Skip to content


Networking with funding from the EU

Professor Sarah Hean of the University of Stavanger was awarded NOK 4 million under the MSCA RISE scheme for network activities for her project on the criminal justice system. The next call opens in December. You are welcome to our information seminar.

The most important purpose of the MSCA RISE is to share know-how and ideas across national borders and sectors and to enable participants to develop their skills. Sarah Hean, right, and Jo Wells, manager at Footprints project, are seen in the photo discussing ways of reducing reoffendeing, over a cup of English tea. Sarah Hean is a professor of Stavanger University and received staff exchange funding from the MSCA RISE scheme.

Hean's project in the social science area was well-suited for international research cooperation, which made an MSCA RISE Action a good choice when she was applying for funding.

“International and inter-sectoral cooperation through the Research and Innovation Staff Exchanges (RISE) is one of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA). It promotes short-term exchanges of personnel between research-intensive institutions, as the word “staff” in the title implies. Applicants and participants alike must receive their salary from other sources. However, the projects awarded funding receive a relatively substantial sum for the exchange of project participants,” explains Per Magnus Kommandantvold of the Research Council.

The 2019 call opens on 4 December. Potential applicants and other interested parties are invited to participate in the Research Council’s information seminar about MSCA RISE to learn more.

To Stavanger with MSCA funding

Originally from the UK, social scientist Sarah Hean worked at Bournemouth University prior to coming to Norway on an MSCA Individual Fellowship (IF). She applied for funding under the RISE scheme and was awarded EUR 450 000 to head the COLAB consortium, which is studying the collaboration between mental health and other welfare services on the one hand and the criminal justice system on the other in several countries with the aim of finding ways to enhance such cooperation.   

The choice of the University of Stavanger as her IF grant host institution came about by chance.  “It was an accident – a happy accident,” she says. She had contacted the three co-authors of a textbook in her own subject area, about cross-sectoral collaboration and innovation. The two who replied to her enquiry were Norwegian. They were enthusiastic about her project and put her in contact with the University of Stavanger. She arrived at the university in 2015 with an MSCA fellowship.

Dr Sarah Hean became staff at the University of Stavanger as a MSCA IF-fellow. “One of my IF Work Packages involved seeking project funding under another programme. I discussed my project concept with external advisers with expertise on Horizon 2020 at the University of Stavanger. According to them, the best fit for my project was a RISE Action, so I chose to go for that,” states Dr Hean.

Consortium required

A RISE Action requires applicants to be part of a consortium comprising personnel from both academic and non-academic organisations. Non-academic personnel may come from the business sector (SMEs in particular) and/or the public sector. Alternatively, a consortium may consist of academic personnel from organisations in and outside Europe. Consortia must include at least three partners. At least two of these should be from EU Member States or H2020 Associated Countries.

Dr Hean was not part of a professional European network outside England when she won her MSCA IF, which is one of the reasons why she decided to move abroad. It was challenging to plan her application for a RISE project, as she first had to find participants for her consortium without having a network of known partners to include. It took her a couple of years to visit partner candidates in different countries and explain her idea.

Exchange required

The proposed research and innovation project must be of relevance either to the market (business sector) or for society. The most important purpose is to share know-how and ideas across national borders and sectors and to enable participants to develop their skills. Participants are to be on secondment for a period of one month to one year to the academic, industrial or commercial organisation of another member of the consortium. That is, individuals carry out a stay at an academic organisation in a different country, or at a non-academic organisation, institution or company.

Projects of any type that fulfil the above requirements are eligible for RISE funding, whether the aim is to find solutions to a societal problem, research on technology or something else entirely.

A variety of mobility schemes

"Another option was to submit a proposal for a COST Action to create a network," she says. The differences between the RISE and COST Actions are briefly described below.Both RISE and COST Actions provide funding under Horizon 2020 to create networks. COST Actions require applicants and network participants to provide their own project funding, as COST Actions only cover expenses related to network activities. The RISE Action requires both the applicant and consortium participants to be employed at an institution or company and to receive a salary. Both actions require multinational participation. RISE projects must involve participants from institutions in both European and third countries, participants from different sectors (academia/business/public sector) or both.

“Participating in a COST Action is useful if you need to build a network, whereas the RISE Action essentially assumes that you already have a network in place before you apply for project funding. Project collaboration is designed to increase knowledge sharing and competence among all participants, both through the individuals working for a period abroad with one of the partners and through joint activities carried out by the consortium such as workshops and conferences,” explains Mr Kommandantvold.

Must be willing and able to spend time on the project

In 2016 she submitted her application. The project was granted RISE funding and will continue to do so through 2021. There are 30 people making up the consortium from ten institutions. Three are practice partners and seven academic institutions. The countries invovled are Norway, UK, Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark and Finland. Based on her own experience, Dr Hean has the following advice for new applicants:

COLAB consortium partners during a workshop session. (Photo: COLAB) “You need to make sure that the participants you invite, and who accept, actually have time and are willing to prioritise the work. You must make it absolutely clear what being part of the project group will entail and what you expect from each of them. There are many reasons why the individuals you ask agree to accept your invitation even though they don’t really have the time,” says Sarah Hean.

Observation and language

“You also need to think through challenges related to language, because working on a RISE project means that you’ll be working in a multinational consortium. This applies in particular in the humanities and social science fields for projects where part of the exchange involves observation-related tasks. Think through the kinds of groups you will need to have access to and the language they use there. Can the partners you have planned to include in the consortium carry out observation adequately? Or are there others you should also include,” asks Professor Hean.

Both demanding and rewarding

"The concept behind the RISE Action is fantastic: exchange and cooperation between academics from different corners of the world, and between professionals from a variety of sectors. Knowledge-sharing and exchange is valuable for everyone involved. But you also need to be prepared for some hard work, especially if you’re the project manager responsible for heading the consortium and the entire work effort. At the same time, it’s also extremely rewarding. This has been the most difficult project I’ve been a part of, but it’s also been the best. I’ve gained a lot of experience," says Dr Hean, who is currently conducting fieldwork in England with the organisation, the Footprints Project. The project provides mentoring for men and women who are to be released from prison, to help them as they return to their local communities and re-adapt to a normal life. Her research stay is part of the RISE project on collaboration between mental health and correctional services. The project has already yielded results, and at least five other projects are being developed in this research area.

There are several options when applying for funds. Which is the added value of the RISE scheme, apart from the funding?

"The added value of the RISE is the opportunity for academics and professionals in the field to exchange information and learn from each other. I have learnt so much personally about the challenges facing my colleagues working in praxis that has changed my approach to my own research quite dramatically. I think this is true for all the academics participating in COLAB.

The exchange across different sectors, wich is unique to the RISE scheme, has proved to give valuable experiences for other participants in the COLAB consortium as well.

"I am particularly excited about the opportunities that were offered practice colleagues in the Footprints Project to come to Norway to work with academics at the University of Stavanger and University College Molde. Footprints is a small, underfunded charity that do a hugely important service for ex-offenders and for little personal reward. COLAB gave them the time and resource to come to Norway to exchange knowledge with academic institutions and develop as an organisation. They have proved to be natural and enthusiastic researchers at heart and the amount they have got out of their secondments in terms of learning and renewed energy for their practice is one of the main things I have found particularly gratifying as coordinator of the project", says Sarah Hean.

Tips for preparing a grant application for a RISE Action

  • It is an advantage if you already have a network of individuals you can ask to participate in a RISE project – at least in academia, but also in the non-academic community in the private or public sectors.
  • Include people you know will dedicate effort to your project. Make it 100 per cent clear that you would like to recruit them and that participating in the project will require time and effort as well as a stay at an institution abroad. Give a realistic picture of what and how much work it will require and of what you will expect from them.
  • Be aware of situations where language could pose a challenge for the network (within the humanities and social science subjects), for example, where network participants will be observing an environment where they do not understand the local language.
  • If your institution offers them, use the advisory services of those who have expertise in preparing Horizon 2020 applications. The idea and the project are yours, but you will need help to formulate it all using the proper EU terminology.

It is also possible to contact the Research Council’s team of National Contact Points (NCP) for the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions for advice and information. Contact details are available at the top of this page to the right. The information seminar on the RISE Action at the Research Council in Lysaker on 7 December may also help to answer any questions.

Written by:
Brita Skuland Senior Adviser +47 22 03 75 02
Last updated: