MSCA Postdoctoral Fellowships: What if I apply with an UK Institution?

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Tags: #MSCA | #MSCA-PF

Many applicants for MSCA Postdoctoral Fellowship in China apply with a host institution in the UK. It has been clear through the application process that those applications are conditional to the successful conclusion of the negotiations between European Union and the United Kingdom. Since we wrote the article above, it has become clear that the negotiations will probably not be concluded in time for the fellowships starting this year.


Zhenming Li

Sheffield University, UK

Zhenming Li graduated from Delft University of Technology in 2021. He majored in construction materials, such as cement, concrete and new types of binders. He also studies recycling of solid wastes into the use of raw materials of concrete. He has published dozens of journal papers in his field and he is an active member in technical committees of RILEM (the International Union of Laboratories and Experts in Construction Materials, Systems and Structures).


The impact of that should be lessened for the applicants with a UK host institution as on 15 March the UK government announced an extension to the guarantee to provide a financial safety net for successful UK applicants to Horizon Europe

See here how to apply for the guarantee funding for MSCA Postdoctoral Fellowships. Please note that this is only for successful MSCA applicants that applied last fall (2021), but is indicative of the process offered by the UK government.

To give us a better feeling for the situation, we also interviewed another successful MSCA Postdoctoral Fellowship applicant heading to Sheffield University in the UK, Dr Zhenming Li. We asked him about his experience with applying for the MSCA grant, but also the process of moving from MSCA to an UKRI grant.


The application process

Did you apply many times? If yes, which were the problematic parts in the previous proposals? Which kind of guidance and support you received? Do you have suggestions to perspective applicants?

No, I just applied for one time. Well, not all universities have service to review the proposals. I did receive some guidance on the template and some general questions from the contact points of MSCA. The main support I received during the writing of the proposal was from the hosts and some kind colleagues who have experiences on this. I have mainly two suggestions to future applicants. The first one is that we should strictly follow the template and make sure all the questions and issues are addressed clearly.

There is a limit of the number of words, so you should use concise language when writing. Compared to adding extra information that you may think helpful, addressing the questions asked is more essential. The second suggestion is to ask colleagues to review it before submission. They can be those who successfully got this grant, or those who have other experiences. In fact, the key aspects of proposals for many grants from Horizon Europe are similar. Comments from experts and professors are helpful.



Have your started the work yet? What are your expectations for these first weeks of research activities? How do you expect this experience to impact your research career and life?

Not yet. I will start after I finish my current project. I think I need to settle down at the beginning of the project and do planning and arrangement first. I will of course say hello to my new colleagues, get involved in the new group, and check the availability of the facilities that I need.

My impression is always that this grant is reputational and I believe this experience is a vital step towards a tenure track position in academic community. The impact on my life is also significant since my family and me are going to live in a new country with a different culture. Getting to know something new is always interesting and I am grateful that this project gives me this chance.


Being hosted in the UK

Your host institution is in the UK - due to technical reasons the UK is not able to host Marie Curie fellows this year. Can you tell us how this was dealt with? What process can applicants going to the UK expect if this situation remains? How will it impact your research?

Yes. To be honest, this is an issue that many colleagues including me have been concerned of. The UK has many good universities, so a big number of scholars choose UK as their destination. But till now, we have been informed that EU will not actually pay the grant, but UKRI (UK Research and Innovation) instead. UKRI guarantees that the amount of money remains the same, but the title of Marie-Curie Fellowship may not be applicable to us anymore.

This is a pity I have to say, because many people know this grant as named by Marie Curie and now the name of our project will be something else. I didn’t see official announcement yet whether this situation will remain this year, but I guess so (if not worse) since the negotiation between EU and UK can take time. While, for my research, I don’t think this can have a big impact as long as I get granted. The research will go as planned I think.