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Developing talents, advancing research

Published:  22 May 2023

Next Doctoral Networks call opening soon: 6 steps to prepare your application

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

MSCA Doctoral Networks implement doctoral programmes through consortia of organisations from different sectors across Europe and beyond. 

Selected networks expose the researchers to the academic and non-academic sectors, and offer them training in research, as well as in transferable skills and competences relevant for innovation and researchers’ long-term employability.

They also benefit participating institutions which receive funding to develop excellent doctoral programmes, which allow them to attract talent, boost their global visibility and foster cooperation with other sectors and countries.

The MSCA and Doctoral Networks focus on excellence in various aspects: excellence does not only apply to the individual fellows supported or the collaborations fostered and knowledge transferred. The quality and novelty of the research and innovation methodologies applied, the research conducted as well as the training, supervision and career guidance provided to researchers are also crucial aspects of MSCA doctoral networks and key award criteria.

The MSCA are open to all domains of research and innovation, chosen freely by the applicants, and have a strong focus in interdisciplinary, international and intersectoral cooperation. Doctoral Networks support programmes addressing this triple dimension spanning all research fields, and provide specific incentives to promote cooperation between academic and non-academic sectors.

If you are considering applying for MSCA Doctoral Networks, 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 Doctoral Networks page and key resources for an introduction to the scheme’s features. 

Consult the MSCA Work Programme and annexes for all details about the call. Doctoral Networks offer several funding modalities to set up doctoral programmes with specific incentives for Industrial and Joint Doctoral Networks – check which one matches the project you have in mind.

Check thoroughly the basic resources to dig deeper into the programme’s requirements

Step 2: make sure your organisation can apply

Organisations from all socioeconomic sectors in any country can apply to Doctoral Networks. This includes organisations such as

  • higher education institutions
  • research institutions and infrastructures
  • 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, charities, etc.

Organisations based in Member States and countries associated to the Horizon Europe programme are automatically eligible to funding. Organisations based in low and middle-income countries can also apply and receive funding from the EU (see specific conditions in the MSCA Work Programme). 

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

If your organisation is taking part in an EU-funded programme for the first time, you will need to register your organisation and get a participant identification code (PIC) number to participate in this call.

Step 3: find the best partners to prepare your proposal

To apply you will need to build an international and diverse consortium of leading organisations in the proposal’s research field (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. Every consortium has a coordinating institution and partner organisations that contribute to the implementation of the doctoral programme.

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 consortium, MSCA National contact points can help you go through the criteria.

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.

In addition, all future Doctoral Networks will be required to address these core aspects in their proposal.

  • Recruitment of researchers: selected projects will need to select doctoral candidates from all over the world in an open, transparent and merit-based process and offer attractive working conditions, in line with the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers and the European Charter for Researchers
  • Research and training activities: Networks should exploit complementarities within the consortium, share knowledge and foster networking activities. They should offer training in research-related, as well as transferable skills and competences. Selected networks should expose researchers to industry, business, SMEs and relevant non-academic activities whilst promoting an innovation-oriented mind-set and ensure their long-term employability, following the EU Principles for Innovative Doctoral Training
  • Supervision: Particular attention is paid to the quality of supervision and mentoring arrangements as well as career guidance in line with the Guidelines for MSCA supervision. Joint supervision of the researchers is mandatory for Industrial and Joint Doctorates
  • Career Development Plans: the network will have to establish such plans jointly with supervisor and each recruited doctoral candidate. In addition to research objectives, this plan comprises the researcher's training and career needs, including training, teaching, planning for publications and participation in conferences and events aiming at opening science and research to citizens

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 also reach out to

Step 6: submit your application

The 2023 call for the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Doctoral Networks will open on 30 May with a deadline to apply by 28 November 2023, 17:00 (Brussels time).

During this period, you and your partners can prepare and submit 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 REA’s website.

Tagged in:  Doctoral Networks
Published:  22 May 2023