Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions (MSCA) is a funding instrument within the EU framework programme dedicated to support mobility, training, career development and knowledge-exchange for researchers and research staff. Within the MSCA programme, there are funding opportunities for doctoral networks of PhD students, postdoctoral fellowships for researchers with a PhD, co-funding of new or existing doctoral/postdoctoral programmes, short-term exchange schemes for research and innovation staff, as well as funds for spreading knowledge and engaging the public in the Europe-wide public event “European Researcher’s Night” (in Sweden known as “Forskarfredag”).
MSCA is open to all research fields and welcomes applicants to freely propose actions in a bottom-up manner. A common theme, however, is that MSCA Actions relies on the principle of mobility, granting funding on the condition that researchers move from one country to another for acquiring new knowledge and develop their research career. Most MSCA calls are highly competitive and require high standards, both regarding the excellence of the research, as well as the quality and impact of the proposed training or knowledge-sharing activities.
The European Charter for Researchers and Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers (Charter and Code) is a cornerstone of all MSCA actions, promoting open recruitment and attractive working and employment conditions. In addition, MSCA pay particular attention to equal opportunities, which includes gender balance and the inclusion of researchers with disabilities.
TYPES OF FUNDING
MSCA funding is open to researchers and research staff, with a priority to young researchers, and welcomes applications from organisations in both the academic and the non-academic sectors, including universities, research institutions, research infrastructures, businesses, civil society organisations and other socio-economic actors from all countries.
MSCA funds research and training through the following funding types;
i) Doctoral Networks (MSCA-DN)
Joint research training doctoral programmes that focus on a common scientific question/challenge and simultaneously work towards educating a new generation of creative and innovative young researchers. ITN:s can be applied for by networks with complementary skills, preferably including partners from several different sectors, both to pave the way for excellent research, as well as to maximise knowledge exchange and networking. MSCA-DN is open to all research areas and can include partners from universities, research institutes, research infrastructures, companies, SMEs and other stakeholders from different countries across Europe and beyond. Normally, a DN-grant includes salaries and training costs for up to 10 doctoral candidates (15 for industrial or joint doctoral programmes) for three years, as well as funds covering some of the associated research and management costs.
Within Horizon Europe, there are three types of DN, which all need to meet the requirement of including minimum three partners from three different EU member states (MS) or associated countries (AC), of which one need to be established in an EU MS;
- Regular Doctoral Networks (DN) – for networks with partners in at least three EU MS or AC, no requirements regarding representation of different sectors.
- Industrial Doctorates (DN-ID) – for networks involving at least one academic partner and one non-academic partner (e.g. business or industry), where the doctoral candidates are jointly supervised by mentors in academic and non-academic organisations.
- Joint Doctorates (EJD) – for networks with a minimum of three academic partners, in three different EU or associated countries, proposing a highly integrated type of international, inter-sectoral and multi/interdisciplinary collaboration in doctoral training, leading to the delivery of joint, double or multiple doctoral degrees.
ii) MSCA Postdoctoral Fellowships (MSCA-PF)
Individual postdoctoral fellowships supporting the mobility of researchers within and beyond Europe, as well as helping to attract the best foreign researchers to work in the EU. MSCA-PF is open to researchers holding a PhD, with no more than eight years or research experience after being awarded the (first) doctoral degree. Applicants may be of any nationality and work in any field of research, who wish to acquire new knowledge and training in a foreign country. Besides providing an allowance covering living, travel and family costs for the ER, a PF-grant contributes funding to the training, networking and research costs of the fellow, as well as to the management and indirect costs associated with the project. MSCA-PF:s are awarded in two main categories;
- European Fellowships (EF) – One to two years funding for researchers of any nationality, who wish to conduct their postdoctoral training in Europe. In this category there are also special opportunities for researchers to return to Europe after a spending a longer period on another continent, as well as researchers who wish to return to research after a longer break.
- Global Fellowships (GF) – One to two years funding for researchers based in an EU MS or AC, for conducting research outside Europe, with the condition that the researcher has to return to an organisation based in an EU MS or AC for one year (resulting in a total duration of 24-36 months).
Postdoctoral fellows are encouraged to include secondments in their proposed research and training activities, to experience new research environments and/or working in another sector. In addition to the standard duration of the grant, applicants may also include a placement period after the regular fellowship, allowing the fellow to work up to six months in a non-academic organisation.
iii) Staff Exchange (MSCA-SE)
MSCA-SE supports short-term mobility of research and innovation staff working in academic, industrial and commercial organisations across the world. The programme is open to staff at all career stages, including research, technical, administrative and managerial staff supporting research and innovation activities. The aim of MSCA-SE is to support people in developing their knowledge, skills and career, while simultaneously building links between organisations, sectors and countries. MSCA-SE actions are open to networks of at least three partners from three different countries (of which at least two must be an EU MS or AC) and can be used to fund secondments lasting between 1-12 months for participating research and innovation staff of any nationality and career level.
iv) Co-funding of Regional, National and International programmes (MSCA-COFUND)
MSCA-COFUND provides co-funding to new or already existing research mobility and career development programmes that focus on training researchers abroad and across different sectors. MSCA-COFUND is open to regional, national, and international programmes and can be used for funding of doctoral or postdoctoral programmes. Co-funding via MSCA is available for single applicants, who may receive up to €10 million during five years.
v) MSCA and CITIZENS (MSCA-CITIZENS)
MSCA-CITIZENS provides funding for the organization of events that promote research and channel its impact to improve citizens’ daily lives, ultimately aiming to motivate young people to embark on research careers. MSCA-CITIZENS is open to any legal entity established in an EU or associated country and may be used to cover any expenses linked to the organization of a research outreach event, such as an awareness campaign, pre-events, the event itself, and the assessment of its impact.
MSCA actions are always associated with some level of co-funding, primarily because funding is in the form of unit costs. Unit costs are fixed amounts and apply to all categories of eligible costs. They are measured by the number of months, which are implemented by the eligible researchers in the action. The unit costs are determined ex-ante in the MSCA Work Programme and cannot be modified and for Sweden the level of the costs is too low to allow a full cost coverage. In addition, in DN-projects co-funding is associated with the costs of covering the fourth year for PhD students and the overshooting indirect costs for MSCA-PF fellows.
HOW TO APPLY
All calls for MSCA Actions are announced on the European Commission’s Funding and Tenders portal, at least four months before the deadline. You can find detailed information about the scope of each funding type in the biannual MSCA Work programme. Via the funding portal you can also download a comprehensive “Guide for applicants” and templates for the application, which in detail outline how you should structure your application.
All MSCA proposals are evaluated based on three criteria, which are given different weights in the final scoring of the application (in brackets);
- Excellence (50%)
- Impact (30%)
- Quality of implementation (20%)
It is important to consider that each of these criteria will take both the quality of the research and the training into account.
SUPPORT WITH YOUR APPLICATION
If you are curious about MSCA or plan to write an application, you are welcome to contact Grants Office for advice. Depending on our workload, you may also be able to get hands-on support in the application process. Contact any of us directly, or send an e-mail to email@example.com.