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How to choose the right H2020 Marie Curie instrument to get PhD students funded

30th August 2018 at 12:27 pm

Public funding remains an excellent opportunity to finance research and innovation activities. But researchers hardly have the time to go through thousands of options offered by the EU and national public institutions and identify a scheme that meets their specific requirements. What we’ve seen happen is researchers only applying for popular funding schemes, without the awareness of other, potentially more suitable, opportunities.

One example lies in the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) Innovative Training Networks (ITN) that funds the training of up to 15 doctoral candidates within international, interdisciplinary and inter-sectorial settings. ITNs offer three different types of training networks: The European Training Networks (ETN), European Industrial Doctorates (EID) and European Joint Doctorates (EJD). However, 85% of all proposers apply for ETNs. This can be a disadvantage for some candidates, not only because the success rates in ETNs are extremely low (8% in 2018), but also because one of the other options might have been more suitable to their project idea.

EIDs fund doctoral training networks in which the non-academic sector is supposed to play a major role in training activities. The main difference when compared to ETNs is that the Early Stage Researchers (ESRs), i.e. the doctoral students, must spend 50% of their time in the non-academic sector and be supervised jointly by the academic and non-academic institution. Another particularity of the EID is the possibility to have a consortium of only two partners that can train up to 5 doctoral students. Regarding the evaluation procedure, EID proposals are ranked in a separate multidisciplinary panel and have a higher success rate (12% in 2018).

The table below summarises the differences between ETNs and EIDs (information taken from the ITN Guide for Applicants)

Usual consortium size7-8 partners 2 or 3-5 partners
Project funding estimationEUR 3-4 M EUR 0.5 M or up to 4 M
Students’ enrolment in the PhDOptionalMandatory
Secondment requirements None Min. 50% stay in
non-academic sector
Inter-sectoral mobility must be international Optional Mandatory
Joint supervision from each sector (academic and non-academic) Encouraged Mandatory
Success rates (2018) 8%12%
Call budget (2019) EUR 400 MEUR 35 M
Next deadline 15 January 2019

The right funding scheme can make a difference

Such claims as laid out above wouldn’t carry any substance without a real-world example. In September 2017, Dr Colin Clarke from the National Institute of Bioprocessing Research in Ireland intended to submit an ETN proposal with a consortium composed of four non-academic and two academic partners. Given the strong involvement of industrial partners and the industry-focused project idea, and after analysing previously funded EIDs, we suggested Dr Clarke to propose for an EID. In hindsight, this has proven to be a wise decision, as his proposal – STACCATO – has been successfully funded and will soon provide world-class inter-sectoral training to 11 ESRs in the field of biopharmaceuticals manufacturing.

Why choose Strategic Grant Planning

To answer the question, why you might want to consider Strategic Grant Planning, we got in touch with Dr Colin Clarke. The short interview below covers how we were able to help him and his upcoming project and the advantages of applying for an EID instead of an ETN. Dr Clarke says that “the interaction with accelopment was the key factor in the success within the EID project. I had very little knowledge of the EID programme and the differences to an ETN – through discussion with the accelopement team we realized that an EID was the ideal avenue for our project.” Furthermore, he has a recommendation for anyone thinking about applying for an EID: “The EID programme is ideal for industry particularly for SMEs such as NIBRT and enables us work closely with the academic sector, large industry and attract some of Europe’s brightest researchers. It is, however, essential that each consortium understand requirements for an EID project – in this regard I cannot recommend accelopment highly enough. “

What Strategic Grant Planning by accelopment offers

A busy schedule and limited resources shouldn’t limit researchers when searching for the right funding scheme. Not being able to identify the right opportunity has hindered brilliant research ideas from seeing the light of day. Identifying funding schemes that meet your needs and providing advice on which one to go for, is what we offer with our Strategic Grant Planning (SGP):

Already found the perfect call and need help writing the proposal? We can support the proposal writing and to execute the grant preparations with the EC. Then, during the project implementation, we work as a Partner Organisation assisting in project management tasks, coordinating the dissemination activities and/or contributing to the training activities with Transferable Skills Workshops.

Get in touch

Interested in Strategic Grant Planning? Get in touch with our expert Marco Cavallaro. Marco has a broad knowledge of funding opportunities. For general advice on MSCA ITNs and enquirers concerning proposal writing and project management contact our CEO, Jeanette Müller.

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