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TALENT Doctoral Fellowship Programme

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - TALENT (TALENT Doctoral Fellowship Programme)

Reporting period: 2018-08-01 to 2020-07-31

The Faculty of Science – SCIENCE – at the University of Copenhagen is Scandinavia’s largest science research and education institution. The research rests on two pillars: 1) strong basic research and 2) application-oriented research, contributing to growth and employment and solving society’s problems, e.g. with climate change, lifestyle diseases and IT security.

The TALENT Doctoral Programme aims to leverage the intersectoral and international opportunities offered by SCIENCE in order to create a cohort of graduates with the skills and expertise needed to meet the growing demand for highly educated human resources within the natural and technical sciences in Europe. This way, SCIENCE is underpinning the formation of a workforce that can contribute to handle the industrial and societal challenges of our times. As such, the TALENT programme will equip its fellows with sought after skills by providing 1) access to world leading research environments at SCIENCE, 2) interaction with industry (incl. possible secondments), 3) access to research facilities and 4) international exposure through stays abroad and collaborations with partners through networks. TALENT is a bottom-up programme and offers the applicants to draw up their own project description within 16 areas.

The objective of the TALENT programme is to recruit 74 exceptional PhD students and provide a training programme aligned with the European principles of Innovative Doctoral training and the concept of the three Os, i.e. Open Innovation, Open Science and Open to the World. TALENT will ensure excellent opportunities for the PhD students to enter into interdisciplinary, intersectoral and international collaborations, for instance through its partner organisations, the Confederation of Danish Industry, the Danish Chamber of Commerce, the Danish Agriculture and Food Council, Copenhagen Science City and DIKU Business Club.
During the first two years of the TALENT Doctoral Programme, four application rounds have been implemented. The first round resulted in 1,091 applications and 19 fellows being selected, the second round 397 applications and 17 fellows being selected, the third round 252 applications and 14 fellows being selected and the fourth round 344 applications and 24 fellows being selected.

As part of ensuring an open, transparent, merit-based, impartial and equitable selection procedure, the four calls were advertised through many different means: dissemination channels free of charge (e.g. EURAXESS, Net4Mobility+), dissemination channels which required payment (e.g. Nature Careers, Science Careers) and career fairs (e.g. the MIT European Career Fair, the Nature Careers Live). For the career fairs, SCIENCE produced a leaflet about the programme and what is has to offer.

The selection process consisted of four steps: 1) eligibility and admissibility checks, 2) review at department level, 3) expert/international evaluation and 4) final selection of candidates by SCIENCE’s Research Committee. Compared to SCIENCE’s usual procedure for recruiting PhD students, the process included an additional element, i.e. the expert/international evaluation, which also comprised gender blinding. The assumption is that it strengthened the open, transparent, merit-based, impartial and equitable selection procedure since the selected 74 PhD students consisted of 37 females and 37 males, coming from 24 different countries.

Detailed information and statistics related to each of the application rounds can be found on the TALENT website, e.g. for the fourth round:
Since it required an additional application round to recruit all 74 PhD students, the first two years of the TALENT Doctoral Progamme have been dedicated to recruitment. Nonetheless, a workshop on Open Science was organised in collaboration with another H2020 action, the ORION project: It was held at SCIENCE and 20 PhD students participated. It will be envisaged how the workshop can be transformed into a new and mandatory course for all PhD students at SCIENCE, and even opened up to external participants to ensure a greater impact beyond SCIENCE, when the programme ends.

The remainder of the programme will be committed to exploring the fellows’ needs and wishes for tailor made secondments in industry. When relevant, the programme will liaise with its five partners (see above). SCIENCE will of course also assist the fellows when their change of environment includes a research stay at a foreign university. Despite of COVID-19 and the derived effects on the change of environment, SCIENCE is devoted to supply the PhD students with transferable skillsets allowing them to pursue careers in both the academic and non-academic sectors after the end of their PhD – not only to the benefit of the fellows but for the greater good of Europe.
TALENT banner used for dissemination material (series of pictures)