First Marie Curie calls to launch mid-May

The first Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA) calls for projects under Horizon Europe will launch on 18 May, and over the next two years the EU research programme will award around €1.8 billion for PhDs, researcher mobility and staff exchange projects. The money will be spread across five programmes, each with two bottom-up calls each year.

While on the face of it, MSCA is little changed from the previous research programme, Horizon 2020, the Commission is introducing age limits to reduce the numbers of applications and offering new incentives for involving industry. All of this will affect the application process and who will benefit from the grants.

Individual fellowships, which fund training and mobility of researchers of any nationality, are now called postdoctoral fellowships, and are only available to researchers with up to eight years of post-PhD research experience.

The Commission hopes this restriction will help reduce the number of applications and boost success rates, which currently range between 11 to 18%.

Closer links to industry and more inclusion

The Commission also wants MSCA to have closer links with industry to help researchers develop more transferable skills and diversify research careers.

To this end, two new incentives will be introduced. First, holders of postdoctoral grants will be able to get an additional six months funding after their fellowship to spend time in industry.

Second, more industrial PhDs will be funded under the doctoral networks call, with projects delivering ‘industrial doctorates’ that allow PhD students to spend time in industry, able to support 15 candidates, instead of the current ten.

There are also new measures to ensure equal conditions for researchers, regardless of which country they are in, a move celebrated by the alumni association.

Once the Parliament votes, the Commission will release the MSCA work programme, which sets out its calls for the next two years. There is a draft work programme from December, but until the official release in early May, nothing is set in stone.

Calls diary

The calls for doctoral networks and postdoctoral fellowships both open on 18 May.

Around half the budget for 2021, €403 million, will fund doctoral networks of up to three consortia carrying our doctoral training programmes. The call will close on 16 November. Next year, there will be €427 million to apply for between 3 May and 15 November.

Researchers can apply for postdoctoral fellowships until 15 September. There is a total of €242 million this year, plus €1 million for projects under the nuclear research programme, Euratom. In 2022, the call will run between 14 April and 14 September, with €257 million from MSCA and €1 million Euratom funding.

COFUND, a programme offering additional financing to existing doctoral and post-doctoral training programmes, will open calls on 12 October with a budget of €89 million this year. Universities and research institutions can apply until 10 February 2022. Next year, there will be €95 million in the funding pot, with applications accepted between 11 October 2022 and 9 February 2023.

Organisations wishing to send staff on exchanges to other countries can apply for funding between 7 October 2021 and 9 March 2022. There is €72.5 million to be distributed to staff exchanges and knowledge sharing initiatives. In 2022, a €77.5 million call will launch on 6 October and will remain open until 8 March.

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