Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions: the foreseen changes in Horizon Europe

As in Horizon 2020, Marie Curie Actions remain the human resources strand of Horizon Europe with some changes, but with continuity. Here is an overview of the evolution of the programme!

An evolution in continuity

In Horizon 2020, the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions programme (MSCA) supported the mobility and training of researchers in Europe. A mission that continues under Horizon Europe with, however, some changes.

Among the stated objectives: simplification and improved success rates. To this end, the European Commission plans to apply new criteria for the resubmission of proposals. In addition, greater emphasis will be put on the projects’ impact and synergies with other actions (ERC, Research Infrastructures, EIC, etc.) and programmes (structural funds, Erasmus +…).

The total budget for the 2021-2027 period has reached 6.6 billion Euros which represents a slight increase as compared to H2020.

A clearer denomination of the various actions

The structure of the MSCA programme in five sub-actions under Horizon 2020 remains the same in Horizon Europe. However, for the purpose of clarification and simplification, these actions change names:

  • Innovative Training Networks (ITNs) become “Doctoral Networks”;
  • Individual Fellowships (IF) are merged into a single action: “Postdoctoral Fellowships” with two destinations (Global and Europe);
  • the Research and Innovation Staff Exchange (RISE) becomes the “Staff Exchanges”;
  • the COFUND programme (Co-funding of regional, national and international programmes) keeps its name;
  • the European Researchers’ Night is renamed MSCA and Citizens.

Focus on: Future ITNs – Doctoral Networks

In H2020, ITNs were composed of three types of innovative sub-actions for doctoral training:

  • ETN (European Training Networks);
  • EID (European Industrial Doctorates);
  • and EJD (European Joint Doctorates).

These three sub-actions will therefore be grouped together in Horizon Europe under a single name: Doctoral Networks.

Among the major changes announced: a reduction in the maximum number of person-months per project, reducing the number of funded PhD students from 15 to 10. However, the participation of the non-academic sector (SMEs, industry, etc.) will be strongly encouraged, with an increase in the number of person-months for industrial doctorates (former EIDs) and the possibility of carrying out an industrial PhD between organisations in the same country.

To improve both the quality and success rates, restrictions should be imposed on project resubmissions as of 2022: a threshold of 80/100 for the evaluation of a first proposal will be required to resubmit a project. The funding threshold remains unchanged at 70/100.

Focus on: Postdoctoral Fellowships

Under Horizon Europe, only researchers in possession of a PhD and with up to 8 years of post-doctoral research experience (by the time of the call deadline) will be eligible for Postdoctoral Fellowships. Years of experience outside research, career breaks and years of experience in third countries (for reintegrating researchers) are not taken into account.

The duration and criteria for mobility are simplified with only two destinations:

  • Europe (European Fellowship): duration from 12 to 24 months, with the possibility of an additional 6 months for the non-academic sector;
  • worldwide (Global Fellowship): from 24 to 36 months, with a mandatory 12-month return phase in a Member State or Associated Country.

From 2022 onwards, re-entry restrictions will also apply to applications with a score below 70%.

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