Interview: Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowships and exchanges in Horizon Europe

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Tags: MSCA | Horizon Europe | Interview

In January 2021, the current European research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020, will give way to a new programme called Horizon Europe.

The new programme will have a budget of around €95.5 billion for 2021-2027. This represents a 30% increase vis-à-vis the current programme and makes Horizon Europe the most ambitious research and innovation programme in the world!

Horizon Europe will promote excellence and provide valuable support to top researchers and innovators to drive the systemic changes needed to ensure a green, healthy, and resilient Europe.

The Marie Skłodowska-Curie (MSCA) fellowships and exchanges will remain a core feature of the new funding programme helping the best talent, young researchers, to expand on their knowledge and skills. We met with Ms Claire Morel, Head of Unit at DG Education and Culture of the European Commission to find out more about the next edition of the MSCA.


In a few weeks’ time, the European Commission will launch a new research & innovation programme. Will there be another MSCA?

The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA in short) will indeed continue under Horizon Europe, the EU’s framework programme for research & innovation from 2021 to 2027. Since their launch in 1996, MSCA has become the EU’s reference programme for doctoral education and postdoctoral training. Since 2014, MSCA have supported 65 000 researchers in Europe and beyond, including 25,000 doctoral candidates and more experienced researchers, and have funded over 1000 excellent international doctoral networks.

The MSCA will continue to support researchers’ careers, training and mobility, putting a particular emphasis on inter-sectoral cooperation, funding international doctoral networks and making Europe more attractive to talents, in line with the objectives of the new European Research Area and the European Education Area. Synergies between research and higher education will be sought, and more efforts put on fostering brain circulation. The MSCA will also contribute to the green transition, by encouraging beneficiaries to reduce the environmental impact of their research activities.

In a nutshell, what is this funding programme trying to do?

The MSCA support the training, career development and mobility of researchers in all scientific domains, at all stages of their careers and from all over the world. It supports both individual researchers and institutions (universities, research organisations, enterprises, and any other relevant organisations).

What types of opportunities will this new edition of the MSCA offer?

The new edition of the MSCA will offer the same type of funding opportunities as in the past. It will fund excellent doctoral programmes (and related fellowships for doctoral candidates), a fellowship scheme for postdoctoral researchers, as well as staff exchanges promoting cross-sectoral and institutional collaboration, a co-funding scheme and an action for outreach activities. The main actions under the future MSCA will be:

  1. MSCA Doctoral Networks (training of doctoral candidates)

  2. MSCA Postdoctoral Fellowships (supporting postdoctoral researchers)

  3. MSCA Staff Exchanges (funding the mobility of any type of research-related staff)

  4. MSCA COFUND (co-funding doctoral programmes and postdoc fellowships)

  5. MSCA and Citizens (supporting public outreach events through the European Researchers’ Night)

Can researchers from ASEAN pursue a PhD with the help of the MSCA?

It is indeed possible for researchers from ASEAN to apply for funding under the MSCA. PhD positions, including those funded by the MSCA, are advertised on the Euraxess portal (https://euraxess.ec.europa.eu/jobs/search), and applications are open to individuals from all over the world. The MSCA are the most international part of Horizon 2020, accounting for more than 50% of all participations of third countries. Since 2014, over 530 MSCA fellows from ASEAN countries have been funded. Out of these 530 fellows, over 140 were PhD candidates coming mostly from Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia.

Will there be MSCA funding for researchers in ASEAN to carry out postdoctoral research in Europe?

Experienced researchers from ASEAN will be able to apply for funding under the MSCA, notably through the “Postdoctoral Fellowships” action. The goal of Postdoctoral Fellowships is to enhance the creative and innovative potential of researchers holding a PhD, wishing to acquire new skills through advanced training, international, interdisciplinary and inter-sectoral mobility. Like other MSCA actions, Postdoctoral Fellowships are open to excellent researchers of any nationality. Since 2014, over 40 postdoctoral researchers from ASEAN have been funded, coming mostly from Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines.

How can universities in ASEAN use the programme to get connected to European research & industry partners?

Besides the two actions mentioned above (targeting doctoral candidates and postdoctoral researchers), the MSCA also promote international, intersectoral and interdisciplinary collaboration through the exchange of research, technical, administrative and managerial staff. This “MSCA Staff Exchange” scheme is open to organisations from all over the world, including ASEAN. Partnerships are made up of universities, research institutions and infrastructures, businesses and other socio-economic actors. The aim is to foster a shared culture of research and innovation that welcomes and rewards creativity and entrepreneurship. It is the most international action under the MSCA, and a great opportunity for non-EU institutions to get connected to European partners.

ASEAN institutions can also be part of MSCA doctoral networks, host doctoral candidates, and they can also host postdoctoral researchers under the Postdoc Fellowship action.

Where is the best starting point for interested researchers from ASEAN or anywhere in the world?

The best starting point for researchers from ASEAN looking for funding opportunities in Europe and beyond is the Euraxess portal (https://euraxess.ec.europa.eu/jobs/search). The portal lists not only opportunities funded by the MSCA, but also job vacancies, funding opportunities and fellowships offered by other EU, national or institutional sources.

Another advice would be to contact the MSCA alumni association (https://www.mariecuriealumni.eu): its members are the MSCA best ambassadors, always ready to provide testimonies on their experience with the programme.

Thank you Ms Morel!


MSCA - official website

Horizon Europe - official website

Webinar Recording: Career opportunities in Europe with MSCA Funding (Presentation by Claire Morel, DG EAC, EC)

Marie Curie Alumni Association SEA Chapter