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INnovative Verona university’s Inter-disciplinary, Inter-sectoral and International Training Experience

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - INVITE (INnovative Verona university’s Inter-disciplinary, Inter-sectoral and International Training Experience)

Reporting period: 2019-10-01 to 2022-09-30

INVITE is a doctoral programme of the University of Verona with a strong inter-sectoral, inter-disciplinary and international research and training dimension.The project has been launched because the University of Verona ranks high for its doctoral programme within Italy, but its potential was not fully exploited at international level. From an institutional viewpoint, the Veneto region was classed a ‘moderate’ innovator, which means it performed below the EU average on all indicators, although it was and is one of the Italian richest areas. To tackle this, the Regione del Veneto has drafted a strategy for ‘attraction and qualification of human resources in research and investment’. INVITE stays at the heart of these two aspirations: to make the University of Verona more attractive for international PhD students and to boost innovation in the Veneto.
In particular, INVITE has aimed to:
- Attract young, talented, international fellows to follow a high-quality interdisciplinary doctoral programme at the University of Verona;
- Encourage inter-sectoral and international mobility, thanks to collaborations with a wide network of partner organisations;
- Provide the early-stage researchers (ESRs)with a comprehensive set of transferable skills;
- Support the doctoral students with a specific counselling service to improve their employability at the end of the doctoral programme;
- Reinforce capacities of the University of Verona to host talented international researchers in a high-quality working environment.

Thanks to INVITE project 14 PhD positions have been awarded within the four main scientific domains: Natural and Engineering Sciences, Life and Health Sciences, Humanities, and Law and Economics. INVITE ESRs have been enrolled in the 3-year PhD programme at the University of Verona, also including a secondment period abroad, and completed their PhD programme successfully. In addition, two INVITE ESRs have been awarded a double PhD title by virtue of the co-tutelle agreements signed with Utrecht University and with Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1 respectively. Moreover, three INVITE ESRs have been also awarded the “Doctor Europaeus” label in compliance with EUA requirements.
The INVITE project call was published on Euraxess, University of Verona, Italian Ministry of University and Research and INVITE websites, as well as with an intensive campaign on academic journals, portals and social networks. We received 955 applications in total, from all over the world: almost half of applications from Asia, one quarter from Europe and one quarter from Africa. The 14 INVITE ESRs selected have then been enrolled in their PhD programme.

INVITE has included a meta-disciplinary training programme aimed to provide INVITE ESRs with a comprehensive set of transferrable skills appropriate with their needs of researchers. The training included a wide range of courses, such as WordPress, open data and data management, gender dimension in research, IPR, Horizon Europe, dissemination in EU projects, project writing. In addition, INVITE ESRs had the opportunity to participate in the annual training courses on research projects offered by the University of Verona to all Professors. Finally, a three-year customised Coaching, counselling and vocational guidance programme was carried out with the aim to help INVITE ESRs reflect on their own professional profile and resources in order to successfully approach the labour market. Indeed, 10 out of 14 INVITE ESRs have obtained a job position just after the end of their INVITE experience.

INVITE has been promoted through a specific INVITE website (more the 65,000 visitors), a newsletter (22 issues for about 650 subscribers), published articles and through UNIVR LinkedIn and Facebook. To share the experiences and lessons learned, INVITE included three Seminars for professionals and institutions in charge of defining policies in PhD programmes: “The innovative doctoral programmes: features and news”, “Human Resources Strategy for Researchers” and "The experience of INVITE ESRs at the University of Verona". Two videos were produced to promote INVITE project and its results, both available on YouTube. In addition, the project coordinator, Prof Pezzotti, was invited to the MSCA Presidency Conference 2019 in Bucharest to present INVITE project. INVITE ESRs attended many national and international conferences, during which they had the opportunity to disseminate their research. Their research results were published, in open access, in international journals. Though no exploitable research results emerged from INVITE project INVITE ESRs received an adequate training on IPR aspects.
OBJECTIVE 1 – Attracting young, talented, international fellows to follow a high-quality interdisciplinary doctoral programme at the University of Verona
The first year of the project was mostly dedicated to the promotion of the call and to the selection of INVITE candidates. All recruited ESRs completed their PhD courses and received the complementary transversal training. At institutional level INVITE was a great opportunity for the University of Verona in terms of improvement of its international dimension. The presence at UNIVR of INVITE ESRs has enriched the multicultural and international research context of the University of Verona PhD courses, enabling an exchange of knowledge and fostering integration of different cultures. INVITE has also improved the visibility of the University of Verona at international level. If we consider the nationality and the country of residence of applicants to the standard Call for candidatures in the following years, we notice that the number of applicants has increased year by year, and this increase is mainly due to foreign applicants.

OBJECTIVE 2 – Training a new generation of researchers in a wide range of disciplines and providing them with the ability to establish professional collaborations with academic institutions and/or the private sector at the Italian and European levels
The INVITE meta-disciplinary training programme was carried out and completed successfully. Moreover, despite Covid pandemic, most of INVITE ESRs could also carry out a secondment abroad in order to acquire new knowledge. The international networks of contacts established through secondments abroad will allow them potential future collaborations/employment opportunities. Finally, for the first time at the University of Verona, a specific counselling programme was made available to Phd researchers.

OBJECTIVE 3 – Improving the doctoral programme at the University of Verona
INVITE improved the call procedures by aligning them with the European Charter for Researchers and the Principles for Innovative Doctoral Training. The knowledge of issues related to integration of foreigner ESRs (health insurance, accommodation, integration of students with family) has been improved thanks to the standardization of the procedures for the INVITE fellows. Finally, UNIVR has strengthened its cooperation with Grant and PhD Offices of other universities, in particular through INVITE Seminars. INVITE has also had a positive impact on UNIVR Doctoral Programme. Following the example of INVITE, the University of Verona has introduced a specific Doctoral School's transveral skills training programme extended to all UNIVR PhD students.
One moment of INVITE final Seminar
Pezzotti at the MSCA Presidency Conference 2019
One moment of the second INVITE Seminar
One moment of the first INVITE Seminar
Klaus Haupt and the INVITE fellows
Logo of INVITE project
INVITE cover