Research Funding at European Universities
Michalis Katsimitsis, PhD, career counselor at EduJob.gr
There is more than one way of finding research funding at European universities. Depending on your status (e.g. non-EU researcher, young researcher etc.), you can get research funding from various sources.
In any case, you don’t necessarily have to be a citizen or a resident of a particularly country in order to be funded by national scholarships and grants.
EU research funding
The European Union offers various opportunities for researchers to access financial support. Some of the main sources of EU research funding are:
1. IEF (Intra-European Fellowships)
The Intra-European Fellowships scheme provides funding for 12-24 months, for researchers who want to advance their career in Europe outside their home country. Funding covers advanced training needs, such as new and/or complementary skills, and transnational mobility. Applications are open to researchers based in EU Member States or Associated Countries.
2. IIF (International Incoming Fellowships)
International Incoming Fellowships provide support for researchers that move from non-EU countries to EU Member States or Associated Countries, again for 12-24 months. IIF applications should be made in liaison with the organization or institution that would be willing to host you in Europe (including universities, research centers, companies).
3. IRSES (International Research Staff Exchange Scheme)
The International Research Staff Exchange Scheme (IRSES) finances active research organizations (e.g. universities, research centers etc.), for a period of 24-48 months. The allowance covers mobility costs (including travel costs) for staff members from an EU Member State or Associated Country staying in an eligible non-EU country. It may also cover the costs of stays by staff from certain non-EU countries in Europe.
4. ITN (Initial Training Networks)
The Initial Training Networks (ITN) scheme is for early-stage researchers who want to improve their research skills, join established research teams and enhance their career prospects. It is designed for the recruitment of researchers in the first five years of their career for initial training, as well as for networking activities, outreach activities, workshops or conferences. A successful proposal may receive research funding for up to four years.
The Industry-Academic Partnerships and Pathways (IAPP) initiative finances public and private research in order to promote collaboration. Proposals for IAPP funding must include one or more universities/research centers and one or more enterprises. A successful proposal will receive 100% funding for labor costs, for four years. It covers: exchange of know-how and experience, recruitment of experienced researchers, and networking, workshops and conferences.
In general, the above EU research funding schemes welcome proposals from all areas of scientific and technological research, with the exception of research areas covered by the EURATOM Treaty.
Other European organizations that support research include: European Science Foundation, European Research Council, The Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency, Euroscience, HERA - Humanities in the European Research Area. More information and support about pursuing a research career in Europe is also provided at EURAXESS - Researchers in Motion.
Research funding from individual countries in Europe
Apart from the EU fellowships detailed above, each EU member state offers its own financial support to researchers. This support comes in many forms and is offered by various organizations, public and private. For example, some European universities offer teaching or other job positions to researchers, or they fund research programs without any further obligations.
It is important to note that those funding sources differ from country to country and from one funding provider to another. There are funds that cover travelling costs, or the organization of international meetings, while other research funding programs are targeted to support female researchers, or the combination of research and industry.
For information on various positions and opportunities available, you can either contact the universities that interest you directly, or run a search on the relevant EU site.
Golden rules when searching for research funding:
- Exhaust every possibility. Never dismiss a possible source outright. Approach them all, no matter how tough the competition might be.
- Be on time. Always start your search as early as possible. The more you procrastinate, the lower the possibilities for success become. Someone else will get there before you.
- Be thorough when reading the eligibility terms. This will save you time and energy, since you will avoid applying for something you are not eligible for.
- Network. By being in contact with colleagues from various countries and universities, you receive valuable information not only on your field of interest, but also on possible funding opportunities.
Michalis Katsimitsis holds a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Athens, where he has taught contemporary European philosophy. He has published numerous articles on education, philosophy and culture, and is an advisor and analyst on educational matters at EduJob.
This article was originally published in September 2013 . It was last updated in September 2021