Call for Proposals for Transnational Research Projects on Mechanisms of Resilience and Vulnerability to Environmental Challenges in Mental Health

Submission deadline for pre-proposals: 07 March 2023, 14:00 CET

For further information please contact the NEURON Joint Call Secretariat:
Dr. Sophia Schach (German Aerospace Centre Project Management Agency, DLR-PT), Phone: +49 228 3821 1743, E-Mail:

1. Purpose

Maintenance, improvement, and restoration of human health including mental well-being are of fundamental importance and a worldwide priority. Mental disorders, in particular depression and anxiety, are the leading cause of disability worldwide and the third leading cause of overall disease burden (in Disability-adjusted life years, DALYs). According to the OECD, one in every two people experience mental illness in their lifetime. These figures might steadily increase in the following years as a consequence of recent global and regional crises. These facts highlight the importance of improving our understanding of the pathophysiological and adaptative mechanisms with the potential to develop therapeutic and preventive approaches to preserve and improve mental health in Europe and worldwide.

Mental health may be affected by environmental, lifestyle, social, and economic adverse factors which increase the risk of developing long-lasting mental health conditions. Nevertheless, environmental stress produces different reactions among individuals who experience it. In response to the same environmental stressor, some individuals will activate dynamic and self-organized mechanisms enabling beneficial emotional and behavioral adaptations, leading to the development of ‘resilience’. In contrast, some others will be more ‘vulnerable’ and prone to developing mental health conditions.

The 'Network of European Funding for Neuroscience Research' (NEURON) has been established under the ERA-NET scheme of the European Commission ( The ERA-NET NEURON aims to coordinate and optimize research efforts and funding programmes of its partner countries/regions in the field of mental, neurological, and sensory disorders. Under the umbrella of NEURON, a joint transnational call (JTC 2023) in the field of resilience and vulnerability for mental diseases is now launched. The following funding organisations have agreed to fund the joint call for multinational research projects in this scientific area. The call will be conducted simultaneously by the respective national and regional funding organisations and coordinated centrally by the Joint Call Secretariat.

National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Australia*
Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique-FNRS (F.R.S.-FNRS)Belgium*
Ministry of Science and Education (MSE)Croatia
Estonian Research Council (ETAg)Estonia
Academy of Finland (AKA)Finland*
French National Research Agency (ANR)France
Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)Germany
German Research Foundation (DFG)Germany
National Research, Development, and Innovation Office Hungary
Health Research Board (HRB)Ireland
Chief Scientist Office, Ministry of Health (CSO-MOH)Israel*
Italian Ministry of Health (IT-MoH)Italy
Latvian Council of Science (LZP) Latvia
Research Council of Lithuania (LMT)Lithuania
The Research Council of Norway (RCN)Norway
National Centre for Research and Development (NCBR)Poland
Executive Agency for Higher Education, Research, Development & Innovation Funding (UEFISCDI)Romania
Slovak Academy of Sciences (SAS)Slovakia
National Institute of Health Carlos III (ISCIII)Spain
Agencia Estatal de Investigación (AEI)Spain
Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)Switzerland*
National Science and Technology Council (NSTC)Taiwan
The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK)Turkey*

*Funding organisations with parallel national application procedures or extra requirements for submission. We strongly recommend contacting the respective funding organisation for further information (contacts, see Annex I).
†Pending on decision

2. Aim and scope of the call

The aim of the call is to facilitate multinational, collaborative research projects that will address critical translational questions to improve our knowledge concerning neurobiological mechanisms involved in resilience or vulnerability to environmental challenges in mental health.

It is presently unknown how traumatic and/or stressful events and adverse environmental context become neurobiologically embedded, increasing the vulnerability to mental disorders. Present hypotheses point to genetic and epigenetic risk factors as well as endocrine and immune reactions as possible mechanisms. Similarly, how biological, social, cultural, psychological, and ecological factors manifest in neurophysiological mechanisms for the development of individual coping capabilities to enhance resilience towards adverse experiences is presently poorly understood.

The present call aims to fund preclinical research up to proof-of-concept clinical studies¹ addressing the neurobiological mechanistic understanding of vulnerability and resilience to mental disorders. Research areas may cover a broad range of aspects including, among others, genetic, epigenetic, anatomical, molecular, immunological, and endocrine mechanisms. Proposals aiming at developing predictive, preventative, diagnostic and/or therapeutic approaches with the potential to enhance resilience based on known or hypothesized neurobiological mechanisms are within the scope of this call, as are proposals to understand the neurobiological basis of therapeutic technologies promoting resilience.
The NEURON funding organizations particularly strive to fund multidisciplinary and translational research proposals that combine basic, clinical and/or technological approaches. The consortia should submit novel, ambitious ideas that can only be achieved by the complementary collaboration between partners.

Research proposals should cover at least one of the following areas:

a) Fundamental research addressing mental health vulnerability and resilience including the pathogenesis, aetiology, progression, treatment, and prevention of mental diseases initiated by exposure to adverse environmental challenges. This may include the use of knowledge on neurobiological mechanisms for the development of innovative technologies with the potential to promote mental health, reduce the incidence of mental disorders, and improve clinical outcomes.

b) Clinical research addressing mental health vulnerability and resilience aiming to develop novel strategies for prevention, diagnosis, patient stratification, therapy and/or rehabilitation for mental diseases initiated by exposure to adverse environmental challenges. This may include research proposals aiming at the identification of neurobiological targets to enhance resilience.

Applicants should demonstrate that they have the expertise and skills required to conduct the study including already established external collaborations.

The translational value for human disease must be addressed explicitly in the proposals. If used, the choice of the animal model must be justified in the context of human pathology. The development of new animal or cell models is allowed if clearly justified and only if appropriate models are not available. The consideration of gender differences in the studies is mandatory.
Clinical studies are eligible up to the point of proof of concept². Multimodal and multicenter clinical studies are highly encouraged. The proposals should consider the cultural, societal background and general individual diversity if relevant. ERA-NET NEURON will not fund the establishment of large cohorts, but the use of existing cohorts, biobanks/brain banks and exploitation of existing data sets is encouraged. Appropriate access to relevant, well-characterized patient populations or suitable biomaterial collections must be demonstrated. The proposal should describe plans to make data available for the research and clinical communities. If relevant, it is recommended that the appropriate European infrastructures are contacted early in the planning of the projects; the following are potentially of interest for the applicants to this call: EATRIS-ERIC (focused on translational medicine), BBMRI-ERIC (focused on biobanking), EBRAINS (focused on data and tools for brain-related research) and ELIXIR (focused on data sharing).

The following research areas are excluded from this call:

  • neurodegenerative disorders that are addressed by the EU Joint Programme – Neurodegenerative Disease Research (JPND)³,
  • proposals focusing on existing pharmacological treatments with their current indications,
  • proposals focusing solely on technological developments in disregard of neurobiological mechanisms.

The ERA-NET NEURON seeks to strengthen patient engagement in research. All applications should include a description of expected outcomes with potential relevance for patients. Applicants are expected to engage patients, their care givers or patient organisations as appropriate in the research. Meaningful patient engagement can occur at the level of research planning, conducting research or disseminating research results. Patient representatives will assess patient engagement aspects, the feasibility, and the relevance of the full proposals from a patient perspective.

¹ Eligibility and funding requirements for clinical trials vary between the partner countries. Clarification may be obtained from the individual funding organisations
Eligibility and funding requirements for clinical trials vary between the partner countries. Clarification may be obtained from the individual funding organisations
Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative dementias, Parkinson’s disease (PD) and PD-related disorders, Prion disease, Motor neuron diseases, Huntington’s disease, Spinocerebellar ataxia, Spinal muscular atrophy

3. Application

3.1 Eligibility

Joint transnational research proposals may be submitted by research teams working in universities (or other higher education institutions), non-university public or private research organisations, hospitals or foundations, and commercial companies, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises. The eligibility of the afore-mentioned institutions, together with details of eligible costs (e.g. personnel, material, consumables, travel money, investments), are subject to the administrative requirements of individual funding organisations and will therefore differ. Please note that, for some funding organisations, commercial companies are not eligible or are only eligible under certain conditions (e.g. only in partnership with academic institutions in the consortium). Clarification should be obtained from the individual funding organisations (see contact details below). It is strongly recommended to carefully read the funder-specific regulations regarding eligibility and funding and to contact the respective funding organisations, since additional national/regional procedures might be mandatory.

Only transnational projects will be funded. Each consortium submitting a proposal must comprise a minimum of three research partners eligible for funding by organizations listed in this call text (see above). Involvement of early career researchers (ECRs) as consortium partners is highly encouraged and will be part of the evaluation criteria (see section 4). The eligible research partners must be from at least three different participating countries. The total number of research partners in a consortium is limited to five, including partners participating with their own expenses. No more than two consortium partners can be from the same country. Attention should be paid to respect gender balance among the partners of a consortium.

The ERA-NET NEURON strives to strengthen a global Brain Research Area by including as many partner countries/regions as possible in its funding scheme. Therefore, consortia including at least one partner from countries/regions that are to date underrepresented in this funding scheme (Croatia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, and Turkey) may increase the total number of partners to six.

Applicant partners who are not eligible for funding from their national/regional funding organisations or from countries/regions that are not involved in this call, may participate in consortia only if a) their participation clearly provides an added value to the consortium, and b) they have secured a budget for their part in the project. Such potential partners are not considered in the minimum number of three research partners mentioned above. In any case, the total number of research partners in one consortium must not exceed five, or six, if partners from the underrepresented countries/regions (listed above) are included.

Each consortium should have the critical mass to achieve ambitious scientific goals and should clearly demonstrate added value from working together. Each consortium must nominate a coordinator who represents the consortium externally and is responsible for its internal management (e.g. the application procedure, coordination of consortium agreement drafting, Data Management Plan, reporting). The consortium coordinator must be eligible for funding from one of the organizations listed in this call text.

A single proposal must be submitted by the consortium coordinator to the NEURON Joint Call Secretariat. The individual research partners in a consortium will be funded by the respective national/regional NEURON funding organization(s). Eligibility criteria are the matter of individual partner funding organizations and additional national/regional regulations and requirements may apply.

The inclusion of a research partner that is not eligible for funding according to the specific regulations of its respective funding organization may result in the rejection of the entire proposal without further review.

Therefore, applicants are strongly advised to follow the instructions in the funder-specific eligibility section, published on the NEURON website and to contact their national/regional funding organization to confirm eligibility rules before submitting a proposal.

Only projects that fulfil the legal and ethical international/EU regulations (including ethical standards and guidelines in Horizon EUROPE) as well as national and institutional standards will be funded. All proposed activities including those undertaken in countries/regions outside the EU must comply with EU regulations (see Annex I of the full proposal template). Ethical approval and/or a positive vote must be obtained from the relevant national/regional or local ethics committee(s) prior to the start of respective studies. The obtainment of ethical clearance will be queried by ERA-NET NEURON. All procedures involving human beings must conform to the Helsinki Declaration.

2-7 years of experience since completion of PhD or medical specialization diploma at the date of the launch of this call and a scientific track record showing great promise. Allowed extensions 18 months maternity leave, duration of paternity leave, duration of long-term illness or national service, duration of clinical training with a maximum of 4 years). Please check the funder specific regulations for the national/regional eligibility criteria that apply.
requirements for ethical approvals may vary between the partner countries. Please refer to the funder-specific regulations or contact the individual funding organisations.

3.2 Submission of joint transnational proposals

There will be a two-stage procedure for joint applications: pre-proposals and full proposals. In both cases, one joint proposal document (in English) shall be prepared by the partners of a joint transnational proposal, and must be submitted to the Joint Call Secretariat by the coordinator.

Pre-proposals must be submitted in electronic format no later than 7th March, 2023 (14:00 CET) via the electronic submission system. All fields must be completed using DIN-A4; font: Arial, 10pt; single-spaced, page limits. Pre-proposals that do not meet the formal criteria will be rejected from the call process without further review.

NOTE: Full proposal submissions will be accepted only from those applicants explicitly invited by the Joint Call Secretariat.

The information given in the pre-proposal is binding. Thus, any fundamental changes between the pre- and full proposals stages concerning the composition of the consortia, objectives of the project or requested budget must be communicated to the Joint Call Secretariat and approved by the respective funding organizations with detailed justifications and will only be allowed in exceptional cases by the Call Steering Committee, before passing to the evaluation stage.

3.3 Further information

For further details, please refer to the respective submission forms available through the NEURON website. If you need additional information, please contact the Joint Call Secretariat. Finally, national/regional organizations may set special requirements for their applicants. Applicants are therefore strongly advised to review the instructions contained in the funder-specific regulations published on the NEURON website and to contact their national/regional funding organization for further information (see Annex I for contact details).

4. Evaluation and decision

The review process will be in two stages.

4.1 Formal check of pre- and full proposals

The Joint Call Secretariat will check the proposals to ensure that they meet the call’s formal criteria (e.g. date of submission; the number of participating partners and countries/regions; inclusion of all necessary information according to the respective templates in English). The Joint Call Secretariat will also forward the proposals to the national/regional funding organizations, which will perform a formal eligibility check for compliance with their respective regulations.

The Joint Call Secretariat and national/regional funding organizations will perform cross-checks in parallel submissions to other joint transnational calls (e.g. EJP RD, JPND, EuroNanoMed, ERAPerMed and others) and national calls. Applicants shall avoid applying for the same research activities to different calls. Double funding is not allowed.

Proposals not meeting the formal criteria described above will be rejected at this stage. Proposals passing this step will be forwarded to the Peer Review Panel for evaluation.

4.2 Peer-review of pre- and full proposals

The reviewers will assess if the projects are within the scope of the call and evaluate them using the following criteria:

  1. Excellence
    • Scientific quality of the approach and methodology
    • Quality of the experimental design and data analysis
    • Novelty of the scientific concept/hypotheses
    • Competence and experience of participating research partners in the field(s) of the proposal (previous work in the field, specific technical expertise)
  2. Impact
    • Potential impact of the expected results on clinical and other health related applications
    • Added-value of transnational collaboration
    • Inclusion of early career researchers (ECRs)
    • Potential impact for patients; ethical aspects.
  3. Quality and efficiency of the implementation
    • Feasibility of the project
    • Coherence and effectiveness of the work plan, including appropriateness of the allocation of tasks, resources, time frame and related risk analysis
    • Quality and added value of collaborative and multi-disciplinary interactions within the consortium
    • Appropriateness of the management structures and procedures

ERA-NET NEURON strives to fund reproducible and solid scientific outputs, our evaluation criteria value the methodological rigor of the experimental approaches proposed.

4.3 Decision

4.3.1 Pre-proposals

Eligible pre-proposals will be reviewed using the above-mentioned evaluation criteria via a written (remote) peer review process. Preferably, each pre-proposal will be reviewed by at least three reviewers. Based on the scores in the written reviews, a ranking list will be established. By mid-May 2023, the coordinators of the selected proposals will be invited by the Joint Call Secretariat to submit a full proposal before 29th June 2023 (14:00 CEST).

4.3.2 Full proposals

The international Peer Review Panel will evaluate the full proposals based on the above-mentioned evaluation criteria and establish a ranking list based on scientific assessment at the panel meeting. Additionally, expert patient reviewers will assess the patient-relevant aspects of the full proposals and an Ethics board will give recommendations on the ethical aspects of the full proposals. A short list of proposals will be identified as recommended for funding based on the ranking list. The Call Steering Committee will determine the projects to be funded, considering the national budgets’ availability.

5. Funding procedure / Responsibilities / Reporting requirements

5.1 Funding procedure

Successful research groups will be funded directly by the respective funding organizations.

Funding is expected to start by early to mid-2024. Projects should be designed to be achievable during a maximum funding period of three years.

Funding will be administered according to the terms and conditions of the responsible funding organizations, considering all other applicable regulations and legal requirements.

5.2 Responsibilities

Within a joint proposal, each research partner will be the contact person for the respective national/regional funding organization. The coordinators of funded projects together with the relevant funding organizations shall make every effort to seek a common start date for all research groups in a consortium.

After the evaluation and selection procedures are completed, each funded consortium is required to draft a Consortium Agreement (CA) and a data management plan (DMP). The CA will determine a common project start date, manage the delivery of project activities, finances and intellectual property rights (IPR), and avoid disputes that might be detrimental to the completion of the project. With the first annual report the coordinator must provide the DMP and the CA signed by all parties to the Joint Call Secretariat. Please note that additional national/regional rules might require the documents before the start of the project to release funds, please refer to the funder-specific regulations section.

5.3 Reporting Requirements

On behalf of the research consortium, the consortium coordinator will be required to submit to the Joint Call Secretariat annual scientific progress reports, as well as a final report at the end of the project. Additionally, the individual partners may be required to submit reports separately to their national/regional funding organization. In the latter case, reporting guidance will be forwarded by the relevant funding organization, as applicable.

Annual reports must be submitted by April, 30, starting in 2025. Final reports must be submitted at the latest six months after the end of the project. Annual reports do not need to be submitted if the project ends between January and March on the last year. In the latter case, the submission of a final report three months after the end of the project will suffice.

In exceptional cases, partners may be granted runtimes of different start and/or duration according to the national funders’ decision. It is the task of the coordinators to determine, in agreement with the consortia, a formal end date for project completion; usually the latest end date of individual national contracts. Coordinators will be informed about this procedure by the Joint Call Secretariat and will receive the report templates in due course.

The coordinators will be asked to present a progress report during a Midterm symposium. Attendance is mandatory for all coordinators and project partners. Failure to comply with this requirement may result in administrative and/or financial sanctions according to the rules of each funding organization. Students and postdoctoral researchers working on the projects are welcome to join the midterm symposium. Accordingly, travel expenses to attend the symposium should be included in the proposal budget plans.

Funding recipients must ensure that all outcomes (publications, etc.) of transnational NEURON projects include a proper acknowledgement of ERA-NET NEURON and the respective funding partner organizations. All the publications resulting from funded projects must be published in adherence to the EC Open Science Policy.

5.4 General data protection regulation

Applicants are informed that their personal data submitted in their application to the call are processed in accordance with article 6.1 (e) and (c) of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (2016/679), and for the purposes of

  • processing and evaluating the application where processing shall be lawful only if and to the extent that processing is necessary for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest or in the exercise of official authority vested in the controller;
  • administering any subsequent funding award;
  • managing the funding organizations relationship with them;
  • analyzing and evaluating the call;
  • providing aggregate data to national and European surveys and analyses on the funded projects.

The Call Steering Committee may share applicant’s data with third parties (some of which may be based outside the European Economic Area) in relation to the above activities including evaluators, auditors and the European Commission (or its agencies).

Last name, first name of the researchers, date of birth, professional contact information, degree(s), position (current and previous), fields of activity, place of work, organisation, address(es), curriculum vitae, ORCID number, name and reference of projects, pre-proposals, project proposals (scientific document, administrative and financial appendix).

Call Timetable

Pre-proposal stage (I)

December 6, 2022Preliminary Announcement of the Joint Transnational Call
January 9, 2023Launch of the Joint Transnational Call
March 07, 2023Deadline (submission of pre-proposals) 14:00 CET
mid May, 2023Formal invitation to submit a full proposal

Full proposal stage (II)

June 29, 2023Deadline (submission of full proposals) 14:00 CEST
September, 2023Peer Review Panel meeting to assess the full proposals
October-November, 2023Final funding decision by the CSC and start of national administrative procedures
Early- Mid 2024Start of funding