We start our journey with Horizon Europe, the biggest programme for research and innovation.
Within Pillar 1, European Research Council (ERC) supports frontier research by the best researchers and their teams, while Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions (MSCA) focus on equipping researchers with new knowledge and skills through mobility and training.
If you truly want to advance your career, have little experience of EU funding and want to put foot on the ladder and develop international collaboration, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) could be a good starting point. One of unique features of MSCA is that the calls are bottom up, i.e. the research and innovation fields are chosen freely by the applicants (individuals and/or organisations).
The MSCAs provide grants for all stages of researchers’ careers and encourage transnational, international, intersectoral and interdisciplinary mobility.
MSCA Staff exchange (MSCA SE, former RISE) is an excellent instrument for building your networks, for international exposure, for gaining transferable skills & competences and for advancing your employability and career prospects. MSCA SE will also be suitable for experienced researchers or clinicians for further development of their research area.
Below is an example of MSCA RISE Horizon 2020 project in cancer:
The purpose of the MSCA Postdoctoral Fellowship (MSCA PF, former IF) scheme is to support individual researchers’ career path through mobility. A condition you should bear in mind is that one should be prepared to relocate to other country for 12-24 months.
Below are examples of two MSCA IF Horizon 2020 projects addressing hormonal plasticity and regulation of pancreatic beta cells.
MSCA Doctoral Training (MSCA DT, former Innovative Training Networks, ITN) fund entrepreneurial, innovative doctoral researchers in order to equip them with the right combination of research-related and transferable competences and provide them with enhanced career perspectives in both academic and industry environments. MSCA Doctoral Networks supports the delivery of Industrial Doctorates, where doctoral candidates will step outside academia and develop skills in industry and Joint Doctorates, international, inter-sectoral and multi/interdisciplinary collaboration which lead to the award of double or joint doctoral degrees. The scheme would be beneficial both for early career researchers or clinicians who are interested in acquiring new skills and competences, and for experienced staff who can use MSCA DT to build educational and training programme in their field.
ERC funds truly innovative blue sky research. ERC is Europe’s most prestigious research grant, supporting excellent researchers in carrying out ground-breaking, high-risk, high-gain, frontier research projects.
If you are considering applying for research funding through the ERC funding scheme, it is highly advisable to first check ERC’s very competitive requirements and expectations. ERC grants are evaluated on solely excellence of both the applicant and of the project. The Principle Investigator applying for ERC must have an outstanding CV and a remarkable scientific track record, and he/she should be able to demonstrate creative thinking, independence, outstanding CV and high-impact publications, and proven leadership and mentoring capabilities. Nevertheless, if you have fantastic breakthrough research idea and feel that your profile fits the bill, it is worth a try.
Examples of ERC projects in endocrinology:
ERC Advanced: https://cordis.europa.eu/project/id/338936
ERC Consolidator Grant: https://cordis.europa.eu/project/id/616891
This pillar aims at exploiting European strengths and assets by generating new knowledge and translating it into useful innovations; Pillar II also aims to boost key technologies and solutions underpinning EU policies & Sustainable Development Goals. There are six clusters
Unlike MSCA and ERC which fund bottom-up research calls, Pillar II calls fund projects addressing specified challenges, which are described in each call. For collaborative projects in research and innovation, Pillar II of Horizon Europe is the obvious choice.
But before we move to particular calls in Pillar II it is important to consider type of action of the call.
The type of action specifies:
- the scope of what is funded
- the reimbursement rate
- specific evaluation criteria to qualify for funding
Cluster II calls covers three major types of action: Research and Innovation Actions (RIA), Innovation actions (IA) and Coordination & support actions (CSA).
Research & Innovation Actions (RIA) Activities aiming to establish new knowledge and/or to explore the feasibility of a new or improved technology, product, process, service or solution. They may include basic and applied research, technology development and integration, testing and validation on a small-scale prototype in a laboratory or simulated environment.
Innovation Actions (IA) Activities directly aiming at producing plans and arrangements or designs for new, altered or improved products, processes or services. For this purpose they may include prototyping, testing, demonstrating, piloting, large-scale product validation and market replication.
RIA and IA often specify Technology Readiness level (TRL, maturity of technologies) of the solution offered by the project. TRL is another variable you need to bear in mind while selecting the call.
Coordination & Support Actions (CSA)
Accompanying measures such as standardisation, dissemination, awareness-raising and communication, networking, coordination or support services, policy dialogues and mutual learning exercises and studies.
Here is example of CSA call topic from draft WP of Cluster 1 Health:
Is the call right for you and you are right for the call? Looking across Pillar II
How to find suitable calls across all Clusters? Cluster 1: Health is logically your first point of call.
However, bear in mind that depending on your area of research it could be also ‘hidden’ in other Clusters Workprogrammes. For example, environmental endocrinology or nutrition specialists might want to check Cluster 6: Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture & Environment or Cluster 5: Climate, Energy and Mobility.
If you are interested in use of data, Artificial Intelligence or of advanced materials in healthcare you might look into Cluster 3: Digital, Industry & Space.
What else should you consider while selecting the call?
Interpret Horizon Europe call
Let’s have a look in details at example of the call from Cluster 1 Health:
HORIZON-HLTH-2022-STAYHLTH-01-05-two-stage: Prevention of obesity through the life course, RIA
Call expected outcomes include:
- For researchers, developers of medical interventions, and health and care professionals: to have improved understanding of basic biological pathways (genetic and epigenetic blueprints) conferring susceptibility to and protecting against overweight/obesity.
- For health and care professionals, national/regional/local public authorities and other relevant actors (e.g. schools, canteens, hospitals, work places, shopping malls, sport centres):
- Have access to, adopt and implement evidence-based clinical guidelines, best practices, coordinated, pan-European, multidisciplinary preventive strategies, policy recommendations and/or new policies to fight overweight/obesity and their comorbidities throughout the life course.
- Have access to and make use of a robust outcomes framework and tool-kit for standardised collection of economic and cost data related to the prevention and treatment of overweight/obesity and its comorbidities at population level across European regions and countries.
- Adopt tailor-made prevention campaigns to tackle overweight/obesity
For Citizens: to have access to and make use of new tools and services to make informed decisions about evidence-based lifestyle choices that will enable them to avoid becoming overweight/obese.
The proposals should address several of the following research bottlenecks:
- A comprehensive understanding of biological pathways (genetic, epigenetic, molecular, microbiome, and/or neuroimmune) conferring susceptibility to and protecting against uncontrolled “weight gain".
- Identification of socio-economic and lifestyle factors influencing consumer behaviour and their association to overweight/obesity prevention.
- Identification of pre-obesity biomarkers (genetic, laboratory, imaging, etc.) and their association to lifestyle and environmental.
- Mapping existing implementation research activities to prevent overweight/obesity, and identification of best practices.
- Conducting a thorough meta-review of the relationship between the risk for overweight/obesity and the biology of obesity, lifestyle habits, exposures, susceptibility to co-morbidities and/or all of their combinations.
- Developing recommendations and guidelines for what constitutes an appropriate healthy diet for different age and health groups.
- Understanding the casual links between overweight/obesity and sedentary behaviour, quality, quantity and types of food/drinks, physical activity and personality traits.
- Designing a creative and engaging programme to reach the optimal balance between diets and physical activity for the prevention of overweight/obesity.
- Analysing obesity stigma, stress and work-life balance, circadian rhythm disruption, mental health (including psychological problems), screen-time dependency, drugs and side effect of drugs, for the prevention of overweight/obesity.
- Addressing inequality aspects of overweight/obesity at multiple levels, taking into account vulnerable groups, gender and socio-economic factors.
- Setting up pilots to assess the effectiveness, including cost-effectiveness of obesity management strategies and analyse the impact of inactions, taking into account co-morbidities and value based care system
Firstly, this is an RIA action, hence the topic calls for exploratory research, possibly at TRL not higher that 5 at the end of the project. What partners does one need? The call text mentions researchers, developers, healthcare professionals and citizens as either project participants or beneficiaries of the project outcomes. Hence you need to have these type professionals in your consortium or at least links to relevant organisations and networks.
What kind of research will be funded? The calls asks for research of biological pathways (genetic, epigenetic, molecular, microbiome, and/or neuroimmune) controlling obesity, Identification of socio-economic and lifestyle factors influencing consumer behaviour (you might need social scientists in your team) and research in nutrition and physical activity connected to obesity. There is also scope for policy making and advocacy, as the call asks for policy recommendations and for the development of clinical guidelines, and for citizen and patient involvement.
If you are true entrepreneur/innovator and invented new technology/product/solution which you want to pilot, scale up and/or bring to the market, European Innovation Council funding schemes can be your first choice.
https://cordis.europa.eu/project/id/951933 (FET H2020 )
If you want to be part of knowledge and innovation community focusing on Healthcare you might check EIT Health https://eithealth.eu/ EIT Health network connects world-class organisations across Europe from the three worlds of business, research and education.