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Horizon Europe and Mobility Possibilities for Early Career Researchers

The European Commission’s new research and innovation programme Horizon Europe for the period 2021-2027 comprises three pillars focusing on ‘Excellent Science’, ‘Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness’, and ‘Innovative Europe’, and is supported by overarching activities that widen and strengthen its impact.

The new programme builds on the success of Horizon 2020, but extends its focus on disruptive market innovation and aims to have a more direct impact on it. The frontiers of science and technology and basic research are mainly represented in Pillar 1, where the European Research Council, which has already funded 9,500 projects since 2007, will continue to be the essential component of the programme. This also refers to the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions, which remain in the programme as a tool to promote the mobility of researchers between European countries and the dissemination of best research practices.

Horizon Europe aims to achieve impact through ambitious yet feasible goals, delivered across five missions on Climate Change, Cancer, Smart Cities, Healthy Oceans, and Health and Food. In addition, the programme will continue to build on partnerships with EU countries, the private sector, foundations, and other stakeholders. Moreover, the European Innovation Council brings support for start-up companies. Further information on the programme’s overall structure can be found here

Horizon Europe’s possibilities for Early Career Researchers (ECRs)

The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) focus on the development of researchers' careers, not only through mobility but also by supporting excellent research and strong intersectoral cooperation. It supports researchers at any stage of their career and from any country, focusing on their training and career development. The MSCA in Horizon Europe follows in the same direction as the previous programme, and since it aims to strengthen collaboration with the non-academic sector, the MSCA scheme and applicant rules have been simplified. MSCA will continue to fund two actions that are especially appropriate for ECRs:

  1. Doctoral Networks support the development of doctoral programmes, with incentives for industrial and collaborative doctoral studies and the aim of increasing the attractiveness and excellence of doctoral education in Europe and beyond. The target group for this network are doctoral candidates, specifically to build on their research-related and transferable skills, to broaden their career perspectives and to adopt innovation-oriented thinking. Note that applications for funding are made by established Principal Investigators with supervision experience and cannot be awarded individually to ECRs. ECR candidates may apply to an open vacancy within an established network and may be funded for up to 36 months with the possibility of secondments.
  2. Postdoctoral Fellowships support the research and careers of postdoctoral fellows through interdisciplinary, intersectoral, and international experiences, with the aim of their career development leading into a position of maturity and independence. It also offers incentives to restart the careers of researchers returning to Europe, as well as for researchers performing research outside academia. Consequently, two fellowships are available: (a) the European Fellowships in Europe (from 12-24 months) and (b) the Global Fellowships (from 12-24 months outside Europe, and an additional 12 months after returning to Europe). Additionally, there is a possibility of secondments worldwide.

The European Research Council (ERC) is the first pan-European funding body that supports frontier research by funding the best and most creative scientists in each research area. It aims to strengthen new and/or fast-growing research fields, and subsequently allow these areas to stay at the forefront in a world of growing scientific and technological competition. The ERC also strives to combine science with technological innovation by recruiting talent and encouraging greater investment. Its grant scheme covers researchers across the breadth of their post-PhD careers:

Among these, the Starting Grants are particularly suitable for ECRs, which are available to those between two to seven years after the completion of their doctoral studies and fund up to €1.5m for a period of five years. Further information can be found here.

The value for ECRs participating in Horizon Europe lies in its fantastic opportunities for career advancement. These can lead to achieving a position of independence, thus acting as a stepping stone towards future research funding, including ERC-financed Consolidator- and Advanced Grants. Further information and details can be found here

Eurodoc Mobility WG
Special thanks to: Danila Rijavec (Mobility WG coordinator), Sebastian Dahle and Simona Miceska.