The Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions address researchers at different stages of their research career. They are open to all researchers, irrespective of age. Students without a degree allowing them to take up studies on PhD level may not participate in the actions.
Basically, the MSC actions differentiate between two groups of researchers:
Early-stage researchers are defined as researchers who are, at the time of recruitment by the host organisation, in the first four years (full-time equivalent research experience) of their research careers and have not yet been awarded a doctoral degree. Researchers who have already been awarded a PhD degree are no longer recognised as early-stage researchers.
Experienced researchers are defined as researchers with a PhD or with at least four years of research experience (full-time equivalent). "Full-time equivalent research experience" is measured from the date when the researcher obtained the degree entitling him or her to embark on a doctorate (either in the country in which the degree was obtained or in the country in which the researcher is recruited or seconded), even if a doctorate was never started or envisaged. At least one of the prerequisites must be met at the respective call deadline, or for institutional actions the date of recruitment or secondment. There is no limitation concerning the researchers’ age in the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions.
In short, "early-stage researchers" refers to doctoral students whereas “experienced researchers” refers to researchers with a PhD but with possibly different levels of research experience.
Basically, any institution active in research and research training can apply within the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions, meaning that universities as well as public and private research organisations and enterprises, including small and medium sized enterprises, are addressed.
The actions specify different participation requirements.
General Mobility Rule
Almost all Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions require cross-border mobility.
Basically, no researcher can stay at a host organisation in a country in which he or she has resided or carried out his or her main activity (works, studies) for more than twelve months in the last three years.
The reference date set in the mobility rule for the different actions is the respective call deadline. Stays in the host country after the call deadline, but before the start of the project, are possible. For the institutional actions, the reference date is the date of recruitment or secondment by the host organisation. Researchers must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the country of their host organisation for more than twelve months in the three years immediately before the reference date.
Exceptions from the general mobility rule
The general mobility rule is not relevant for actions with a return phase, e.g. the return phase of Global Fellowships.
No mobility rules apply for the staff exchange within a RISE project.
For the Society and Enterprise Panel, the Career Restart Panel, and the Reintegration Panel within the European Fellowships, a modified mobility rule applies: Researchers must not have resided or worked in the host country for more than three years in the course of the last five years.
Existing mobility programmes that are co-funded by COFUND may deviate from the mobility rule in justified cases.
The Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions are open to all scientific areas (bottom-up approach). The researchers may choose the topic of their proposal freely, with the exception of nuclear research.
For evaluation purposes, an attribution to one of eight scientific panels is usually required.
The Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions differentiate between three categories of countries:
EU Member States
Institutions located in an EU Member State and researchers who are nationals of an EU Member State are basically eligible for all Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions.
The 28 EU Member States are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, United Kingdom.
Countries associated to the Horizon 2020 programme by agreement and researchers who are nationals of those countries are basically eligible for all Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions.
The following countries are associated to Horizon 2020, at least for participation in the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions: Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Faroe Islands, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Georgia, Iceland, Israel, Moldova, Montenegro, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine.
Third Countries are defined as countries that are neither EU Member States nor Associated Countries. Within the Third Countries, there are different categories:
- Third Countries that can receive funding from Horizon 2020 (corresponding to the general annex of the work programme),
- Third Countries that do not receive funding from Horizon 2020.
Participation of institutions from Third Countries
- Institutions from Third Countries may take part in Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions in which several institutions are required to form a consortium (Innovative Training Networks (ITN) and Research and Innovative Staff Exchange (RISE)), provided the minimum participation requirements are met even without their participation. The participation does not automatically involve EU funding.
- In Global Fellowships (IF-GF), the host organization for the outgoing phase is located in a Third Country that is not a contracting party with the European Commission / REA.
Participation of researchers with Third Country nationality
- Within the actions Innovative Training Networks (ITN) and Research and Innovative Staff Exchange (RISE), researchers from Third Countries may participate without limitation.
- The European Fellowships (IF-EF) address all researchers, irrespective of nationality. Researchers who apply for the Reintegration Panel must either be nationals of a Member State or Associated Country or have carried out research activities in Europe for at least five years without interruption.
- For the Global Fellowships (IF-GF), researchers from Third Countries may apply provided they have carried out research activities in a Member State or Associated Country for at least five years (full-time) at the time of the call deadline.
The funding scheme of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions differs from the funding mechanisms of other parts of the Horizon 2020 programme. Funding is provided for different components of the respective actions and amounts to up to 100% of the costs.
Basically, the contracting party (beneficiary) with the EU is the participating institution and not the individual researcher. The participating institution is the recipient of the payments. The coordinating institution in the respective Member State or Associated Country is the grant holder, even in projects with participation of institutions from Third Countries, e.g. Global Fellowships (IF-GF) or Innovative Training Networks (ITN).
The European funding may be allocated to different cost categories:
- Costs for researchers in funded projects are dedicated to the employment of researchers and consist of fixed amounts for living allowance, mobility allowance and family allowance (if applicable). A correction co-efficient dependent on the host country will be applied to the living allowance. Recruitment costs include all social security costs. Thus, the amount constitutes the employer's gross amount. Generally, the European Commission / Research Executive Agency (REA) expect the researchers to be appointed under an employment contract.
- The costs for institutions refer to project implementation and include allowances and grants for research, training, and networking costs as well as allowances for management and overheads.
The allowances for each of the actions are listed in a table in the work programme for the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions. Additional information is provided in the respective Guide for Applicants.
The two types of actions - institutional actions and individual actions - require different application modalities:
- The application is submitted by the institution or group of institutions for the research projects corresponding to the requirements of the action. In successful proposals, the institutions are provided with person-months for the recruitment of researchers according to the requirement of the project's work plan.
- Individual researchers apply for the vacant positions directly at the respective institution.
Individual Actions (individual fellowships - only for experienced researchers):
- The application is composed jointly by the host organisation and the researcher. The institution has to submit the project proposal.
Call for Proposals and proposal submission via the Participant Portal
For each of the calls, an individual website is available on the Participant Portal containing all relevant information and documents, among them the actual call itself, the respective work programme for the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions and the respective Guide for Applicants.
The work programme and the Guide for Applicants are essential for proposal writing.
While a call for proposals is open, the Guide for Applicants and further relevant documents might be updated. During proposal preparation and before submission, it is therefore highly recommended to check the documents for possible updates. Usually, frequently asked questions are also collected in the course of each call and should also be considered.
The proposal is submitted via the electronic submission service of the European Commission called "Submission and Evaluation in the Participant Portal (SEP)". With regard to actions that include several institutions, e.g. Innovative Training Networks (ITN), the coordinator is supposed to register in SEP. With regard to individual actions (Individual Fellowships), the host organization is supposed to register in SEP. Access to SEP is effected exclusively via the Participant Portal. An account at the European Commission Authentication Service (ECAS) is a prerequisite. A guidance note for proposal submission and registration at ECAS as well as the handling of SEP is available on the Participant Portal. The application forms are part of the annexes of the Guide for Applicants. The application forms correspond to the electronic forms in SEP.
The application forms consist of two components: Part A consists of the administrative forms, Part B of a pre-formatted document into which the actual proposal text is to be inserted. Specific requirements are demanded for both parts. These are laid down in the respective Guide for Applicants.
The call deadline for each call is a cut-off deadline; for each call, the electronic system closes at 5 pm Brussels time, no delayed submission is possible.