The URV wins for the second time a European project that will enable it to contract 50 predoctoral researchers

The European Commission has awarded the URV’s Martí i Franquès programme more than four million euros to be used to contract 50 predoctoral researchers. The selection process will take place over two editions in 2020 and 2021, and the chosen candidates will each be awarded a three-year contract. The university will contribute a further four million euros to the project. The URV is one of three institutions in Spain to have received funding in the last call of the European Commission’s COFUND-DP programme, and it is the one that has received the most money

The Martí i Franquès COFUND Plus (MFP-COFUND-Plus) project is 50% funded by the European Union in the frame of the COFUND-DP programme of the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA). The university contributes another four million euros, part of which is from its own budget and the rest from external funders (such as Banco Santander, Fundació Catalunya La Pedrera, IRTA and others). The project seeks to attract talented researchers from around the world and to offer them the opportunity to develop their research career at the URV. The 50 places on offer are based on individual projects covering all of the URV’s knowledge areas: sciences, health sciences, arts and humanities, engineering and architecture, and legal and social sciences.

The contracts offered to the chosen candidates are aligned with standard MSCA contracts and substantially improve conditions in terms of salaries and funds available for research. Candidates have to meet a series of very high excellence requirements. Once they enter the URV, the candidates will receive high-level interdisciplinary, intersectorial and international training. Furthermore, they will co-create their personalised development plans with their supervisors.

A committee consisting of URV staff and external assessors will evaluate the applicants’ training, research results, professional experience, motivations and references. The candidates will be able to apply for one of the research projects on offer, which are linked to the University’s official doctoral programmes.

With this new funding award, the URV now has two MSCA-COFUND-DP projects. The first has had very positive results since it began in 2015. The impact of the first candidates’ research projects is demonstrated by their output, which to date consists of 27 scientific articles in open access, 40 papers and posters presented at international conferences, 6 contributions to the European Horizon Results Platform, special mentions on the social media of the MSCA and CORDIS, and fifty dissemination activities in the frame of international events such as the European Research Night or the Science Week. Of the 45 ongoing research projects, two relating to COVID-19 have a particular international impact, with one in the field of computer engineering and the other in the discipline of biochemistry.

This new COFUND project has been achieved thanks to the creation of the new Pre-award Support Unit (USPIR), which is jointly funded with funds from the State Research Agency through the “Redes y Gestores 2019” programme. Through the new project, the URV will improve certain key aspects that are the central pillars of doctoral education, namely: promoting innovation through diversity (the programme has the support of 59 associated institutions, 21 of which are non-academic); providing the best opportunities for candidates in difficult situations; integrating with the research and innovation strategy for the smart specialization of the region (in the frame of RIS3CAT), and improving training in transversal competencies and providing guidance for doctoral students.

The Marie Sklodowska-Curie call enables the co-funding of regional, national and international programmes that promote excellence in the training, mobility and professional development of research staff. The 2019 call had a budget of 90 million euros, of which 7.6 million have been awarded to Spain. This puts us in 4th place behind France, Poland and Germany in terms of the funding obtained, and in 2nd place in terms of the number of projects funded. The URV is one of the three Spanish institutions to receive this distinction in the latest call and has received the highest amount of funding. The other two institutions are the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, which has received €976,320, and the Fundació Institut Recerca Biomèdica de Barcelona, which has been awarded €1,084.800.

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