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A budget of €608 million for the Marie Curie DN call for projects

MSCA Doctoral Networks

The European Commission has launched the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Doctoral Networks (MSCA Doctoral Networks) 2024 call for projects. With a budget of approximately €608 million and aimed at promoting high-level doctoral training, this initiative seeks to enhance the skills and employability of early-career researchers while fostering collaboration between academia and non-academic sectors. Zabala Innovation can support its clients in this call for projects, both before the deadline for submissions, which is 27 November 2024, and afterwards, once funding has been secured.

“Marie Skłodowska-Curie Doctoral Networks offer a unique opportunity for doctoral candidates to train in diverse and interdisciplinary research environments,” says Sara Marin, Operational Coordinator of European Projects in France and MSCA expert at Zabala Innovation. These doctoral networks, open to universities, research centres and infrastructures, companies, including SMEs, and other socio-economic actors, encourage international cooperation and knowledge transfer between sectors and disciplines.

The expected outcomes of these projects are manifold. For doctoral candidates, the acquisition of new technical and transferable skills enables them to improve their employability and career prospects, both in academic and non-academic settings. Additionally, the projects aim to generate new knowledge that can be transformed into products and services, thus strengthening innovation. Another crucial aspect is the enhancement of doctoral candidates’ networking and communication skills, both with their scientific peers and the public, thereby increasing the impact of research.

MSCA Doctoral Networks: benefits and types of doctorates

There are also benefits for participating organisations. Improving the quality and relevance of doctoral training programmes, as well as supervision arrangements, is a priority. These networks also foster cooperation and knowledge transfer between different sectors and disciplines. The integration of training and research activities among participating organisations helps to strengthen their research and innovation capacities. Furthermore, these initiatives enhance the internationalisation and attractiveness of institutions, ensuring that research results are regularly reinvested in teaching and education.

The programme also funds and encourages industrial or joint doctorates, offering doctoral candidates practical and diverse training. Industrial doctorates allow doctoral candidates to move out of academia and develop skills in industry, under the joint supervision of academic and non-academic organisations. These collaborations can be within the same EU Member State or in a country associated with Horizon Europe. Joint doctorates, on the other hand, represent an integrated international, intersectoral, and multidisciplinary collaboration, leading to joint, double, or multiple degrees, recognised in at least one EU Member State or a country associated with Horizon Europe.

Proposal review and support service

Zabala Innovation offers a proposal review and support service for project proposals under the MSCA Doctoral Networks, as well as other European R&D and innovation funding programmes. This service is tailor-made to meet the client’s needs. It covers several activities, including an in-depth analysis of the targeted call for projects and the preparation of a proposal writing model, based on our recommendations and best practices from our experience.

This service also includes regular exchanges with the project coordinator to answer their questions and provide advice. Depending on the project owner’s needs, we can also design and facilitate a workshop dedicated to the impact section, as well as a workshop to help the consortium design and structure the training programme, an essential element of the proposal’s excellence evaluation.

“We also conduct several staggered reviews over time, accompanied by content improvement advice. After each review, we exchange with the project owner to help them better understand and integrate our advice into the proposal. This collaborative approach allows us to deliver quality work and meet their expectations as best as possible,” explains Marin.

Zabala Innovation also offers its clients comprehensive support in the preparation of project proposals, with experienced consultants involved in all phases: assisting in the formation of the consortium, framing the proposal, regular follow-up meetings, gathering information from partners, and helping to write the project proposal, among others.

Management of funded projects

Once funding has been secured, Zabala Innovation can also engage in the implementation and management tasks, one of the most requested services by its clients. In the case of MSCA Doctoral Networks, this consultancy can support its clients in:

  • effective start-up by respecting the contracts signed with the European Commission, while ensuring adherence to deadlines and key results; technical, financial, and administrative reports;
  • support in organising governance meetings and assistance in the key phases of the project (recruitment, progress review, secondment supervision, and assistance in organising consortium meetings);
  • communication and dissemination, defining the strategy, identifying the target audience, and designing a plan to convey key messages and manage the dissemination of essential project information.

“The MSCA Doctoral Networks 2024 call for projects offers a key opportunity for doctoral training and innovation, aligning academic objectives with industrial and socio-economic needs,” insists Ms Marin. She adds: “At Zabala Innovation, we can provide our clients with our experience and expertise in all phases of the project, from proposal preparation to dissemination of results: in 2023, 3 of the 17 projects funded in France were supported by our consultants.”

The Mentor case

An example of this work is the Mentor project. “When abnormally activated, the mTOR protein can contribute to the development of cancers and certain monogenic diseases that affect approximately two million people worldwide. The multidisciplinary Mentor project (Metabolic control of cell growth by mTOR in pathophysiology) will start in January 2025 and will study these growth mechanisms to develop treatments tailored to each patient,” explains Mario Pende, project coordinator at the University of Paris Cité.

Among the 17 French laureates of the MSCA Doctoral Networks call for projects, the Mentor project will recruit 18 doctoral candidates, each of whom will work in one of the 15 laboratories that are part of the consortium. “I was preparing the dossier to submit it to the call for projects. About five months before the deadline, the university’s grant office advised me to contact Zabala Innovation, as a consultancy expert in the preparation and management of projects funded by the European Commission,” recalls Pende, who adds: “I was immediately impressed by their competence, the speed of response, and a quote that was justified by the offer.”

Pende does not hide his satisfaction: “I especially appreciated the personalised work, that is, being able to interact constantly with a person dedicated to the project, Audrey Kelle, who was always there to answer my questions, read the proposal, critique it, and improve it,” highlights this professor. “It is really a team spirit, working in synergy, which allows us to go much further in a very efficient manner. Being supported in this way is a great motivation to work even harder,” he concludes.