The 'Advanced Investigator Grants' are designed to stop Europe's top researchers leaving and enable them to conduct more ambitious far-reaching research to help improve Europe's position at the cutting edge of technological advance. The grants have the potential to total up to €3.5m over a period of 5 years and the scheme will account for about two-thirds of the ERC's 1bn per year budget. The grants aim to encourage and support excellent, innovative research projects initiated by well established researchers. "This high-profile Europe-wide programme is designed to bring forward the most ambitious, far reaching research projects without restriction on the field of study and to support the most talented established investigators, regardless of nationality, for projects conducted in Europe," said Professor Fotis Kafatos, chairman of the ERC Scientific Council. "Generous funding is available but there will be very stiff competition." The ERC plans to announce more details about those being awarded the first grants over the next few months, however Prof. Kafatos cautioned that: "Interested scientists will need to take into account that applications will only have a chance of succeeding if the project is outstanding and the Principal Investigator can demonstrate an outstanding track record an leadership profile in terms of originality and impact of research achievements." The announcement follows the success of its 'Starting Grant' programme that was designed to help the best young researchers in Europe gain academic independence and make the transition from working under a supervisor to being independent researchers in their own right. The Starting Grants targets those young researchers who have proven potential of becoming independent research leaders and amount up to €400,000 per year for up to five years. The first funding round of these grants has attracted over 9,000 applications since the competition was opened, with the results expected within the next fortnight. The ERC was established by the European Commission to stimulate scientific excellence and support the very best scientists and engineers and encourage them to be adventurous and take risks with their research, pushing it beyond the established frontiers of knowledge and disciplines.