MSCA Individual Fellowships: opportunities for Japanese researchers and Japanese host institutions

The MSCA IF 2017 call opened on 11 April, will close on 14 September, with an overall budget of EUR 248 million.

call text and application

guide for applicants


Within the Marie Sklodowska Curie Actions (MSCA), a new call for 2017 Individual Fellowships was launched last April, as every year. This call offers a wealth of opportunites for both Japanese (or Japan-based) researchers and Japanese research institutions.

Individual Fellowships are divided in two categories: European Fellowships and Global Fellowships, both characterised by the goal of promoting excellent science, career development, international and intersectoral mobility, transfer and exchange of knowledge, focus on research and innovation.

This particular Action of MSCA is appealing to Japanese researchers and Japanese research institutions, due to the fact that its eligibility criteria allow Japanese researchers to be active candidates, entitled to receive EU funding, and in the same dimension, Japanese host institutions are eligible to host researchers from the European Union and Associated countries (EU/AC).

Some definitions:

Member states (MS): the 28 countries which are part of the European Union

Associated Countries (AC): the16 countries associated to the EU framework programme for research and innovation, Horizon 2020

Third Countries: any country that is not an EU Member State or Associated Country to H2020

Beneficiary: the legal entity that signs the Grant Agreement and has the complete responsibility for the proper implementation of the action.

Proponent: Individual researchers from anywhere in the world may submit the proposal, in coordination with a host institution based in a MS/AC.

In the case of global fellowship, all details of the Japanese host institution or “Partner Organisation” must be included in the proposal and its “Letter of Commitment” must be annexed


European Fellowships and Global Fellowships

A characteristic feature of the MSCA Individual Fellowships is that the programme is totally bottom up; therefore open to all fields of knowledge, offering a unique flexibility and variety of research topics for project proponents.

  • In the case of a European Fellowship, the applicant researcher can move either within Europe or from a Third Country (including Japan) to any European Member States or Associated Countries.

  • In the case of a Global Fellowship, the researcher moves from Europe to any Third Country, including Japan, and then goes back to his/her host institution in Europe.

For Japan, this means equal mobility opportunities with any of the 28 countries which are part of the European Union, and the 16 associated countries, giving a wide range of options and possibilities to implement such exchanges.


Eligibility criteria

Eligibility criteria for individual researchers (applicants):

  • Applicants must be experienced researchers who, at the date of the call deadline, are in possession of a doctoral degree or have at least four years of full-time equivalent research experience.

  • Applicants must follow the ‘mobility rule’, which states they cannot apply for a fellowship if their planned destination is a country whare they have had research activities for more than 12 months during the 3 years prior to the call (counted from the call deadline).

Eligibility criteria for host institutions and partner organisations:

  • Beneficiaries of the fellowships are research organisations in MS or AC that host the researcher. In the case of Global Fellowships, organisations in Third Countries (Japan for example) that host the researcher during the compulsory initial outgoing period and provide additional training are partner organisations, but not beneficiaries.

  • The partner organisations located in Third Countries must include in the proposal a letter of commitment to ensure their real and active participation in the proposed action. Their precise role should also be clearly described in the proposal.

Detailed eligibility conditions should be checked in the guide for applicants, which details different specific cases.


Duration of the supported research stays

For European Fellowships, the overall duration ranges from 12 to 24 months. For Global Fellowships, 12 to 24 months must be spent at a partner organisation in a Third Country, followed by an obligatory return period of 12 months at the host institution (beneficiary) in the MS or AC.

The European Fellowships offer a wide range of options which reflect different needs and demands of researchers, and are aimed in particular to support experienced researchers to undertake international and inter-sector mobility (through the Society and Enterprise Panel); individuals who wish to resume their research career in Europe after a break such as a parental leave or positions outside of research (through the Career Restart Panel); or MS/AC nationals or long-term residents who wish to come back to an MS or AC after a long stay abroad (through the Reintegration Panel).


Financial aspects

The living allowance is the EU contribution to the gross salary costs of the researcher and amounts to EUR 4,650 per month, adjusted through the application of a country correction coefficient for the cost of living in the country of the beneficiary. In addition to the living allowance, a monthly mobility allowance of EUR 600 will be paid to recruited researchers. A family allowance of EUR 500 per month will also be paid in case the researcher has family obligations.

In addition to these, so-called 'institutitonal costs' are also covered by the fellowship. Research, training and networking costs amounts to EUR 800 per month and is managed by the beneficiary to contribute to expenses related to, for example, the participation of researchers in training activities; or expenses related to research and networking costs. Management and indirect costs amounts to EUR 650 per month, to be used for the management and indirect costs of the action.


Individual Fellowships still underused in Japan

It can be observed that the majority of projects with Japanese participation in MSCA have been within the RISE (research collaboration) programme, whereas both options permitted by the Individual Fellowships, namely Japanese researchers going to MS or AC, and European researchers choosing Japan as their destination for a Global Fellowship.

Japanese institutions (public or private universities, research institutions, private research centres or companies)could support their researchers and their research teams by widely promoting possibilities offered by the Individual Fellowships, take advantage of the 2017 call to attract excellent researchers from MS/AC and to send young researchers abroad.

Japanese institutions interested in hosting an MSCA Fellow can:

Japanese institutions interested in sending their researchers abroad as MSCA fellows can:

The network of National Contact Points (NCPs) is the main structure to provide guidance on all aspects of participation in Horizon 2020. The type and level of services offered may differ from country to country. In general, they provide personalised services such as: guidance on H2020; advice on administrative procedures; assistance on proposal writing; assistance in partner search. NCPs are also established in third countries. In Japan they provide support in Japanese, focusing on research cooperation projects.


Preparing a proposal

Some advice can be kept in mind in preparing a proposal:

  • Proponents should start constructing the proposal as soon as possible, in order to focus the project on its conception and elaboration;

  • Researchers should coordinate the proposal with the host Institution and with the supervisor, who agrees and whose details are included in the proposal;

  • Proponents should previously study the guiding documents of the programme and the call, including the policy background, in particular on the European side;

  • If the researcher has already submitted a proposal which has not been approved, the feedback received from evaluators can contain extremely useful orientations on how to improve the proposal, i.e. which elements need to be strengthened, in order to be successful for a future application;

  • Proposals should be drafted keeping in mind the evaluation and award criteria, which orient the content of each section of the project. Each criterion has a different weight in evaluation, namely: Excellence 50%, Impact 30%, Implementation 20%. Further detail is necessary in each of the proposal parts, where elements have to be specifically addressed and highlighted, as specified in the guide for applicants;

  • Researchers can ask the NCP network or EURAXESS Japan for support and guidance on technical issues or for networking and matchmaking purposes.

  • Follow the orientations for project elaboration detailed in the IF “Guide for Applicants” and see practical tips in the Net4Mobility “Survivor’s Guide to MSCA-IF

Japanese Researchers and Japanese Institutions are strongly encouraged to apply to MSCA, as Japan is a key strategic partner for Europe in the domain of research and innovation, and mobility schemes participate in the reinforcement of the links between the two regions.


Additional support materials

- Various resources: detailed call description by experts, how to find a host, tips & tricks by awardee

- Feedback: How to apply for an (MSCA) post doc grant? ;

- Hosting offers: 1000+ expressions of interest to host IF fellows by European institutions

- Interviews: voices of internationally mobile researchers with an Individual Fellowship

 - Event: Grants in Practice 2017, 14 July Tokyo: improve your MSCA IF and ERC grant writing skills with professional trainers from Europe!


Authors: Matthieu Py, EURAXESS Japan representative

Elisa Natola, MSCA National Contact Point for Brazil, Brazilian National Council of State Funding Agencies (CONFAP) horizonte2020[at]confap.org.br