1. Can a company apply for an MSCA PF?

You need to find a suitable applicant, either through our support initiative or through your own network (e.g. academic collaborators). The project does not need to be purely academic in nature, but it should have a non-trivial research question that goes beyond doing a mere market survey. You can discuss potential ideas with us if unsure. The designated supervisor at your company does not need to have an academic profile. Collaborations with academia and research and technology organisations (RTOs) (either local or international) as a part of a secondment (physical exchange to an organisation that is not linked to the host, up to 8 months total duration, can be anywhere in the world) can significantly improve the quality of your proposal.

2. Do I have to provide any co-funding?

No, the budget provided by the project covers salary (including employer’s costs, taxes etc.), research costs, traveling, training as well as management of the project. No additional contribution is needed from your side, except if you want to (e.g. increasing salary, research costs exceeding available budget, etc.)

3. How do I select a good candidate?

A good applicant, identified either through our services or your own network, will have a solid academic track record that is in line with their career status and circumstances. This means that reviewers generally have different expectations from an applicant with 8 years experience after their PhD, coming from a top ranked university, than an applicant that has just finished their PhD and comes from a less prestigious university. Reviewers will not exclusively judge applicants by their publication record. Important skills to consider during selection of applicants (either by looking at their CVs or by doing interviews) include their independence (you want somebody that can write their proposal with as little of input from you as necessary), writing skills (can be judged for example by asking them to send you a small research proposal – even if you will not take the ideas into account), and dedication and motivation (some applicants have many other obligations that can be in conflict with writing your proposal; some applicants will drop out during proposal writing because they find other positions). All in all, the applicant selection has to be done by you, as you are the best person to judge whether they fit the requirements you set.

4. What can I do to help find applicants? How can I make my profile more interesting?

Finding applicants on your own depends a lot on your network and existing collaborations. Reach out to them directly, or to academic centers that you know are at the top of their field. Once we generated a public profile for your expression of interest on Euraxess, we encourage you to share the profile through your channels. Furthermore, an interesting, well written expression of interest (the project description that you submit to us), highlighting the benefits of doing a project at your organisation, will help to attract the best applicants. A good description highlights your organisation’s strengths, expertise, main activities, collaborative partners, infrastructure (where relevant), HR policies (e.g. work life balance, gender equality, potential positions after completing the project, training opportunities) and the quality of the supervision the applicant will get during/before the project (e.g. exchanges during proposal writing). A good project description should also leave space for the applicant’s own ideas and any other potential incentives you can think of (e.g. top up of salary, benefits, consulting during the proposal writing, etc.).

5. Can I do collaborations in a MSCA PF?

Collaborations are possible but need to be in line with the scope of MSCA actions – they are not mandatory. A collaboration generally takes place either as a secondment (the applicant goes to another organisation, public or private, for up to 8 months; they will have a local supervisor at the secondment site; the purpose is training, networking and doing part of the project, for example on machinery that is not available at the main host) or as a short visit (less formal, for example for short visits to another research group, collecting some samples, doing field work, training etc. – while staying under the official supervision of the main supervisor). Costs occurring will be covered by the main host through their budget (for example travel and housing costs – research costs are invoiced by the partner to the main host). As a general rule, no other forms of collaborations are possible, or rather, they cannot be financed directly through the project (e.g. subcontracting). MSCA PF projects are generally not meant to be large, multi-partner consortia. The focus should be on the host, with some additional experience during secondments and short visits. A specific form of collaboration are the so-called non-academic placements. A project may request one such placement at the end of the 24-month period, and it would provide an additional 6 months of project funding. This placement can only happen at a non-academic site (e.g. company, NGO or public authority) different from the main host. Non-academic placements are additional to any other secondments that might have taken place during the project. The main purpose is to offer additional chances to the applicant to develop their career.

6. Who writes the proposal?

The main part of the proposal consists of 10 pages, describing the research question, the project and its objectives and methodology, the quality of the supervision, the two-way exchange of knowledge (from the applicant to you, and from you to the applicant), the impact of the project (on the career of the applicant, science, the economy and society), the outreach of the project (dissemination to scientists, policy makers, industry, citizens) as well as the work plan (project management). All of this information is mostly written by the applicant, but they need two types of information from you. 1) The project itself should of course be in line with your expectations and requirements and 2) administrative information about your organisation. 1) depends on how much you want to be involved and how independent the applicant is and 2) is relatively constant over time, meaning that if you have multiple applicants you can reuse the information, so you only need to invest the time once. Navigating the submission portal will take you some time the first time you are involved in a proposal, but we are there to support you along the way. Note that while we can answer questions during the proposal writing phase and provide in-depth reviews of your drafts, we cannot write any parts ourselves as part of our support.

7. Can I submit a project and look for a researcher after the project has been funded?

No, the proposal needs to identify the researcher that will do the project. If the researcher drops out after the project is funded, the project and its funding will be terminated and cannot be replaced with another applicant.

8. Do I need to involve an academic partner?

You do not have to, in particular if you have a good and precise training plan foreseen. The career development of the applicant is a very important element, thus an academic collaboration can make sense in some cases. See also Point 5 above

9. What kind of projects can be funded?

Any discipline and any topic can be funded, however there needs to be a research question that should be investigated in the proposal. Some projects, in particular those done in companies, will be more focused on product development or innovation activities. This is possible, and having a prototype or product at the end of the project can be a great way to demonstrate the impact of your work – but again, there needs to be a research question that should be investigated during the project, and it should not be trivial (e.g. doing a market survey or only literature research).

10. Why does the whole procedure take so long? I need a researcher yesterday!

Finding skilled researchers Is not trivial task, as you are no doubt aware. In particular for companies, mid to long term projects such as these can be difficult to justify with regard to short term indicators. Please keep in mind that the best scientists will want to plan their career carefully in advance, and thus want to know where their work will take them in 1-2 years. Identifying potential applicants for a large number of organisations takes a couple of months for us, and the proposal writing will require some time from the selected applicants. The proposal review process takes around 5 months after submission (the European Commission needs to select thousands of expert reviewers, they need the time to analyse and rank around 12,000 proposals. We are aware it is not trivial to ask you now for your expression of interest, for a project that might only start over a year from now.

11. What happens if we do not obtain the results that we define in the proposal? Will we lose the funding?

The funding of the project will not be determined based on the results you obtain (e.g. if an experiment fails) but on the work that was done (you performed the experiment but it did not produce the results expected). In other words, if the applicant does the research, the project receives the funding.

12. What is your methodology to find researchers?

Based on the keywords you send us, we will search academic repositories (e.g. Scopus, Pubmed Google Scholar) for academic experts from around the world, publishing highly cited work on these topics. These are generally professors, so not the target group we want to reach. We will reach out to these scientists, and ask them to forward your profile to any potential applicants. In some cases, we will also directly reach out to PhD level scientists. In our communication to them, we explain the MSCA funding scheme, its eligibility criteria, and point them towards your profile that we published on the Euraxess portal. If they are interested, they will submit their CV and required documents through the portal to us, and we will forward them to you.

13. Can I submit more than 1 proposal?

Yes, if you have good applicants, multiple proposals are advisable. You should of course not submit the same project with two different applicants.

14. Should I involve a consultant?

There are consulting companies specialised in supporting MSCA proposals. Some of them offer paid training courses and workshops, and some offer personalised one on one support during the proposal writing. This is not necessary to write a successful proposal, but they can provide added value, in particular if you have less time or experience yourself to guide the applicant during the writing. While our services are free, a consultant will of course be paid for their services – accordingly, they can offer more in depth and hands on support.

15. How much time do I need to invest?

You need to invest some time now to fill out the expression of interest. In May/June 2022, you will receive a number of CVs from potential applicants, usually between 0-10. At that time, you need to go through the CVs in order to preselect any interesting and relevant applicants, conduct interviews to make your final selection before 15 June 2022. From June to July, you will discuss with the selected applicants a timeline for the proposal writing and discuss project details (your expectations). From July to August, we will review the first drafts that are produced by the applicants. Before September, you will need to provide some additional information to the applicants to complete the proposal (e.g. administrative information about you, any available training programmes, etc). The two first weeks of September are usually a bit more hectic, as the applicants will finalise their drafts and we will do our final reviews.

16. Who defines the project, me or the applicant?

That is up to you. Generally it is a mix, but it can lean more or less in any way, depending on your expectations.

17. What is the budget of the project?

There is no need to prepare a budget within the proposal – the MSCA is a lump sum, meaning you will receive a fixed amount of budget. This includes (per month) up to 6,340€ for the salary (depending on the family status of the applicant), 1,000€ for research/travel/training costs (in other words 24,000€ for a 24-month project) and 650€ for management costs. The use of the latter amount is entirely up to you (hours you spend on the project, internal training programmes, indirect costs, etc.). Note that no retroactive payments are possible, in other words no funding that occurred before the project start can be reimbursed.

18. What kind of support do I get during the submission and project?

We help you with any related questions and try to aim at maximum reactivity. We offer grant writing trainings to applicants and hosts, and provide multiple rounds of reviewing of the proposals, with respect to the current work load. We can also help you with administrative questions, or how to navigate the proposal submission system. If you need/want to find academic or private partners for the project, you can reach out to us – maybe we can help.

19. How do I maximise my chances?

Take your time to write a precise profile and carefully select your keywords; publish the profile in your communication channels; choose only the best applicants; set up a clear timeline with the applicants, and regularly check in on them.

20. What happens if the applicant drops out during the writing phase?

This happens unfortunately to around 20-40% of applicants – the insecure prospect of maybe obtaining the MSCA grant, versus being offered a fixed position somewhere. If applicants drop out, obviously the project dies, if you have no alternative applicants.

21. What is the success rate?

The EU average is around 15%. However this includes very low quality proposals that were submitted last minute. For Luxembourg, the rate fluctuates heavily, since we have comparably only a small number of proposals. In 2019, we had for example a success rate of 28%, with proposals reviewed by Luxinnovation even 42%. Last year it was smaller, with a success rate of 13.5% and proposals reviewed by Luxinnovation at 19%. The bottom line is that the programme is quite competitive, but that investing a lot of time into it helps increase your chances dramatically.

22. Does the project have to be based in Luxembourg?

In short, yes. There are always opportunities for international visits, trainings, conferences and field work, but the project needs to be mainly based at the host in Luxembourg.

23. How is a project evaluated?

Proposals are evaluated externally by professionals from the field. In depth information can be found here.

24. What is the difference between GF (Global Fellowships) and EF (European Fellowships)?

The EF are the standard fellowships, while global fellowships have a very specific purpose – to get expertise in a leading research group around the world, and to bring back that expertise to the host in Luxembourg. In this latter case for example, an applicant could go to the US, Canada, Japan etc. for up to 2 years, and then come back to Luxembourg for one more year to share their expertise.