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PhD Programme of Advanced Research in Interdisciplinary Science at ESPCI Paris

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - UPtoPARIS (PhD Programme of Advanced Research in Interdisciplinary Science at ESPCI Paris)

Reporting period: 2018-01-01 to 2019-12-31

Loyal to its tradition in education and training on an interdisciplinary level between physics, chemistry and biology, the ESPCI proposes a brand new international doctoral programme – UPtoPARIS. PhD fellows have the opportunity to explore an excellent environment comprising an elite engineer school, 11 joint research units and a incubator on campus hosting 14 technology-driven start-ups – a recipe for a cutting-edge doctoral training in the heart of Paris.
UPtoPARIS is designed to propose a combination of research activities and innovative and competitive supervising, mentoring and career planning. With PhD projects strongly connected to the transferability of basic science, the programme aims to shape new profiles of forward-looking young researchers by giving them knowledge and skills directly linked to the needs of the European and international industry and market. The intersectorial exposure, provided by secondments, workshops and specific guidance, will help young researchers to gain a precious experience in terms of technological development.
The UPtoPARIS doctoral programme of the ESPCI is organised in 3 calls for applications, each of them resulting in the recruitment of 10 PhD students. The selection process starts with an internal call for PhD proposals and the selected projects are then widely published on different networks. After the calls for applications, an eligibility check is performed and the selection process carries on with an evaluation phase, based on a remote international peer review. The process ends with the organisation of interviews with the highest-ranked candidates. The 30 high-profile doctoral candidates also reinforce the internationally renowned profile of the ESPCI and the region, by increasing the number of foreign PhD students and, consequently, the quality and the diversity of the scientific exchange.
The UPtoPARIS programme of the ESPCI Paris offers a unique environment to highly selected PhD students expected to produce top-level scientific research ready to be translated into technical and societal innovations. This is achieved by promoting interdisciplinary basic research, by connecting it with industry through the wide intersectorial network of the ESPCI Paris partners. In addition to a research experience per se, we offer students an international training and a dedicated Career development training programme. UPtoPARIS aims at educating a generation of PhDs with a modern vision of research, beyond frontiers between disciplines and between basic research and innovation, and ready to address technological and societal challenges with innovative approaches.
Centred on innovation and built around interdisciplinary and intersectorial principles, UPtoPARIS is designed as a pilot programme to attract top-level young researchers and provide them with a high quality doctoral supervision and training. With this improvement of the standard of doctoral education at the ESPCI, the project aims at increasing the ESPCI’s international visibility and create leverage for all the ESPCI’s doctoral programmes by spreading EU Principles for Innovative Doctoral Training.
During the year 2018, the Management team set up the beginnings of the UPtoPARIS project, which then led to the recruitment of the first 10 UPtoPARIS fellows. A few months afterwards, the year finally ended with the organisation of the 2nd call’s interviews and the selection of 10 new excellent UPtoPARIS fellows. At the same time, the 3rd internal call for PhD projects was launched in order to collect and publish the positions available for the 3rd and last call for applications.
2019 then started with the preparation of the arrivals of the 2nd call’s laureates at the ESPCI Paris and the opening of the 3rd call for applications. The last batch of 10 fellows finally arrived at the school between September and November 2019, thus completing the whole UPtoPARIS recruitment procedure.
As main results, the UPtoPARIS Management team succeeded in attracting excellent young researchers through a multi-steps selection process complying with the HRS4R principles, namely an open, transparent, fair and merit-based selection procedure. Besides, the ESPCI submitted its endorsement letter last year for the HRS4R award and has now defined its Action plan, which will be soon implemented in the school.
Regarding the training and the employability of the UPtoPARIS fellows, the Management team endeavored to give the best opportunities by offering a comprehensive doctoral education through a training programme composed of research and tailor-made soft skills courses. The topics of the programme’s projects have been carefully defined in order to address the requirements of the European and international business environment, to encourage career opportunities in particular outside the academic sector. Finally, over a third of the UPtoPARIS fellows will undertake a secondment to an academic or industrial partner in France or abroad, the Management team will make sure to follow these projects and to encourage the other PhD fellowss and their supervisors to plan a secondment during the thesis.
As a conclusion, at the end of 2019, 30 PhD fellows were recruited and started their thesis among the 11 Joint research units of the ESPCI. They also started following their CDTP.
We expect the UPtoPARIS fellows to undertake their research in the best conditions and to finally defend their thesis and obtain their PhD diploma. We also expect them to be sufficiently trained thanks to our Career Development Training Programme (CDTP) in order to tackle the challenges of the international job market and to increase their employability.
One of the impact of the programme is the improvement of good practices in hosting foreign researchers and the promotion of the 3i dimension (international, interdisciplinary, intersectorial projects) inside the ESPCI.