Integration of SNSF Professorial Fellowships into SNSF Starting Grants 2023

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The SNSF launched a call for the SNSF Starting Grants 2023 in early November as a transitional measure. For the time being, they are the most high-level career funding scheme, also covering the planned SNSF Professorial Fellowships.

In March 2022, the SNSF announced that it would merge the schemes PRIMA and Eccellenza Professorial Fellowships under a new scheme: the SNSF Professorial Fellowships. However, as Switzerland is still not associated to the Horizon Europe framework programme, the SNSF has had to adjust its funding portfolio. What is the current situation?

SNSF Starting Grants as a transitional measure

Together with the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI), the SNSF has launched several transitional measures, including the SNSF Starting Grants. For the time being, the latter are the most high-level career funding scheme. They target researchers who wanted to apply for a European ERC Starting Grant as well as those who were thinking of applying for an Eccellenza Professorial Fellowship or a PRIMA grant. The PRIMA budget will continue to be used exclusively for women under the SNSF Starting Grants.

The second call for SNSF Starting Grants has been underway since 1 November 2022. These grants also cover the announced SNSF Professorial Fellowships. Therefore, the SNSF will not be launching any calls for this new scheme for the time being.

Maximum eligibility window of eight years

The conditions of the SNSF Starting Grants are aligned with the ERC Starting Grants as well as with the other transitional measures of the SNSF. Researchers can submit a grant application between two and eight years after their doctorate. This prevents too much overlap between SNSF Starting Grants and SNSF Consolidator Grants, which have an eligibility window of seven to twelve years.

The maximum period after the doctorate is therefore eight years for SNSF Starting Grants. This is the same time-span that applied to the former Eccellenza Professorial Fellowships, but two years shorter than the former PRIMA scheme and the planned SNSF Professorial Fellowships.

"We are aware that the two-year reduction means that some researchers will now not be able to apply for the highest level of career funding as they had hoped," says Marc Zbinden, Head of the Careers Division at the SNSF. "Unfortunately, due to the ERC framework conditions and in view of our funding portfolio, we had to limit the SNSF Starting Grants eligibility window to eight years." However, affected researchers may be able to extend the deadline for various reasons, e.g. in the case of maternity by 18 months.

To compensate for disadvantages

It is not possible to predict if and when the SNSF will be able to launch the new SNSF Professorial Fellowships scheme. Updates on this will be provided in due course. Marc Zbinden: "Our goal is clear. We want to support young researchers in line with their actual needs and at the same time compensate as far as possible for the disadvantages resulting from Switzerland's non-association to Horizon Europe. To this end, we have adapted existing schemes or have created suitable new ones as part of our overall funding portfolio.”