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EXCELLENT SCIENCE - Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions



EXCELLENT SCIENCE - Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions

Background & policy context: 

Although Europe hosts a large and diversified pool of skilled human resources for research and innovation this needs to be constantly replenished improved and adapted to the rapidly evolving needs of the labour market. In 2011 only 46 % of this pool worked in the business sector which is much lower than in Europe's main economic competitors e.g. 69 % in China 73 % in Japan and 80 % in the United States. In addition demographic factors mean that a disproportionate number of researchers will reach retirement age in the next few years. This combined with the need for many more high-quality research jobs as the research intensity of the European economy increases will be one of the main challenges facing European research innovation and education systems in the years ahead.

The necessary reform must start at the first stages of the researchers' careers, during their doctoral studies or comparable post-graduate training. Europe must develop state-of-the-art, innovative training schemes, consistent with the highly competitive and increasingly inter-disciplinary requirements of research and innovation. Significant involvement of businesses, including SMEs and other socio-economic actors, will be needed to equip researchers with the cross-cutting innovation and entrepreneurial skills demanded by the jobs of tomorrow and encourage them to consider their careers in industry or in the most innovative companies. It will also be important to enhance the mobility of these researchers, as it currently remains at a too modest level: in 2008, only 7 % of European doctoral candidates were trained in another Member State, whereas the target is 20 % by 2030.

This reform must continue through every stage of researchers' careers. It is vital to increase the mobility of researchers at all levels, including mid-career mobility, not only between countries but also between the public and private sectors. This creates a strong stimulus for learning and developing new skills. It is also a key factor in cooperation between academics, research centres and industry across countries. The human factor is the backbone of sustainable cooperation which is the key driver for an innovative and creative Europe able to face societal challenges, and key to overcoming fragmentation of national policies. Collaborating and sharing knowledge, through individual mobility at all stages of a career and through exchanges of highly skilled R&I staff, are essential for Europe to re-take the path to sustainable growth, to tackle societal challenges and thereby contribute to overcoming disparities in research and innovation capacities.

In this context, Horizon 2020 should also encourage career development and mobility of researchers through improved conditions to be defined for the portability of Horizon 2020 grants.
Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions will ensure effective equal opportunities for the mobility of male and female researchers, including through specific measures to remove barriers.
If Europe is to match its competitors in research and innovation, it must entice more young women and men to embark on research careers and provide highly attractive opportunities and environments for research and innovation. The most talented individuals, from Europe and elsewhere, should see Europe as a pre-eminent place to work. Gender equality, high-quality and reliable employment and working conditions and recognition are crucial aspects that must be secured in a consistent way across the whole of Europ

Strategic Objectives: 

The specific objective is to ensure optimal development and dynamic use of Europe's intellectual capital in order to generate, develop and transfer new skills, knowledge and innovation and, thus, to realise its full potential across all sectors and regions. Well-trained, dynamic and creative researchers are the essential element for the best science and the most productive research-based innovation.

Although Member States have introduced reforms to improve their tertiary education institutions and modernise their training systems, progress is still uneven across Europe, with big differences between countries. Overall, scientific and technological cooperation between the public and private sectors generally remains weak in Europe. The same applies to gender equality and to the efforts to attract students and researchers from outside the ERA. Currently around 20 % of the doctoral candidates in the Union are citizens of third countries, whereas about 35 % in the United States come from abroad. To speed up this change, a strategic approach that goes beyond national borders is required at Union level. Union funding is crucial to create incentives for and encourage the indispensable structural reforms.

The Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions have made remarkable progress to promote mobility, both transnational and intersectoral, and to open research careers at European and international level, with excellent employment and working conditions following the principles of the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers. There is no equivalent in Member States as far as their scale and scope, funding, international character, generation and transfer of knowledge are concerned. They have strengthened the resources of those institutions able to attract researchers internationally and thereby encouraged the spread of centres of excellence around the Union. They have served as a role model with a pronounced structuring effect by spreading their best practices at national level. The bottom-up approach taken by Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions has also allowed a large majority of those institutions to train and upgrade the skills of a new generation of researchers able to tackle societal challenges.

Further development of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions will make a significant contribution to development of the ERA. With their Europe-wide competitive funding structure, Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions will, whilst respecting the principle of subsidiarity, encourage new, creative and innovative types of training such as joint or multiple doctoral degrees and industrial doctorates, involving research, innovation and education players who will have to compete globally for a reputation of excellence. By providing Union funding for the best research and training programmes following the principles for innovative doctoral training in Europe, they will also promote wider dissemination and take-up, moving towards more structured doctoral training.

Marie Skłodowska-Curie grants will also be extended to the temporary mobility of experienced researchers and engineers from public institutions to the private sector or vice versa, thereby encouraging and supporting universities, research centres and businesses, and other socio-economic actors to cooperate with one another on a European and international scale. With the aid of their well-established, transparent and fair evaluation system, Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions will identify excellent talents in research and innovation in an international competition which gives prestige and therefore motivation for researchers to advance their career in Europe.

The societal challenges to be addressed by highly skilled R&I staff are not just Europe's problem. These are international challenges of colossal complexity and magnitude. The best researchers in Europe and in the world need to work together across countries, sectors and disciplines. Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions will play a key role in this respect by supporting staff exchanges that will foster collaborative thinking through international and intersectoral knowledge-sharing that is so crucial for open innovation.

The co-funding mechanism of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions will be crucial to expand Europe's pool of talents. The numerical and structural impact of Union action will be increased by leveraging regional, national and international funding, both public and private, to create new programmes with similar and complementary goals and to adapt existing ones to international and intersectoral training, mobility and career development. Such a mechanism will forge stronger links between research and education efforts at national and Union level.

All the activities under this challenge will contribute to creating a whole new mindset in Europe that is crucial for creativity and innovation. Marie Skłodowska-Curie funding measures will strengthen pooling of resources in Europe and thereby lead to improvements in coordination and governance of researchers' training, mobility and career development. They will contribute to the policy goals outlined in the flagship initiatives 'Innovation Union', 'Youth on the Move' and 'Agenda for New Skills and Jobs' and will be vital to turn the ERA into reality. The Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions will therefore be developed in close synergy with other programmes supporting these policy objectives, including the Erasmus+ programme and the KICs of the EIT.

Broad lines of activities:

  • Fostering new skills by means of excellent initial training of researchers
  • Nurturing excellence by means of cross-border and cross-sector mobility
  • Stimulating innovation by means of cross-fertilisation of knowledge
  • Increasing the structural impact by co-funding the activities
  •  Specific support and policy action
Leading Institutions:

Type of funding:
Total Budget: 
€ 6162 million
Number of projects:
Project Profiles:
  1. 5G DRIVEn Resource Efficient Mobile Aggregation Networks
  2. Biocementation for railway earthworks
  3. Cooperative Connected Intelligent Vehicles for Safe and Efficient Road Transport
  4. Designing Next-Generation Aircraft via High-Fidelity Computational Models and Optimization
  5. Electromobility in urban transport: a multi-dimensional innovation (socio-economic and environmental effects)
  6. European Industrial Doctorate on Next Generation for sustaINable auTomotive ElectRical ACtuaTion
  7. Hydrogen fuelled utility vehicles and their support systems utilising metal hydrides
  8. Improving the crashworthiness of composite transportation structures
  9. Innovation in the road freight transportation chain facilitating sustainability and low cost: A socio-technical perspective on work and development of road freight transport markets.
  10. Innovative Concrete Barriers for Forgiving Road Infrastructure
  12. Intelligence-Driven Urban Internet-of-Things Ecosystems for Trustworthy and Circular Smart Cities
  13. Laser Scanning for Automatic Bridge Assessment
  14. Long-term structural performance of pre-stressed concrete bridges: A risk-based monitoring informed framework for life-cycle asset management
  15. Network for Innovative Training on ROtorcraft Safety
  16. Next generation Pass-By Noise approaches for new powertrain vehicles
  17. Promoting Sustainable Freight Transport in Urban Contexts: Policy and Decision-Making Approaches
  18. Rail Infrastructure Systems Engineering Network
  19. Safer Autonomous Systems
  20. Smart Cities EMC Network for Training
  21. Sustainable Mobility, Affordable Cities: How do workplace sustainability plans shape transport affordability in Brussels and Sofia?
  22. The Economics of the Intelligent Transportation Services