Funding News

Today we are continuing our series on Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA). The subject of this post will be Early Stage Researchers (ESRs), who are an integral part of each ITN and what an ITN is, was the subject of our last blog post. In that post, we briefly mentioned that during the course of an ITN, so called Early Stage Researchers are presented with a unique research platform to train the necessary scientific and transferable skills to research and develop innovative strategies.

Definition of an ESR

The definition of an ESR is rather short: “ESRs shall, at the time of recruitment by the host organisation, be in the first four years (full-time equivalent research experience) of their research careers and have not been awarded a doctoral degree.”

Criteria for becoming an ESR

There are certain conditions that have to be met to become an ESR. These conditions are strictly upheld and there is no way around them. The main one concerns the mobility of the ESR: “at the time of recruitment by the host organisation, researchers must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the country of their host organisation for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the reference date” (see Guide for Applicants).

Despite how it may seem, this rule does not exclude ESRs from being recruited in their homeland, an ESR can be of any nationality. It’s easiest explained through an example: Harry, who’s British and grew up in England, has been studying at ETH in Switzerland for the past 26 months and visited his parents in England from time to time. Harry would be allowed to be recruited by an English university, because he only spent 10 months out of the past 36 months in the UK.

ESR and PhD confusion

It is not written in the rules that ESRs have to be enrolled in a doctoral programme. However, this is generally the case and an ESR is usually expected to complete his PhD during the course of the recruitment.


The recruitment can be between 3 and 36 months long. However, ESRs completing their PhD (which is the usual procedure) are expected to stay for the maximum 36 months. So why does an ITN need 48 months from start to finish and not just 36 months? The whole recruitment process is also included as part of the project. Advertising the vacancies, checking the criteria and getting contracts prepared takes time.


Secondments are specific to each type of ITN (Find out more about the different types of ITN):

  • ETN: During a secondment the ESRs receive supervision and training of a receiving beneficiary or partner organisation. The duration of all secondments can be a maximum of 30% of the ESRs recruitment period (i.e. under 11 months for the usual 36 month duration).
  • EID: The ESRs must spend at least 50% of their time in the non-academic sector. In EIDs the inter-sectoral mobility must also be between organisations located in different countries.
  • EJD: The limitation of secondments to 30% of the recruitment period does not apply to EJDs. It is expected that the ESRs will need to spend at least the minimum period of time at corresponding academic beneficiaries to be eligible to submit a doctoral degree.

ITN and accelopment

What started out back in 2008 during the 7th Framework Programme (FP7) has since then become a long history of supporting ITNs and our success has not halted with the transition to Horizon 2020. Our roles include writing the proposal, advising partners during contract negotiations, supporting in project management and coordinating the dissemination activities. Working as a partner organisation or subcontractor, accelopment’s services during the project implementation are covered by the project funding. All of the roles mentioned above are currently being carried out in four running ITN projects: Train2Target, PEARRL, EXCILIGHT and ClickGene.