Insights

Marie Curie Doctoral Networks FAQs

The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) programme is a part of the Horizon Europe funding programme. It is the European Union’s reference programme for doctoral education and postdoctoral training with the objective to support excellence in research and innovation. Within it, the MSCA Doctoral Networks (DN) action aims to raise the attractiveness and excellence of doctoral training in Europe. In this post we summarize the most common questions on the MSCA DN action and we give practical tips for applying for it.

Page Contents

  1. What are MSCA Doctoral Networks?
  2. What is the scope of the MSCA-DN call?
  3. Who can apply?
  4. How do I look for partners?
  5. What are the different modalities within the MSCA-DN?
  6. What is the maximum MSCA-DN project duration?
  7. My institution has a 4 year PhD programme? Can I participate in a regular MSCA-DN or DN-ID?
  8. How many PhD students can be recruited by the consortium in an MSCA-DN?
  9. Are MSCA Doctoral Networks open to the participation of organisations from third countries?
  10. How can the non-academic sector be involved in MSCA Doctoral Networks projects?
  11. What is the budget of a MSCA-DN project?
  12. Based on our experience with MSCA DNs applications, the following elements are key when developing a successful application:
  13. When you are considering if your project is a fit with the MSCA DN programme, it is important to ask yourself the following questions:

 


 

1.  What are MSCA Doctoral Networks?

MSCA Doctoral Networks (DN) are consortium-based training networks for PhD students (doctoral candidates, also referred to as Early Stage Researchers [ESRs]), with the aim to raise the attractiveness and excellence of doctoral training in Europe. In essence, it is a collaborative research project that addresses a well-defined scientific/research challenge, that is implemented through individual PhD projects.

2.  What is the scope of the MSCA-DN call?

The scope of the call entails implementation of doctoral programmes by consortia composed of entities from the academic and non-academic sectors, such as universities, research institutions, businesses (including SMEs) and socio-economic actors, from different countries across Europe and across the globe.

The doctoral programmes are expected to respond to well-identified needs in various R&I areas, and offer training in research-related, as well as transferable skills and competences relevant for innovation and long-term employability (e.g. entrepreneurship, commercialisation of results, Intellectual Property Rights, communication).

Successful DNs can be characterized by four i’s – international, inter-sectoral and interdisciplinary mobility, combined with an innovation-oriented mind-set!

3.  Who can apply?

A consortium consisting of at least three independent legal entities, each established in a different EU Member States or Horizon Europe Associated Country is eligible to apply. At least one beneficiary must be from an EU Member State.

Proposals for DNs can reflect not only planned research partnerships, but also any existing partnerships.

The participating organisations can be from the academic or non-academic sector (universities, research institutions, research infrastructures, businesses including SMEs, and socio-economic actors) from different countries across Europe and across the globe. To reflect the true inter-sectoral nature of a DN a combination of different types of organisations is key.

4.  How do I look for partners?

We recommend you to use different sources in parallel:

  • Existing network of collaborators
  • Matchmaking platform available on https://msca-net.eu/
  • Partner search option on the Funding and Tenders portal
  • Internet searches

 


 

Catalyze: Securing MSCA grants for our clients since 2017

At Catalyze we have extensive experience in the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (Doctoral Networks, COFUND and Postdoctoral Fellowships). Since 2017, we support ~7-8 consortia each year with their MSCA application. We help our clients with optimal positioning of their proposal and developing a comprehensive training program in conjunction with the research program. We provide support to coordinate the consortium and the application process, we write (parts of) the application, provide expert review of the proposal and/or we help to find the right partners to supplement the consortium or training network.

Catalyze also takes part as associate partner in DN projects to provide training/workshops in grant writing, bringing innovations to the market, science communication and project management to ESRs.

 


 

5.  What are the different modalities within the MSCA-DN?

  1. Doctoral Networks (DN) – regular doctorate.
  2. Doctoral Networks – Industrial Doctorate (DN-ID). DCs must spend at least 50% of their time in non-academic sector. Joint supervision by the academic and non-academic partners.
  3. Doctoral Networks – Joint Doctorate (DN-JD). Here, each recruited researcher must be enrolled in a joint, double or multiple degree awarded by at least two participating organisations from an EU member state or Horizon Europe associated country.

Good to know: “MSCA Doctoral Networks are encouraged to lead to Industrial or Joint Doctorates” – Work programme.

6.  What is the maximum MSCA-DN project duration?

Regular DNs and DN-IDs: 48 months

DN-JD: 60 Months

7.  My institution has a 4 year PhD programme? Can I participate in a regular MSCA-DN or DN-ID?

While regular and industrial DNs are supported by the EC through 36 months’ fellowships, it is possible to participate in such DNs by self-financing the remaining 12 months of the 48-month PhD program via own funding.

Good to know: Be sure to state where this additional years’ funding is coming from in your application – evaluators have been asked to award extra points for this proactivity. 

8.  How many PhD students can be recruited by the consortium in an MSCA-DN?

Budget is available for a maximum of 540 person-months per network (for each modality). For regular DNs and DN-IDs this would mean, for example, 15 Doctoral candidates for 36 months each. For DN-JDs, this could amount to 15 Doctoral candidates for 36 months each, or ~11 Doctoral candidates for 48 months each.

9.  Are MSCA Doctoral Networks open to the participation of organisations from third countries?

Yes. Partnerships with third countries beyond Europe are allowed to foster strategic international partnerships for the training and research exchanges. However, non-associated third countries cannot be beneficiaries (and receive funding). They can only participate as associated partners.

10.  How can the non-academic sector be involved in MSCA Doctoral Networks projects?

The non-academic sector can be involved in all aspects of the network: in recruiting, supervising and training doctoral candidates. For academic doctoral candidates, inter-sectoral secondments to other participating organisations (including in third countries) are encouraged when relevant, feasible and beneficial for the researchers and in line with the project objectives. This intersectoral-mobility will increase the employability of the researchers outside academia after the project.

11.  What is the budget of a MSCA-DN project?

Financial contribution for the recruited researcher and the host institution is calculated on the basis of person months recruited. A country correction coefficient is applied to match the living allowance to the country standards.

 

No more than 40% of the total EU financial contribution is allowed to be allocated to one country (or to any one international European Research Organization or International Organization).

12.  Based on our experience with MSCA DNs applications, the following elements are key when developing a successful application:

  • Make sure that the project’s research programme is sound, goes beyond the state-of-the-art, is interdisciplinary and addresses a key scientific and societal challenge. Ideally you are able to position your proposal in such a way that training of next generation researchers as part of the project, will provide an important solution for tackling this challenge.
  • The research programme should be embedded within a relevant, comprehensive and well-structured training programme (for the doctoral candidates) that addresses a gap in the way ESRs are trained in your field currently.
  • Make sure that there is a meaningful contribution from the non-academic sector in the training of the doctoral candidates and/or in their research projects (e.g. via secondments, workshops, training, participation in events, etc).
  • Ensure a diverse and gender-balanced consortium, that is lead, ideally, by a female PI.
  • Reviewers also evaluate proposal on elements as Open science practices, dissemination and exploitation plans (including plans to protect generated IP) – thus, not only on scientific excellence and quality of the training program. These are thus important topics to discuss within the consortium.

13.  When you are considering if your project is a fit with the MSCA DN programme, it is important to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is there a clear training need in your field for PhD students/ESRs?
  • Does your project idea propose an innovative solution to address a clear scientific and societal challenge? Do you and the consortium partners have all the necessary expertise and resources to carry out such research?
  • Does your proposed research programme include interdisciplinary and international collaborations to reach its aim?
  • Do you have collaborations with the non-academic sector (e.g. industry partners, clinical partners) to include in your network to e.g. train and/or host doctoral candidates?

If your answer is yes to these questions, you are in a great position for the MSCA DN grant!

Call us to discuss your suitability for the call. The next call is open from 29 May 2024.

 


 

Further Reading

MSCA Programme Overview

MSCA-DN: Overview of Doctoral Networks 

EU Funding & Tenders Portal: MSCA Doctoral Networks 2024 

 


 

About Catalyze

At Catalyze we commit ourselves to accelerate innovations that have a positive impact on the world. We are the driving force for innovations across the fields of Life Sciences and Sustainability. Our offering of strategic consulting services, funding consulting, project management and more, deliver impactful expertise for all development stages. With a proven track record and the highest quality, we aim to be the consulting partner of choice to drive the success of meaningful innovation projects.

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