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Career Development Fellowships in the National Technology Centre Programme

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Career-FIT PLUS (Career Development Fellowships in the National Technology Centre Programme)

Reporting period: 2019-09-01 to 2021-08-31

Career-FIT PLUS is open to applicants globally who want to develop their research career through experience in market-focused research thereby enhancing their long term employment opportunities and serving to close the gap between industry and academia. Eligible applicants for the Career-FIT PLUS programme are Experienced Researchers (ERs) worldwide of any nationality, who may not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc) in the Republic of Ireland for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the co-funded programme’s deadline, and who wish to undertake a Fellowship undertaking market-focused applied research in Enterprise Ireland’s industry-led Technology Centres 9https://www.enterprise-ireland.com/en/research-innovation/companies/collaborate-with-companies-research-institutes/technology-centres.html) and Technology Gateways (https://www.technologygateway.ie/).

Career-FIT PLUS Fellows are provided with an expanded mentoring and supervisory support that recognises that while there is a need for scientific and technological guidance in the delivery of the Fellowship research programmes, the human resource development objectives extend further to developing future research and innovation leaders.

Abundancy of training opportunities (and a generous training budget) will be available for the Fellows, both in their area of research and on other area of professional and personal development.

Career-FIT PLUS directly addresses the critical deficit of researchers in the EU , and in Ireland in particular, by providing an opportunity for 50 experienced researchers to undertake high quality market focused applied research Fellowships in EI’s Technology Centres and Gateways and with their enterprise clients.
During the reporting period Enterprise Ireland, which is the only beneficiary of the programme, has successfully delivered on the:
Promotion, launch and management of Call One and Call Two;
Selection, launch of two calls for expression of interest, recruitment and management of 65 independent expert evaluators;
Evaluation of 143 proposals and selection of 50 Fellows altogether;
Issuance of fellowship contracts and guidelines;
Organization of kick-off meetings, review meetings and centralised training events.
Experience with the original Career-FIT programme suggests that the majority of those who apply for the programme will be in the early stages of their Experienced Researcher (ER) career. For many of the researchers in this cohort, a typical scenario is that the ER will have recently obtained their doctoral degree and that their work experience will have been focussed on one or perhaps two disciplines, and most likely in an academic setting only. For most, this will be the first opportunity to work directly with industry while retaining the generous independence of the academic life.
Taking account of this, the Career-FIT PLUS programme has a strategy for enhancing skills, working conditions and career perspectives to facilitate the Fellow on a transformative industry-relevant development journey underpinned by their own personal and career ambitions.
The research activities take place in the Host Organisations (i.e. academic institution plus partner company) with the Fellow benefiting from the support of an established team of multidisciplinary experts, and in particular dedicated Host Organisation mentoring. The Fellows are also exposed to the work of market-focused applied research and commercialisation of research in the affiliated Technology Centre or Gateway, as well as their enterprise partners (ranging from start-ups to SMEs to multinationals).
In addition to enhanced advanced research skills, the generous training budget available is meant to help Fellows achieve an enhanced sense of self in the form of increased confidence, self-esteem and personal credibility. To this end, the Academic and Company mentors help the Fellow draw a yearly Training and Development Plan. This plan identifies specific areas for self-development and learning and professional development priorities.
Long-terms career goals and skill development needs are also an important part of the application and proposal evaluation phases so it is assumed that the applicants who are selected to receive a Career-FIT PLUS fellowship are also the ones who will be able to fully exploit such personal development and career planning opportunities.
As a matter of fact, there are already two examples of Fellows who have participated in successful Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund (DTIF) and Innovation Partnership (IP) applications as part of academic-industry collaborative teams and there is one Fellow who is going to terminate his contract early because he has been offered the opportunity to join a medical device company in Ireland as R&D Engineer.
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