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

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - INVITE (INnovative Verona university’s Inter-disciplinary, Inter-sectoral and International Training Experience)

Reporting period: 2017-10-01 to 2019-09-30

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 the institutional viewpoint, the Veneto region was classed a ‘moderate’ innovator, which means it performs below the EU average on all indicators, although it 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 aims 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 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.
INVITE has offered a total of 14 PhD positions in scientific disciplines within the four main scientific domains: Natural and Engineering Sciences, Life and Health Sciences, Humanities, and Law and Economics.
The ultimate goal is to train a new generation of researchers in a wide range of disciplines and to provide them with the ability to establish professional collaborations with academic institutions and/or the private sector at the Italian and European levels.
The INVITE project has pre-announced its call for applications from mid-November 2017 and officially published on 15 January 2018 with deadline on 16 April 2018. The call for published on institutional websites (Euraxess, University of Verona, Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research) as well as with an intensive campaign on academic journals and portals , on social networks, project website and newsletter.
We received 955 applications in total, from all over the world: almost half of applications were from Asia, one quarter from Europe and one quarter from Africa.
After a two-step evaluation procedure, the ranking lists for the 14 PhD positions have been approved. All PhD candidates have been enrolled in their PhD programme between 1st October 2018 and 1st February 2019.

Each INVITE fellow has been assigned to a supervisor and has defined his/her Career Development Plan and research project.
The INVITE training programme started in February 2019 with a course on Ethics in Research. In July 2019 the counselling programme for all ESRs started and will last for all three years of doctoral programme. Other training events have been scheduled for the next years too.

The project INVITE has been promoted with a specific website (approximately 50,000 visitors so far), a newsletter (12 issues for about 650 subscribers) and a specific page on LinkedIn.
To share the experiences and learned lessons, INVITE includes a series of seminars for professionals and institutions in charge of defining policies in doctoral training and managing PhD programmes. On 16 November 2018, we organised the first INVITE Annual Seminar “The innovative doctoral programmes: features and news”. On 4 December 2019, the second seminar - on Human Resources Strategy for Researchers” - is scheduled.
In addition, the coordinator Prof Pezzotti was invited to the MSCA Presidency Conference 2019 (Bucharest, 4-5 June 2019) to present the experience of INVITE project and discuss about the inter-sectoral dimension in Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions.
The INVITE fellows have presented their research within the PhD Days organised by the University of Verona, as well as in scientific conferences. It’s worth mentioning that Samaneh Najafi, the INVITE fellow in biotechnology, was awarded the Best poster prize during the 63rd SIGA Annual Congress for her research on grapevine plant protective technology against climate change.
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 the selection of INVITE PhDs. The promotion of the call went beyond expectations: 955 applications, compared to 723 applications for the same 14 PhD programmes in the same academic year.
This was mainly due to the promotion strategy: a wide coverage on different promotional channels (websites, social networks, advertising), and the decision to promote the call before its publication (pre-announcement).

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
In February 2019 a mandatory training on Ethics in research was provided to all INVITE PhD candidates. The course was also available in streaming for all PhD candidates at UNIVR.
A training programme is scheduled on new topics, such as research data management, communication and blogging.
For the first time at the University of Verona, a specific guidance and counselling programme for PhD candidates was introduced to the PhD candidates. This new activity is aimed at helping INVITE fellows to plan their careers, in academic or non-academic sectors, and improving their employability.
So far two co-tutelle agreements have been signed with the Utrecht University (Netherlands) and with the Université Claude Bernard - Lyon 1 (France).

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, the European Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers, and the Principles for Innovative Doctoral Training. University staff also introduced pro-active support for applicants and drafted a series of frequently asked questions and a handbook for students.
The cooperation among the four PhD Schools in defining the cross-disciplinary training programme was enhanced.
The knowledge of issues related to integration of foreigner students (health insurance, accommodation, integration of students with family…) and integration of information on the UNIVR website has been improved thanks to the standardization of the procedures for the INVITE fellows.
Finally, UNIVR has strengthen its cooperation with Grant Offices and PhD Offices of the other universities to share experience, in particular through the INVITE seminars.
One moment of the first INVITE seminar
Klaus Haupt and the INVITE fellows
Pezzotti at the MSCA Presidency Conference 2019
INVITE cover
Logo of INVITE project