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The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions – Doctoral Networks (MSCA-DN) provide doctoral candidates with the opportunity to acquire new skills and knowledge, and expand their network. Simultaneously, MSCA-DN improve the quality of doctoral training and research & innovation capacity of the participating organisations, as well as their interdisciplinary and inter-sectoral cooperation. The overarching objective of Doctoral Networks is to implement doctoral programmes by partnerships of organisations from different sectors across Europe and beyond, to train highly skilled doctoral candidates, stimulate their creativity, enhance their innovation capacities and boost their employability in the long-run. If you are planning to apply to the MSCA-DN, it is essential to first understand the purpose and unique characteristics of this funding scheme, in order to ensure that your application correctly fits the requirements and expectations of this grant. To assist you with this process, we’ve put together the article below. Keep reading to learn more about the unique features of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action (MSCA) – Doctoral Networks (DN).

At the center of MSCA-DN – the Doctoral Candidate

As an established researcher, a ‘bottom-up’ funding scheme allowing to pursue literally any topic such as the MSCA-DN, may seem like a very attractive opportunity for you and your network. However, its aim and characteristics are very different from ‘regular’ funding schemes available for research projects. That is to say, MSCA-DN is not ‘only’ about research. Rather, it is first and foremost dedicated to the doctoral candidates and their training, not only in terms of specific research skills but also in terms of transferable skills. The doctoral candidates are the ones who should be at the center of this grant. As such, make sure you avoid treating this grant as if you were applying to any other research grant. Proposals which illustrate a research-focused project and regard the doctoral candidates merely as the ones who perform the work, will simply not fly.


Remember, the doctoral candidates are not there for you. It is you, an established researcher, who should be there for them!

In addition to the above, it is equally important pursuing innovative, thought-provoking, ground-breaking research. As explained in additional MSCA-DN articles, innovative research is one of three fundamental, inter-linked ‘must-have’ components that, if properly and synergistically put together, may very well create the optimal sought-after doctoral network. These three components are training, research and consortium partners.

Pursuing innovative research from a different angle – training the next generation of outstanding researchers

In the specific case of MSCA-DN, it is expected to pursue research topic(s) from a different angle. That is, work your way to overcome existing knowledge gaps by focusing on training the next generation of outstanding researchers in said field(s) and sectors. Utilize the capacities, capabilities and expertise of your inter-sectoral and multi/inter-disciplinary consortium partners in order to arm your doctoral candidates with the most advanced tools out there – conceptually, methodologically, technologically (if applicable).


The focus here should be on stimulating their creativity, enhancing their innovation capacities, and allowing them to perform their own ground-breaking research within the scope of your project in an attempt to better tackle and overcome said gaps in knowledge, as well as to further advance the specific research field(s) relevant to your network’s research areas and sectors. While doing so, do not neglect the doctoral candidates’ transferable skills which could then be transferred from one job to another and which are relevant and a ‘must-have’ for university graduates and academics when planning their next career steps. Doing all this will allow you to boost their employability in the long-run while simultaneously improving the quality of doctoral training and research and innovation capacity of the participating organisations, as well as their interdisciplinary and inter-sectoral cooperation. This will then allow you to achieve the optimal doctoral network sought after in the MSCA DN funding scheme.


The MSCA Doctoral Networks (DN) is a unique funding opportunity. Through this article, we hope to have successfully stressed the purpose and unique features of this grant that will lead to a highly competitive proposal. If you have any further questions or would like us to work with you to realize the full potential of your MSCA Doctoral Networks (DN) proposal, do not hesitate to contact us.

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