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Zabala Innovation leads three ‘Marie Curie Doctoral Networks’ projects to success

Marie Curie Doctoral Networks 2023

Zabala Innovation led three projects to success in the 2022 call for proposals of Doctoral Networks of Marie Sklodowska Curie Actions (MSCA DN) – an extremely competitive programme with very low success rates. These projects received excellent scores and were therefore funded. “Our results not only demonstrate our expertise and experience in this type of call for proposals, but also the effectiveness of our support. This can include both tailored services for reviewing and improving a project proposal and more in-depth work on preparing and writing the proposal.” says Sara Marin, senior consultant and MSCA expert at Zabala Innovation. The next Marie Curie Doctoral Networks 2023 call, with a budget of €434.80 million, will be published on 30th May and will close on 28th November 2023.

Do you have a ‘Marie Sklodowska Curie Actions – Doctoral Networks’ project? This is the right time to submit it and we can help you!

Marie Curie Doctoral Networks 2023

Doctoral Networks is one of the flagship actions of Pillar 1 of the Horizon Europe programme. University research organisations, companies and other actors from the socio-economic world benefit from the programme. They build collaborative research and training projects for doctoral students who will be recruited in its framework.

These doctoral programmes respond to well-identified needs in the fields of research and innovation by bringing researchers into contact with the academic and non-academic sectors. They also provide research training and are an excellent opportunity to develop cross-cutting skills and competences that foster innovation and long-term employability.

Funding for 149 PhD programmes

Of the 942 proposals submitted and accepted in the last call for proposals, which closed in November last year, the majority (793 or 83.8%) were in the standard Doctoral Networks category. The remaining 16% were almost equally divided between Joint Doctorates and Industrial Doctorates. The former offers international, cross-sectorial, and interdisciplinary collaboration, with the participating institutions awarding a joint doctoral degree or several doctoral degrees (77). The latter trains doctoral students who aim to develop their skills and move outside academia, particularly into industry and business, with a strong involvement of industrial actors as beneficiary partners (76).

As a result of this call for proposals, the European Commission will provide €429.4 million in funding for 149 doctoral programmes to train more than 1,650 doctoral students in and outside universities. 14 industrial doctoral programmes will receive €47.5 million and 12 joint doctoral programmes stand to get €43.6 million.

Despite demanding funding-eligibility thresholds, one project supported by Zabala Innovation scored 98.6 out of 100 (DurAMat), with another 98 (Ivory) and a third project received a score of 96.2 (Glitter).

In the case of DurAMat, the consultancy provided a comprehensive service, which included the design of the work plan, collection of administrative and technical information, structuring and drafting of the proposal, internal review of the proposal by MSCA DN’s expert consultants, coordination of the consortium and submission of the proposal. Zabala Innovation also coordinated the consortium meetings and organised a workshop to facilitate the construction and drafting of the impact section. This section is typically the most challenging for project leaders to understand.

“We have found that where we intervene in greater depth and apply our methodology for putting together the dossier, the quality of the proposal increases significantly,” says Ms Marin.

The review service and project proposal support

The same is true for the other two projects, which benefited from the project review and proposal support service – designed to adapt perfectly to the client’s needs. This type of support covers several activities carried out jointly by Zabala Innovation and the project leader. Zabala Innovation draws on its experience to provide in-depth analysis of the chosen call for proposal and preparation of the proposal writing template, featuring recommendations and best practices.

It also includes regular exchanges with the project coordinator to answer questions and provide advice. This service offer may also include, depending on the needs of the applicant, the design and facilitation of the workshop on the impact section mentioned above, and another workshop to assist the consortium in the design and structuring of the training programme, which is an essential part of the evaluation of the excellence of the proposal.

“We also conduct several reviews over time, including advice on improving the content. Following each review, we discuss with the project leader to help him or her better understand and integrate our advice into the proposal: this allows us to work in synergy and to best meet their expectations,” adds Ms Marin.

Improvement that leads to success

In the case of Ivory, it was not just a matter of examining the file and having meetings with the client for each review, but also participating in the consortium meetings to discuss points of approach with them.

As for the Glitter project, it had already been submitted in 2021 but had not been financed, having obtained a low score. Zabala Innovation therefore supported the project leader, firstly by conducting an in-depth analysis of the evaluation of the proposal submitted in 2021 and recommending a series of improvement points on which to work as a priority.

Zabala Innovation also supported the coordinator in drafting and restructuring the training programme. The evaluation of the 2022 proposal identified this as one of the strengths of the new dossier. This resulted in an increase of 15.4 points in the score compared to the previous year.

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