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ICFOstepstone PhD Programme for Early-Stage Researchers in Photonics

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ICFOstepstone (ICFOstepstone PhD Programme for Early-Stage Researchers in Photonics)

Periodo di rendicontazione: 2019-07-01 al 2023-03-31

ICFOstepstone (GA713729) is a Marie Sklowdowska-Curie-COFUND action under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, awarding 25 INCOMING Fellowships of 36 months to outstanding graduate students who wish to obtain a doctoral degree.

ICFO ( is a research centre devoted to the science and technologies of light with fundamental and applied research programs that address standing issues such as health, renewable energies, information technologies, security and industrial processes, among others. As an institution, ICFO strives to be a resource for science, technology and talent, and to provide its researchers with unique skills to become successful and independent future leaders, both in the academic and industrial worlds. National and international researchers come to ICFO with a wide range of backgrounds in scientific disciplines related to Optics and Photonics and their applications, including Physics, Engineering, Mathematics, Chemistry and Biology. They are given access to ICFO’s cutting edge facilities, a stimulating international and interdisciplinary environment, as well as high-level training and extended administrative and technical support.

The Severo Ochoa distinction awarded by the Ministry of Science and Innovation, as well as 15 ICREA Professorships, 42 European Research Council grants and 4 Fundació Cellex Barcelona Nest Fellowships, demonstrate the centre’s dedication to research excellence, as does the institute’s consistent appearance in top worldwide positions in international rankings. From an industrial standpoint, ICFO participates actively in the European Technological Platform Photonics21 and is also very proactive in fostering entrepreneurial activities and spin-off creation. The centre participates in incubator activities and seeks to attract venture capital investment. ICFO hosts an active Corporate Liaison Program that aims at creating collaborations and links between industry and ICFO researchers. To date, ICFO has created 11 successful start-up companies and has 4 spin-offs currently in incubation.

ICFO researchers receive career advice while at ICFO and benefit from the numerous partnerships ICFO maintains with the academic and industrial worlds. ICFO's strong Corporate Liaison Program and wide network of international partners are testament to the strategic importance the Institute places in maintaining close ties with the industrial world.

ICFOstepstone aimed at:
❖ A superior level of PhD-training, including the triple “i” dimension.
❖ A top layer of co-funded excellence in research training.
❖ Provide the EU with a generation of top-scientists in Photonics, one of the 5 European Key Enabling Technology, to face the global challenges in the international high tech-competition.
The project ICFOstepstone has been highly successful, with the following highlights:

❖ Within ICFOstepstone 25 Fellows were initially hired and 20 fulfilled a +41-month strong fellowship program.

❖ The ICFOstepstone PhD-Projects have been diverse, covering a wide range of topics that can be found at ICFO.

❖ Under the project, so far researchers published a total of 45 publications in peer-reviewed high impact journals, such as Nature Nanotechnology, ACS Nano, Nano Letters, J. Phys., Chem. Lett., Phys. Rev. Lett., Adv. Materials, New J. Phys.

❖ Fellows engaged in the PhD-community (ICONS PhD-student chapter) and outreach activities, beyond their scientific and training activities.

❖ ICFOstepstone has been a big opportunity to revise and improve our general recruiting practices, streamlining it with our commitment to the Principles of the “Charter for European Researchers” and the “Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers”, as well as our "HR Strategy for Researchers".

❖ ICFOstepstone also had a major impact in consolidating the training activities within the PhD in Photonics, moving towards a cohort-system. The cohort-system provide an active, interactive, and dynamic setting for fellows to grow their knowledge and skills. We planned activities i.e. PhD retreat to grow the group identity.
In terms of results and impact, ICFOstepstone has:

❖ Provided a superior level of PhD-training to a set of international top-students, providing highest level of experimental expertise in a fully international competitive setting, aiming to train a generation of leaders for the future academic or industrial society. With this program we managed to enhance the triple “i” dimension of international mobility, inter-sectoral exposure and interdisciplinarity, by promoting a research environment where traditional boundaries between fields and sectors were crossed and multidisciplinary projects undertaken.

❖ Complemented the successful ICFO Master-PhD-Postdoc training package with a top layer of co-funded excellence in research training, competing with the best academic centres internationally.

❖ Provided the EU with a generation of top-scientists in Photonics, one of the 5 European Key Enabling Technology, to face the global challenges in the international high tech-competition. ICFOstepstone significantly boosted the Fellow’s career perspectives, strengthened their network and exposed them to diverse career paths in the most important international institutions in the chosen sector, offering a smooth and successful transition to their next career step. The program also established a gender balance significantly better than the norm in photonics by recruiting 35% of women without compromising selection based on merit.

❖ Provided opportunities for training in transferable skills. To this purpose, ICFO partnered with prestigious educational entities, to create custom-made programs, apart from the benefits resulting from the extensive network of partners both in academic and industrial worlds as well as the strong ICFO Outreach Program.
ICFO offers broad-scope scientific and technical training
PhD students have access to cutting-edge experimental research infrastructures