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Published:  11 Apr 2024

Next COFUND 2024 call: 6 steps to prepare your application

Get started with this funding scheme and learn how to prepare a successful proposal.

The MSCA Co-funding of regional, national and international programmes (COFUND) action supports doctoral and postdoctoral fellowship programmes for the training, career development and mobility of researchers. The EU’s co-funding allows organisations in EU and Horizon Europe associated countries, which contribute with their own top-up funds, to develop their own schemes.

COFUND spreads the MSCA best practices by promoting high standards and excellent working and employment conditions.

If you are considering applying for MSCA COFUND, here are some useful tips and guidance to start preparing your proposal.

Step 1: get familiar with how funding works

Have a look at the COFUND page and key resources for an introduction to the scheme’s features.

Consult the MSCA Work Programme and annexes programme’s requirements.

The Funding and Tender Opportunities Portal is the one-stop-shop for future applicants, offering useful resources such as

  • the Guide for Applicants is the best starting point for any organisation interested in the scheme
  • a set of official Frequently Asked Questions
  • proposal templates and application forms, evaluation forms and evaluation criteria, and many other resources

Attend webinars and hands-on workshops to learn more about the call. MSCA National Contact Points and Euraxess Worldwide organise information sessions regularly. Contact them to find out about the next sessions.

The MSCA-NET project, run by MSCA National Contact Points, offers complementary resources to support applicants

CORDIS, the official projects’ database of the European Commission, can help you find examples of previously funded COFUND projects.

Co-funding modalities

The COFUND allowance is a “flexible” EU contribution that can be used to support any cost items of the programme (for the researcher or institution). COFUND funding can be used in full to cover the recruitment costs for each supported researcher, since it is equivalent to the minimum salary that researchers must receive.

Applicants are responsible for topping-up EU funding with their own or external complementary funds to implement the programme. This can include a top-up to reach a competitive salary for the standards of the hosting country.

Individual cost items of the proposal may be fully or partially funded through other resources including EU programmes other than Horizon 2020 or Horizon Europe if double-funding is avoided. Applicants are encouraged to explore synergies with the Cohesion policy funds and the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF).

Proposed programmes can cover any research disciplines (“bottom-up”), but exceptionally can also focus on specific disciplines, notably when they are based on national or regional Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation (RIS3 strategies).

COFUND applicants can submit proposals for new or existing programmes in one of the following two modalities.

Doctoral programmes

  • offering research training activities to allow doctoral candidates to develop and broaden their skills and competences
  • leading to the award of a doctoral degree in at least one EU Member State or Horizon Europe Associated Country
  • offering training activities based on the EU Principles on Innovative Doctoral Training

Postdoctoral programmes

  • funding individual advanced research training and career development fellowships for postdoctoral researchers
  • offering training to develop key transferable skills and competences common to all fields

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Step 2: make sure your organisation can apply and learn about the recruitment conditions

Applicants

COFUND is a “mono-beneficiary” action. This means that only one organisation based in the EU or a country associated to Horizon Europe applies.

Any type of organisation can apply to COFUND, including

  • higher education institutions
  • research centres and infrastructures
  • national or regional funding agencies
  • private sector organisations, including industry, businesses, and small and medium-sized enterprises
  • public sector organisations, including national, regional, and local governments, agencies, and museums
  • other socio-economic actors, including NGOs, foundations, charities, etc.

The beneficiary may fund, recruit, supervise, host or train the researchers, either on its own or in conjunction with

  • implementing partners
    • can recruit and employ researchers
    • should be based in the EU, the Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) linked to the Member States, countries associated to Horizon Europe or low- and middle- income third countries included in the list of countries eligible for funding provided in the Horizon Europe Programme Guide
    • receive funds from the beneficiary to recruit researchers
  • associated partners
    • train researchers or host them for short secondments, without employing them
    • can be established anywhere in the world, and be from any socioeconomic sector
    • do not employ researchers
    • do not receive any funds

If you are not sure about your country’s status, have a look at the list of participating countries to Horizon Europe.

Researchers

COFUND programmes will need to recruit at least three researchers fulfiling the following requirements.

Doctoral candidates must

  • not have a PhD or have successfully defended their thesis by the deadline of the programme’s call
  • be enrolled in a doctoral programme during their fellowship, leading to a degree awarded by an organisation in the EU or a country associated to Horizon Europe
  • be employed for a period as of 3 months and for the length necessary to achieve a PhD

Postdoctoral fellows

  • must have a PhD by the deadline of the programme’s call
  • can be recruited for a period of minimum 3 months
  • can be offered fellowships to
    • carry out research in the EU or countries associated to Horizon Europe
    • carry out a research project with an outgoing phase outside the EU or countries associated to Horizon Europe, followed by a return phase to one of these countries

In both cases, researchers

  • can be of any nationality. For COFUND Postdoctoral Programmes where the main part of the research training activities is carried out in a country other than an EU Member State or Horizon Europe Associated Country, researchers must be nationals or long-term residents of an EU Member State or Horizon Europe Associated Country
  • should follow the “mobility rule”: they must not have lived or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the country of the recruiting beneficiary or implementing partner for more than 12 months in the 36 months immediately before the deadline of the co-funded programme's call
  • can carry out secondments at implementing or associated partners for a maximum of one third of their fellowship or outgoing phase for Postdoctoral fellows researching outside the EU or a country associated to Horizon Europe

Limitations on the researchers' origin and destination should be avoided.

Researchers already permanently employed by the organisation hosting them cannot be funded by COFUND.

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Step 3: find the best partners to prepare your proposal

COFUND programmes are implemented by a single beneficiary, in conjunction or not with other organisations that can recruit, train or host researchers.

To apply you will need to prepare a proposal with potential implementing and associated partners following some minimum requirements (see specific conditions in the MSCA Work Programme).

You could start by exploring the existing links that your department and organisations have with institutions around Europe and worldwide.

You can also use this call to explore new collaborations and expand your networks.

The following resources may help you find new partners to work with and advertise your organisation.

If you are still uncertain about the eligibility of your project, MSCA National Contact Points can help you go through the criteria.

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Step 4: start drafting your application

To draft a successful application, you will need to get familiar with the award criteria and the specific requirements of the call and stick to them. The call’s page on the Funding and tenders portal offers several resources to learn more about them.

Core aspects

All future COFUND will have to address the following core aspects in their proposal.

Evaluation, selection and recruitment of researchers

The selection procedure for doctoral and postdoctoral candidates must be open, transparent, merit-based, impartial and fair as set out in the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers.

There must be substantial involvement of independent evaluators, from outside the partnership, with no conflict of interest, at all stages of the evaluation process and for all submitted applications. The selection committees in charge of selecting the doctoral and postdoctoral candidates must include independent experts from outside partnership.

For postdoctoral programmes, the selection must be done on international peer-review, including evaluators based in other countries than those of the participating organisations. These evaluators must be involved in the evaluation process as well as in the selection committees.

Vacancy notices must be widely advertised through open calls, including on the EURAXESS website, and must include the minimum gross salary offered to the researcher.

The programme will have to involve independent evaluators in its selection committees.

Applicants will have to explain clearly how they will organise their call planning.

Skills’ development and training activities

Projects should offer training opportunities to researchers to get new research and transferable skills, foster entrepreneurship, carry out interdisciplinary research, and work in and beyond academia. They should also foster good scientific conduct such as research integrity, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Open science

Projects should promote and (where appropriate) reward Open Science practices. This includes providing dedicated training on open access to publications and to other research outputs including data, FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable) data management, societal engagement and citizen science.

Supervision

Particular attention is paid to the quality of supervision arrangements as well as career guidance in line with the Guidelines for MSCA supervision.

Career development

Projects should pay special attention to the improved employability and career prospects of researchers, and ensure that the supervisor and each recruited researcher set up jointly a career development plan upon recruitment.

Synergies

If your proposal addresses synergies with Cohesion policy funds or the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), do not forget to mention it since this is strongly encouraged by MSCA COFUND. Equally if it supports regional or national research and innovation smart specialisation strategies (RIS3), since that is an expected impact. Take into account that the synergies, support to RIS3, or relationship to the Horizon Europe objectives in general are included in the ex-aequo criteria.

Note that the EU contribution is limited to €10 million per beneficiary per call. If an applicant submits two or more successful applications totalling more than €10 million within one call, they will have to decide which of these proposals to implement.

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Step 5: check your application with your peers

If you want to receive feedback on your draft and get advice from former applicants and experts, you can reach out to

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Step 6: send your application

The 2024 call for the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions COFUND will close on 26 September 2024, 17.00, CEST.

During this period, you and your partners can prepare and send your application and learn more about the submission process on the call page on the Funding and Tenders Opportunities Portal and through the portal’s online manual. Become familiar with the electronic submission service, which is the online system you must use to submit proposals.

Submit your proposal as early as possible before the deadline expires to avoid last-minute problems.

You can update, download, or withdraw your proposal up until the deadline.

You can see an overview of the evaluation process on the European Research Executive Agency’s website.

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Tagged in:  COFUND
Published:  11 Apr 2024