ERC Starting Grant for historian of ideas

31 January 2022

The Starting Grants awarded by the European Research Council (ERC) in its 2021 call have been announced. The awardees include an Uppsala researcher: Ylva Söderfeldt, Senior Lecturer at the University’s Department of History of Science and Ideas.

A total of 397 researchers in Europe are receiving EUR 1.5 million each to develop their research and establish their own research groups. Of these, 14 are active at Swedish universities.


Ylva Söderfeldt, Associate Professor and Senior Lecturer in the History of Science and Ideas, is the Director of Uppsala University’s Centre for Medical Humanities. She is receiving the Starting Grant for her “ActDisease” (Acting Out Disease: How Patient Organisations Shaped Modern Medicine) project.

“The project is about patient associations, a widespread phenomenon that’s been overlooked by historical research. I’m going to use a combination of traditional and digital methods to explore how in these very associations, during the 20th century, the modern conception of disease took shape. So the hypothesis is that patients themselves have played a much more crucial part in how diseases have been classified and defined than it used to be assumed they were,” Söderfeldt says.

What does getting this grant mean for you and your research?
“It’s hugely important. The grant enables me to carry out research on a much broader front than other grants would, and that breadth is essential to capture a historical process that’s been under way for 100 years, and in several countries simultaneously. I’m also thrilled that the grant is going to humanities research.”

Stiff competition

The ERC Starting Grant caters for researchers at the outset of their careers, and has scholarly excellence as the only selection criterion. Through peer review and in intense competition, the winning researchers and their projects have been ranked highest in Europe.

In 2021, more than 4,000 researchers applied for Starting Grants. A total of 397 researchers in Europe are to share EUR 619 million, and this represents an approval rate of some 10 per cent.

Of the 14 researchers in Sweden awarded the ERC Starting Grant 2021, six work in Social Sciences & Humanities, five in Physical & Engineering Sciences and three in Life Sciences.

European Research Council

  • The ERC, set up by the European Union in 2007, funds research projects all over Europe.
  • It offers four core grant schemes: Starting Grants, Consolidator Grants, Advanced Grants and Synergy Grants.
  • The ERC’s total budget from 2021 to 2027, which exceeds €16 billion, is part of Horizon Europe, the current EU Research and Innovation Investment Programme.