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Experienced Researchers Incoming Fellowship Programme at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - EPFL Fellows (Experienced Researchers Incoming Fellowship Programme at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne)

Reporting period: 2017-07-01 to 2020-06-30

EPFL Fellows is a postdoctoral fellowship programme launched by EPFL in 2012. The first EPFL Fellows programme was supported by the European Commission under the FP7 and offered 24 fellowships. The success of EPFL Fellows led to an extension of the programme under H2020. This new programme, namely, EPFL Fellows II, ensured the continuity of EPFL Fellows and boosted the impact of the programme by offering an additional 48 fellowships. EPFL Fellows was initially designed to fill a gap in the EPFL fellowship schemes. When the programme was initiated, EPFL already had significant experience with mobility programmes for PhD students and incoming tenure-track professors. There was, however, no programme targeted directly at young researchers between their PhD graduation and an assistant professor position. EPFL Fellows was designed to give young experienced researchers of any nationality or discipline a unique opportunity to deepen their research and management skills within highly qualified research groups at EPFL and to establish a robust scientific track record at a critical stage in their scientific careers. The programme included a comprehensive training package, including courses on topics such as ethics and research integrity, open science, data management, technology transfer and intellectual property, and research funding opportunities. This research-intensive training programme was intended to develop the leadership potential of the grantees and position them for success as future research leaders.

EPFL Fellows II offered 48 fellowships distributed over two calls held in 2015 and 2016. The fellowships could be requested in any scientific discipline included in the areas of research of EPFL for a duration of 24 months. Given that some of the grantees left the programme prior to the completion of the 24-month fellowship to pursue other career opportunities, more beneficiaries could be enrolled in the programme. In total, 55 postdoctoral researchers benefited from the EPFL Fellows II fellowship programme. EPFL Fellows II was successful in attracting researchers from all over the world: 21 countries across 5 continents were represented in the cohort of the 55 grantees. In April 2020, 80% percent of the fellows were still working in Europe, which clearly speaks for the positive brain gain for ERA. Among them, 56% were still working at EPFL, which also shows the contribution of the programme to the stabilization of the career path of these young scientists. EPFL Fellows II was clearly successful in attracting highly skilled researchers and in providing them with excellent training, as evidenced from the number of peer-reviewed publications (159), patents (15), awards (8) and peer-reviewed, competitive fellowships (6) for the EPFL Fellows II cohort.
"A. Dissemination
A worldwide dissemination of the programme and its calls was conducted to ensure the recruitment of top-level candidates of any nationality. Details are given in the ""Report on dissemination activities Call 1"" and in the ""Report on dissemination activities Call 2"".

B. Management
A functional management structure was set up at the beginning of the programme to ensure an efficient administration of EPFL Fellows II. Throughout the duration of the programme, it played a central role in the coordination of activities with the different EPFL departments and hold weekly meetings with the executive manager and the general management team to follow up on operational matters and ensure the smooth implementation of the programme.

C. Recruitment Process

1. Applications - EPFL Fellows received 84 eligible applications for the 2015 call and 76 for the 2016 call. Applications were submitted to six of seven EPFL Schools.

2. Evaluation and Selection - Details on the evaluation and selection procedure are given in the ""Report on evaluation and selection Call 1"" and in the ""Report on evaluation and selection Call 2"". The overall success rate of the EPFL Fellows programme was 30.5 % (calls 2015 and 2016).

3. Ethical Clearance Process - The EPFL Fellows ethics procedure was integrated into the EPFL’s well-established ethics review process, which ensures compliance with the ethical policy at EPFL, the “Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union”, and the relevant ethics rules of H2020. The projects could only start after they received ethical clearance from the Research Office (Ethics Affairs). Details on ethical clearance of the granted project can be found in the ""Report on ethical issues Call 1"" and in the ""Report on ethical issues Call 2"".

4. Recruitment - Following the successful implementation of two calls for applications, 48 fellows were recruited. Given that some of the grantees left the programme prior to the completion of the 24-month fellowship to pursue other career opportunities, the programme was able to enroll more beneficiaries. In total, 55 postdoctoral researchers benefited from the EPFL Fellows II fellowship programme. Presentations of the granted projects can be found on the programme website.

D. Training and Career Development Activities - The list of activities organised for the EPFL Fellows grantees is provided in the Periodic Reports 1 and 2. There was a very high attendance rate for all events. Their feedback was also positive.

E. Overview of the results and their exploitation and dissemination - The programme ensured an efficient dissemination and exploitation of the outputs of the fellows’ projects both within the scientific community and beyond. The EPFL Fellows II grantees produced 159 peer-reviewed publications. EPFL Fellows II was also successful in facilitating the transfer of technology to the market place as illustrated by the 15 patents resulting from the programme."
One of the objectives of EPFL Fellows was to increase the number of incoming/re-integration fellowships in Europe and to retain the beneficiaries of these fellowships in the European Research Area. EPFL Fellows was successful in attracting researchers from all over the world: 21 countries across 5 continents were represented in the cohort of the 55 grantees. In April 2020, 80% percent of them were still working in Europe, which clearly speaks for the positive brain gain for ERA. Among them, 56% were still working at EPFL, which also shows the contribution of the EPFL Fellows programme to the stabilisation of the career path of these young scientists.
The programme put a strong emphasis on the gender balance and counted 31% of female researchers among its grantees, which is above the average at EPFL (at the postdoctoral level, EPFL counted 26% female researchers in 2017).
EPFL Fellows was clearly successful in attracting highly skilled researchers and in providing them with excellent training, as evidenced by the number of peer-reviewed publications, patents, awards, and peer reviewed, competitive fellowships for the EPFL Fellows II cohort.The number of patents resulting from the programme shows that EPFL Fellows was successful in facilitating the transfer of technology to the market place. Interdisciplinarity and cross-sectoral mobility were also strong components of the programme (the latter was not present in EPFL Fellows I), which encouraged the fellows to complete secondments in industry or in another academic institution. In total, 9 fellows (16% of the grantees) took advantage of this opportunity, including 6 in the non-academic sector.