cooperation between R&D institutions and/or government authorities and/or enterprises in Estonia, etc.
- What is the threshold for the full applications?
The full applications are evaluated with respect to six criteria. The criteria 1, 2, 3, and 6 are assessed on a 5-point scale (from 1 to 5), criterion 7 is on a 3-point scale (4 to 0), the criteria 4 and 5, however, on the appropriate–inappropriate (1 or 0) scale. If an application receives less than 3 points for criteria 1, 2, 3, and/or 6, or receives the mark “no” for guiding questions 1.7, 2.3, 4.1, 4.2, and/or 5.1, it does not qualify for funding.
- Is it necessary to add additional files to the justification part of the application?
If necessary, then it is possible to add additional materials to the application, but only to a limited extent. The files that can be attached to the justification part in ETIS are the list of references used in the justification part of the application, and tables and graphs, etc. explaining the relevant issues in the justification. The additional files attached to the justification part of the application cannot contain descriptive or explanatory text (e.g., the research methods have to be described in the main part of the application, not in its additional part). The material added to the justification part of the application will also be examined by the reviewers.
- Where can the administrative information related to the application be added?
Administrative information related to the application (copies of diplomas, letters of confirmation, etc.) can be added to the application under the tab “Additional information”.
Amount of the grant
- What is the amount of the proof-of-concept grant?
In 2023, the maximum fixed amount of the proof-of-concept grant is 150,000 euros. The amount of the proof-of-concept grant consists of the direct costs which are directly related to the implementation of the project, and overhead costs (25%). The applicants have the right to request a smaller amount than the fixed grant amount.
- Could the Council allocate a smaller amount than the amount applied for?
No, the applications will be evaluated on the basis of the objectives of the project, the methods and/or specifics of the research field, and the justification for and the elaboration on the amount of the grant (direct costs). If an application is approved, the amount applied for will be allocated.
- How detailed should the budget of the grant be?
It is not necessary to provide a detailed breakdown of the budget on the other budget lines, e.g., in case of research costs, one does not have to indicate the cost of chemicals, travel costs, equipment purchase, etc. It is nevertheless important to justify the amount of the estimated costs (why is it necessary to involve this particular number of the members of the research staff, i.e., what are their roles and tasks) and the amount of research costs, etc.
- Is it necessary to have co-funding when applying for a proof-of-concept grant?
Co-funding is not a prerequisite for applying for a proof-of-concept grant. Nevertheless, the projects which envisage cooperation with the private sector and make use of other funding instruments during the implementation of the project will be viewed favourably.
Head of the Field of National Research Grants
Tel +372 731 7363