Talent ecosystems for attractive early research careers – pilot (HORIZON-WIDERA-2024-ERA-02-03)

  • Action type: HORIZON-CSA HORIZON Coordination and Support Actions
  • Opening date: 15 May 2024
  • Closing time: 25 September 2024 17:00 (Europe/Brussels)
  • Budget per project: € 2 000 000 of total € 20 000 000
  • Estimated number of projects funded: 15
  • Official website


The 2020 Commission Communication on ‘A New ERA for Research and Innovation’ underlined the importance of adequate framework conditions to support research careers in Europe. Action 4 of the ERA Policy Agenda 2022-2024 – “Promote attractive and sustainable research careers, balanced talent circulation and international, transdisciplinary and inter-sectoral mobility across the ERA” – annexed to the November 2021 Council Conclusions on the ‘Future governance of the European Research Area’ foresees the development of a European framework for research careers, together with the upgrade of existing instruments and initiatives, including the revision of the Charter for Researchers. It also includes amongst its expected outcomes the development of new instruments to support research careers, such as the one proposed with this call topic.

This action will promote implementing the standards for attractive careers as laid down in the new Charter for Researchers and the Council recommendation on a European framework for research careers[1], responding to the political call for “labour market players to join forces for attractive careers”. It will support cooperation between academic, private and public sector entities at organisational level to create ecosystems that ensure attractive early research careers perspectives, provide researchers with skill sets that match labour market requirements, thus providing the talent pool needed for a truly functioning internal market for knowledge. Projects are expected to contribute to the following outcomes:

  • Establishment of ecosystems for research positions, in particular for early stage researchers, in academia, R&I performing institutions and businesses, connecting research training providers (in particular academia) and the researchers’ labour market (such as businesses, universities, research and technology organisations and government entities), supplying employers with skilled research talent that match labour market needs, including skills needs from the Green Deal, digital transition, and deep tech;
  • Wide implementation of the standards for attractive researcher careers as laid out in the new Charter for Researchers, leading to more attractive, more diverse and more interoperable careers for researchers across all sectors, contributing to a better-balanced and sustainable circulation of skilled and entrepreneurial workforce;
  • Improved early careers researchers’ competences and employability within and beyond academia, as well as career interoperability between sectors.

Scope:The action supports consortia to create ‘talent ecosystems’ with a large pool of research and innovation positions operating under good training and working conditions in line with the new Charter for Researchers and the Council recommendation on a European framework for research careers, providing non-academic organisations, particularly businesses, with well-skilled researchers and other R&I talents, thereby increasing employability of early career researchers and improving interoperability of their careers between sectors.

This action particularly supports whole organisations and innovation ecosystems to implement the standards for attractive research careers laid down in the Charter for Researchers. A special focus is placed on organisational change in support of early career researchers[2], to offer them more and better career opportunities, including through strengthened coordination of measures at European, national, and regional level and increased cooperation between academia, industry, government and public sector.

The action is expected to be implemented by consortia consisting of both training providers (in particular academia) and employers of researchers (academia and organisations from non-academic sector, in particular businesses[3]) from across the European Research Area, creating connected “talent ecosystems” that allow the free flow of talents and create attractive perspectives for researchers’ careers within this ecosystem and beyond. A talent ecosystem for researchers is to be understood as a cohesive and interdependent system that encompasses various elements related to HR management of research talent. It can be thematic (e.g., targeted to R&I on climate, pharma, automotive, music industry) or have a more comprehensive target. It is designed to adapt to the evolving needs of the researcher labour market and the different occupations for researchers across sectors along the R1-R4 profiles, ensuring more customised training, career development and talent flowthrough. Such ecosystem is built around delivering a better employee experience and aligning with frequently changing priorities; it is agile and flexible to environmental shifts in the R&I system, such as changing labour market dynamics and skills needs. It provides distinct strategies for managing different research profiles, essential for competing in the global labour market, while delivering skilled research talent that match European labour market needs.

Consortia are expected to mainstream the Charter’s principles and good working conditions across all participating organisations, which need to demonstrate in the application a high ambition as to the number of (new or existing) research positions that will benefit from the organisational change within the duration of the grant, ultimately leading to coverage of all its research staff. Participating organisations are expected to have received the HR Excellence in Research Award (HRS4R[4]) or commit to apply the new Charter for Researchers and commit to its implementation (i.e., start the HRS4R process) within the grant duration, as far as relevant for their operations linked to the employment of researchers.

This action does not support salaries and mobility of individual researchers or teams of researchers. Instead, this action supports activities that lead to organisational change for more attractive research careers in line with the needs of R&I labour market players, towards the creation of sustainable talent ecosystems.

Funding will support implementation of good working conditions and reinforce flowthrough of talents between sectors, towards better employability of talent trained as researcher and increased interoperability of research careers between academia and non-academic sector entities. Activities can include (non-exhaustive list) the mapping of challenges, the development of action plans to bring the organisations in line with the new Charter for Researchers, scaling excellence in HR, and networking and relationship building for connecting the talent ecosystem partners. On a more practical level, activities could include the roll out of ResearchComp[5] in the organisational training and career development activities, the establishment of career services and training systems for early career researchers, the involvement of non-academic sector in the training of researchers, and relationship building between sectors for talent circulation.

This action is a pilot, testing the principles for a future investment strategy for attractive research careers at whole organisation and ecosystem level. Actions are therefore expected to provide policy feedback to the European Commission and Member States on the progress made, the success generated, and the obstacles encountered. Grants can have a duration of up to 3 years; a longer duration is possible if duly justified.

[1]Charter for Researchers, annexed to the Council recommendation C/2023/1640 of 18 December 2023 on a European framework to attract and retain research, innovation and entrepreneurial talents in Europe (OJ C, C/2023/1640, 29.12.2023), https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=OJ:C_202301640.

[2]Early career researchers: First Stage Researchers, doing research under supervision up to the point of a PhD or equivalent level of competence and experience, and Recognised Researchers, with a PhD or equivalent level of competence and experience who are not yet fully independent in their ability to develop their own research, attract funding, or lead a research group; R1 and R2 profiles in the Council recommendation (https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=OJ:C_202301640). R1 and R2 profiles should be considered early-career researchers.

[3]Non-academic sector means any socio-economic actor not included in the academic sector e.g., industry, SMEs, independent research infrastructures (e.g., ERICs), government, non-academic public bodies, private research organisations, civil society organisations, international organisations, cultural institutions, hospitals, etc. Academic sector means public or private higher education establishments awarding academic degrees, public non-profit research organisations for whom one of the main objectives is to pursue research or technological development, and International European Research Organisations (IERO).

[4]HR Excellence in Research Award: https://euraxess.ec.europa.eu/jobs/hrs4r.

[5]ResearchComp: skills and competencies framework for researchers (https://research-and-innovation.ec.europa.eu/jobs-research/researchcomp-european-competence-framework-researchers_en).


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