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Future orientations of Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions

While the interim evaluation of Horizon Europe is ongoing, the ex-post evaluation of Horizon 2020 provides a very positive assessment of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) and their contribution to the objectives of the previous Framework Programme (FP). As of January 2023, MSCA supported ca. 50,000 researchers in Horizon 2020, including more than 25,000 PhDs, on track to reach its target of 65,000 researchers supported, including 25,000 PhDs. 

To build on this outstanding success and upscale impact, the European Commission conducted a public consultation on the future orientations of MSCA. ACA responded to this consultation with a policy contribution building on the experience of four ACA members involved in the implementation of the MSCA and other related schemes: AMEUP (Croatia), DZS (Czechia), NAWA (Poland), and SAIA n.o. (Slovakia). This contribution is complemented by ACA’s other related policy inputs (e.g., Towards a revised European learning mobility framework: ACA vision and way forward, May 2023 and Erasmus+ Consolidating efforts for an impactful future, December 2023). 

Considering its in-depth and multifaceted impact, the continuation of MSCA within the next EU framework programme (FP) as a very well-established and widely recognised flagship programme is of the utmost importance for the sector. Whereas all currently existing MSCA schemes should be, with some minor modifications, maintained in the next FP, the following reinforcements could further expand the impact of the action: 

  • Currently, many highly-scored projects are not selected for funding, especially those under the MSCA Postdoctoral Fellowships scheme. A higher budget would be necessary to match the high interest in these schemes under FP10.  
  • Newcomers’ participation should be supported through specific mechanisms making the programme more inclusive and open to underrepresented countries, types of entities and researchers, for example, through an extension of the current hop on scheme under the widening measures to cover MSCA projects.  
  • There should be a mechanism allowing for more flexible and timely adjustment of unit contributions in line with the changing economic landscape in Europe.  
  • EU should keep investing in both research and complementary skills development. Stronger impact might be achieved by calibrating evaluation criteria on skill acquisition and quality of supervision, while continuing to offer opportunities in all scientific areas and disciplines.  
  • It could be worthwhile reconsidering the professional age limitation for MSCA Postdoctoral Fellowship applicants, currently set at eight years of research experience after the PhD defence to involve more senior scientists acting as supervisors who seek international and interdisciplinary experience.  
  • The MSCA Staff Exchanges could benefit from further simplification as complex intersectorality & interdisciplinarity requirements make the consortium building a complex and lengthy process, affecting the overall interest in this action.  
  • It is highly important to further reinforce MSCA’s pivotal role in promoting high standard research culture across Europe based on the principles of open science, responsible research, diversity, equity, and inclusion within the research community. Furthermore, more weight could be put on inclusiveness and promoting academic freedom across the European Research Area (ERA).