Staatssekretärin im Hessischen Ministerium für Wissenschaft und Kunst Ayse Asar

Speech by State Secretary Ayse Asar

Researchers’ Mobility with EU Marie-Skłodowska-Curie-Actions – New Chances Ahead for Applicants!

Dear Vice-President Ms Prof. Klärle,

Dear Ms Herzhoff,

Dear participants, dear researchers, from Germany, Europe, and beyond:

I have the great pleasure to welcome all of you very warmly at today’s virtual event on European and regional Marie-Curie-Actions. My name is Ayse Asar and I have the privilege as State Secretary to introduce you to this event on behalf of the State of Hessen.

Let me express my warm gratitude to our co-hosts Frankfurt University of Applied Science, dear Ms Klärle (as the main organiser)! I would also like to extend my gratitude to our co-host GSI Institute and Mr Vink, but also to the European Liaison Office KOWI. All of them will bring in their great expertise on Marie-Curie-Actions in the course of this day when we will be discussing new opportunities for Marie-Curie applicants.

Thanks to Frankfurt University UAS, this virtual event also takes place and is being streamed from our thriving research region of Hessen:

Hessen is known for its pulsating universities of applied sciences, research institutes and universities - some of which are leading in different research fields. Our region offers great research opportunities for MSCA fellows in a number of areas. Just to mention a couple: let me highlight that current research priorities of the European Union like digitization, climate research and health, and particularly pandemic-related research, are perfectly matching with Hessen’s research strengths.

Today, 18 May is an excellent day to hold this virtual event on Marie-Sklodowska-Curie fellowships. In the near future the European Commission is going to open the MSCA calls for Postdoctoral Fellowships. The application period is expected to run for three months. I very much hope that today’s event will encourage you to hand in your applications.

Where do we stand today in Europe with MSCA and what does MSCA mean for the new Horizon Europe framework programme? I would put that Marie Curie Actions are more relevant than ever in European research policy and I consider MSCA as a real success story. As the Commission strives to build a deeper and more dynamic European Research Area (the so-called “ERA”) in the weeks and months to come, the assets of Marie Curie Actions are crystal clear:

International cooperation and mobility constitute the main elements of the new Horizon programme. Addressing all research fields is key to tackle research questions to society. MSC actions live up to this demand! MSCA are a key guarantee for higher mobility throughout Europe and the world. These actions are highly popular both for incoming and outgoing researchers.

65 000 researchers had the chance to benefit from European MSCA funding in the last seven years, including 25 000 PhD candidates. 37% of selected fellows came from outside the EU. From our regional perspective, Marie-Curie fellowships bear the chance to bring in the needed international knowledge for individual research projects. A very recent Commission survey found out that for 75% of MSCA respondents, the MSC fellowship helped them find a job while 85% said it boosted their employability. 95% of individual fellows expressed their overall satisfaction. These are promising numbers!

In your research careers, with MSCA you can profit from European added value and shape your CV: the independent MSCA selection process, organised by the European Commission, goes hand in hand with applicants’ confirmed excellence. MSC actions are therefore attracting researchers from all continents, contributing to the brilliant reputation of Horizon Europe all over the world. Being selected with your individual project means a shining quality label in your career. I am very grateful that our co-hosts have organised first hand impressions for us: We will later on hear MSCA fellows and I am more than curious to learn from their personal experience.

Compared with Horizon 2020, the new MSCA programme has also brought relevant novelties for your career planning. As an example, I am very glad that even more chances have opened up for female researchers including leave allowances.

Most noteworthy, the Commission has promised that MSCA will become greener to promote sustainable behaviours and to make decision-making greener. Thematic cluster events will be launched and a Green Charter be added. As a Green politician, I highly appreciate this development in the context of the European Green Deal! The European Commission has pledged to invest 35 % of Horizon Europe funds into green issues (i.e. climate research) in order to tackle the climate crisis and to reach climate neutrality by 2050. In our region of Hessen, universities and research institutes have established a track record in different fields of climate research.

Please be most welcome to look for research opportunities in Hessen and to bring in your knowledge here!

I thank Prof. Klärle for having pointed out the fact that the popularity of MSCA comes with an important side effect: limited resources mean that the Commission has selected around 15% of applicants only in the last call. At the same time, the Commission awarded a promising Seal of Excellence this year to 2.885 applicants.

Upon initiative of our ministry, and in close cooperation with the Commission, Minister Dorn and I have therefore decided to tackle this issue and to develop a regional funding scheme, branded “HESSEN HORIZON”. This sends a clear signal in light of the huge interest by MSCA applicants to come with their promising research ideas to a very attractive destination – the land of Hessen.

As the very first German state, we are therefore very glad to be able to make an offer to MSCA Seal of Excellence holders – and would like to reach out to you. Our funding scheme is based on the Commission’s evaluation process, which guarantees you a very good quality label for your project. Our target group: all MSCA applicants of last year’s and this year’s call presenting an excellent research project, designated with the Seal of Excellence.

Upon application, the regional Marie-Skłodowska-Curie-Hessen-Fellowship supports Marie-Skłodowska-Curie applicants handing in their request through host organisations in Hessia. This includes universities, universities of applied sciences, but also the wider research sector, most importantly companies, and research institutes. We have developed specific guidelines helping you through your application process and these guidelines are available to you. And my team is there to help and to answer all your practical questions.

Upon application with the Ministry of Research, Higher Education and the Arts, the State of Hessen can offer you

  • a full time contract at your host organisation in Hessen
  • will offer the same funding for training and management costs at the host organisation as foreseen in the Marie-Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral European Fellowship programme.

In 2021 we have already foreseen to fund four Marie-Skłodowska-Curie-Hessen-Fellowships – one of the future Hessian fellows, Ms Maria Schulze, will share her experiences with the Marie-Skłodowska-Curie application process later today. In the upcoming call, to be opened soon, chances of your selection will be even higher for applicants of host organisations in Hessia as we have reserved around 2 mio. euros for potential fellowships.

The state of Hessen will be able to finance, upon application, fellowships until the end of 2023.

My team is available during and after this event to answer all your questions! We hope that our regional funding scheme encourages you even more to hand in your application and to carry out your research project in Hessen!

And most importantly: I would like to wish you good luck in the competitive EU application process!

Let me now leave you with the words of Marie Skłodowska-Curie, a woman to be admired for her drive and passion: "Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less." - in my eyes a very encouraging quote in challenging and complex times.

Thank you very much.

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