Funding opportunities, networking and advice at EKT workshop for researchers

Early-stage researchers, students and entrepreneurs listened attentively to their colleagues’ good practices, kept notes on good proposals and learnt about current funding programmes.

Networking and funding opportunities along with prospects for co-operation were presented in detail at the ‘Career Opportunities for Researchers- Business Participation in Innovative Training Networks’ workshop held on November 7 2019 by the National Documentation Centre (EKT) in co-operation with the General Secretariat for Research and Technology and the European Commission at the National Hellenic Research Foundation.

Dr. Evi Sachini, Director of EKT, welcomed the audience and the speakers and gave details about EKT’s contribution to the good results of the research community of the country, which, according to the most recent data are continuously improving. She also pointed out EKT’s role in advising young scientists. ‘Being a researcher is complex so we help you to increase your skills, to find a place in the labour market and to be in a position to offer everything that you have gained. We support every step, whether that’s information, encouragement or your effectiveness, and enhance your ability to showcase the results of your work.’

Then Dr. Athanasios Kyriazis, General Secretariat for Research and Technology, stressed that European programmes such as the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) greatly transformed the European and national research and innovation ecosystem, enhancing extroversion and co-operation while creating added value through brain circulation and ideas across Europe. He added, ‘regarding the prospects and challenges facing us ahead of  Horizon Europe, I want to mention the very important change in Horizon Europe, as Greece is now among the 15 countries eligible for‘ widening’ support, which will target actions to support countries with low research and innovation performance and leverage increased funds.’

Dr. Vassilis Grigoriou, Director and Chairman National Hellenic Research Foundation, National Representative for the MSCA programme, referred to the MSCA grants received for patents, and the large number of women participants, about 40%. He also advised young researchers not to be deterred by the low acceptance rates of such programmes, because if someone is capable, they stand a good chance of success. He stressed that,‘the exchange of researchers between countries as well as the exchange of students through Erasmus has done much more for Europe than 100 Eurogroups’.

Why choose MSCA?

Dr Audrey Arfi ITN call co-ordinator, Research Executive Agency, presented the MSCA programme and reported on a number of key features such as the fact that it targets all stages of a researcher’s career, whatever the nationality and scientific field, and offers educational opportunities, good working conditions, and benefits. In response to everyone’s main question of why someone would apply for MSCA scholarships, she pointed to the features that make the programme stand out, namely that they provide opportunities for grantees to travel to Europe, to increase their research network in all scientific fields, to develop their scientific career, to attract and work with other young or experienced researchers and to work with industry. He explained in detail how to complete a proposal and urged participants to visit the European Commission website to view all open funding programmes.

EKT supports early-stage researchers

Dr. Christina Pascual, EKT, presented EKT’s services for entrepreneurs and early-stage researchers: ‘We give information, make suggestions in writing proposals, provide indicators on how Greece is performing in research programmes and contribute to the exploitation of results’. She also referred to the support EKT offers SMEs through the Enterprise Europe Network-Hellas, and the digital content search capabilities with open access, including the National Archive of Phd Theses. She also stressed that researchers should gain other skills and have contact with companies, because only 20% of doctoral students will ultimately have an academic career.

Success stories

Dr. Theodora Kalogeropoulou, Co-ordinator EuroNeurotrophin project, Institute of Chemical Biology / National Hellenic Research Foundation (NHRF), shared her experience of a proposal that had been successful, and tips for preparing competitive proposals. She said, ‘the science should have an element of excellence, the network should be complementary and cover different aspects of the problems posed by the proposal. It is important that the network participants are scientists of international repute and have their own scientific excellence, which is evidenced by their published scientific work. The objectives must be clear and achievable, and the proposal have structure-a beginning, middle and end.’

Dr. Stelios Pantelopoulos, Singular Logic, brought another dimension to the workshop by connecting research with business. As he stated, ‘It is important to be able to show the applicability and functionality of the idea and the proposal within a company. We at Singular Logic believe in the MSCA programme, because it is a very good tool for meeting people and learning through osmosis from other researchers. An important element of the proposal is how to promote the network, networking, co-operation and engagement between researchers.’ As to whether or not there is a recipe for success, he added, ‘What matters is faith in the idea and there should be a different way of thinking and positioning depending on the researcher’s aims,’ As for co-operation with business, ‘The company should find the right candidate, not only in technological capabilities, but also with regard to the human factor, their willingness  to work and co-operate.’’

State scholarships, student exchanges and networking young researchers     

Vana Sotiropoulou, State Scholarships Foundation (SSF) elaborated on the opportunities offered young researchers in Greece and abroad by the State Scholarship Foundation. Then Elina Mavrogiorgou, Department of Promotion and Development Results Erasmus +, State Scholarships Foundation (SSF), reported extensively on the Erasmus programme and the opportunities it gives for education and training for all ages. She explained that, ‘The SSF offers significant opportunities through European programmes for more Erasmus students + to move abroad to develop personally and acquire skills that open up new prospects in the labour market. At the same time, the SSF, through scholarships for doctorates and post doctorates in Greece, helps to attract high-level human resources and consequently the development of the country. Furthermore, the SSF emphasises the interconnection of education with work through the SSF-NBG scholarship programme, where students simultaneously study and work in their chosen field.’

Dr Katerina Kouravelou, Department of Research Projects, Hellenic Foundation for Research & Innovation (HFRI) presented the HFRI, which has been in operation for 3 years, stressing the important role of the new, upgraded and user friendly portal for submitting scholarship applications and research proposals. An important innovation in the design of the new portal is a personalised orientation depending on the proposal/application category and/or management and/or evaluation of a proposal or project. She also informed the participants about active calls and those to follow and showed evidence of the impact of these actions on halting the brain drain.

Dr. Christos Vlachos, Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Philology, University of Patras, who received an MSCA scholarship and is now part of the HFRI research programme ‘SeQuest: inTEAL’ one of the  first projects funded by the HFRI and hosted by the Philology department of the University of Patras cited the efforts made and the months of preparation before submitting any proposals, stressing that a systematic effort is needed but is certainly worthwhile. He then gave useful guidance to candidates by analysing the template for a research proposal.

Mobility and networking

The interest of researchers continued to be held by the presentation made by Marianna Gritzala, National Hellenic Research Foundation, who talked about EURAXESS, a supportive tool for the mobility of researchers and development of research careers. Through the European-wide network EURAXESS, a user has access to updated information and personalised service for funding opportunities, job search, visa procedures and residence permits, taxation and social security, finding housing, etc.

The event ended with a presentation by Dimitris Maragos and Konstantina Neofotistou, EKT, about  'Knowledge and Partnership Bridges’ initiative which offers: Networking, Promotion of Greeks at home and abroad, mapping the needs of specialists, Specialised information on opportunities , rewarding the co-operation of Greeks around the world and participation in the public debate about the brain drain. There was also a presentation of the new ‘Bridges Awards”, which rewards scientific networks and business partnerships and has received 47 applications with 323 participants from 28 countries from around the world during its first year.