MSCA on the Horizon (Europe)

As the EU is still binding up its wounds from the COVID-19 crisis, it is also stepping into Horizon Europe, the EU’s new R&I funding programme.  

As one of the programme’s first pillar clusters, the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) will play a key role in implementing its ambition to help Europe operate a smooth green and digital transition. 

Key priorities and changes 

The COVID-19 crisis has shed light on the EU’s R&I system shortcomings and pointed out how much its future relies on interdisciplinary and global approach as well as on younger generations. These are the major areas the new MSCA work programme will commit to address by optimising its €6.6 billion allocated budget through its 5 main intervention areas over the Horizon Europe seven-year period.  

Then, in response to the numerous submitted proposals under Horizon 2020, MSCA is now seeking to reduce the number of applicants while boosting success rates with upgraded criteria as well as with a simplified structure and application procedure.  

MSCA also gives particular focus to inclusion, gender equality and optimised work and life balance with updated part-time work arrangement and increased allowances. In doing so, the programme strives to carry out and upgrade its H2020 41% of female fellows record.  

Bird’s eye view 

“Long-term investment” in early career researchers and doctoral students expected to lay down the foundations for a resilient Europe will be one of the programme’s core principles.  

Its international and inter-sectoral approach will also aim to intensify third country participation and to address the R&I gap across Europe. 

The Doctoral Network (DN) and Post-Doctoral Fellowship (PF) calls will prioritise young researchers and PhD holders’ competence diversification and development within and outside academia with emphasised international and academia-business exposure. 

The industrial DN and the PF additional placement in a non-academic organisation option will aim to boost cross-country brain circulation as well.  

ERA fellowship, COFUND and NCP calls will pursue the same objective by fostering synergies with other EU programmes both within and outside Horizon Europe (e.g. Erasmus+ or  EEA).  

Green is the new black 

The programme’s Green Charter encourages greener practices (e.g. environment-friendly project material) throughout the entire project planning, building, and completing process and will include a mandatory “green charter implementation” report submission.  

The possibility for PF projects to cover Euratom related topics will also act as an incentive for utilising clean hydrogen, renewable energy and low-carbon actions. 

Looking out to the Horizon 

To be looked forward to at present are the programme’s Doctoral Network, Post-Doctoral Fellowship, Staff Exchanges, and COFUND call for 2022 as well as the upcoming European Researchers’ Night on 24 September.    

Two conferences under the Slovenian and French presidency are also on the MSCA eventslist.   

Read more on MSCA’s Horizon Europe work programme here.  

Maxine Boi
EuChemS Erasmus+ Trainee 

Laura Jousset
EuChemS Science Communication & Policy Officer 


NextGenerationEU: how research and science will make it real

If you live in Brussels or follow the EU institutions on social networks, it is very likely that you saw one of the European Commission’s banners for NextGenerationEU (NGEU). Implemented in July 2020 to operate temporarily from 2021 – 2023, it aims to consolidate the EU’s economic structure after the COVID-19 crisis. It represents €750 billion allocated to member states in the areas of single market (€10.6 billion), cohesion (€721.9 billion), and natural resources (€17.5 billion). It is also tied to the regular 2021–2027 budget of Horizon Europe. 

A multidisciplinary plan to build a resilient Europe 

The NGEU recovery package has been designed along multidisciplinary lines. In total, 5 leitmotivs have been underlined to shape NGEU, with a strong emphasis on science, research, and innovation:  

  • Make it Green: Through supporting Horizon Europe and the Green Deal
  • Make it Digital: Through supporting InvestEU
  • Make it Healthy: Through supporting EU4Health
  • Make it Strong: Through supporting the Recovery Assistance for Cohesion and the Territories of Europe (ReactEU)
  • Make it Equal: Through supporting RescEU 

Furthermore, EU projects supported by NGEU have already been implemented, such as REFHYNE – a hydrogen research related project funded by Horizon 2020, Hydrogen Europe, and Hydrogen Europe Research.  

Modernising EU policies and facilities 

The Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) is the largest instrument of NGEU. Each member state has submitted their recovery and facility plans in April 2021. Budget allocation between countries has been divided as follows:  

Source: https://bit.ly/2TBtgDb

The European Commission defined seven flagship areas that guide the investments of member states among NGEU:  

  • Power-up (clean technologies and renewables)  
  • Renovate (energy efficiency of buildings)  
  • Recharge and refuel (sustainable transport and charging stations)  
  • Connect (roll-out of rapid broadband services)  
  • Scale-up (data cloud capacities and sustainable processors) 
  • Reskill and Upskill (education and training to support digital skills) 
  • Modernise (digitalization of public administration) 

Research is also present within the RRF plan through climate action and resilience: research infrastructures, circular economy projects, cooperation with enterprises and academia, as well as innovation clusters between private businesses being encouraged by the RRF.  

Investing in Youth for a better future 

NGEU’s objectives are similar to the ones stated in the guidelines of  Child Guarantee and Youth Guarantee: fostering digital skills, upskilling, reskilling, creating integration programmes for the unemployed, implementing policies to bridge the generational gap, and opportunities for children to access school with a healthy environment. 

In addition, €5.3 billion investment in action, with an EU added value, are invested in the programme EU4Health. The domains targeted are the following:  

  • Improve and foster health in the union 
  • Protect people in the Union from serious cross-border threats to health 
  • Improve medicinal products, medical devices, and crisis relevant product 
  • Strengthen health systems 

The NGEU plan has been envisioned beyond the COVID-19 crisis: to prepare the EU to address and face any unforeseen crisis in the future: “the next generation will be resilient”. Nevertheless, as we engaged in the second part of 2021, new COVID-19 challenges arose. It was created as a temporary tool, therefore, tracking the evolution of this plan is a necessity to further advance it: time will tell.   

Timothée Jourdain
EuChemS Erasmus+ Trainee

Laura Jousset
EuChemS Science Communication & Policy Officer