The second annual edition of the University’s SEA-EU Grants Week was held between 21 and 23 March 2022, and organised by RSSD, MCST, SEA-EU, and COST CNC CSO. This Grants Week 2022 built on the success of the previous annual event, and aimed to boost active participation in international funding programmes and provide networking and collaborative opportunities with researchers from the SEA-EU network. This was done in the spirit of the UM’s vision and mission to strengthen the quality of its research output through a high-calibre academic community and the provision of an enhanced research infrastructure.
The event featured an extensive range of speakers, with a mix of live and virtual participation from UM as well as European guest speakers from COST and the European Commission, representatives of COST CNC CSO, the National Contact Points (NCPs), Project awardees and connected support services. Speakers provided early-stage researchers and research support staff with practical and useful information about the funding opportunities, focusing on international grants, especially the European Commission Horizon EUROPE and Erasmus+.
The University’s Pro-Rector for Research & Innovation, Prof. Ing. Simon Fabri, delivered the welcoming address. He emphasised that “In line with its vision and mission, the University of Malta strives to engage in world-class research having local, regional, European and global significance”. He then presented UM’s Administrative Support Structures, Academics Structures for Research, other units sustaining research, and the distribution in percentages of Research Funds at UM. He introduced the Grants Week Objectives as follows:
- Introduce several funding opportunities for research
- Provide guidance and tips on writing research fund proposals
- Enhance active participation in international interdisciplinary networks
- Share examples of success stories and best practice
The first day was dedicated to interdisciplinary research networks that bring researchers and innovators together to investigate a topic of their choice: COST Actions. Prof Janet Mifsud, the COST CNC CSO Malta, delivered the opening address. The COST Association, represented by the Director (Dr Ronald de Bruin) and Policy Officer (Mr Bart Veys), also supported the event with their presentations. This was followed by a panel discussion, based on examples of experience and best practice which highlighted the added value and impact of participating in a COST Action for researchers, hosted by the former COST Deputy CNC CSO, the President of the COST Scientific Committee as well as COST MC members. Topics also included practical aspects of how to prepare and coordinate a successful proposal and host a COST event in Malta.
The second day was devoted to the EU’s flagship funding programme for doctoral education and postdoctoral training of researchers: Marie Sklodowska Curie Actions (MSCA). NCPs delivered an overview about MSCA and Doctoral Networks, including services and support schemes, and shared tips and tricks for writing successful proposals. The topics mentioned above were followed by practical exercises, in the form of a hands-on workshop focused on developing participants’ skills in writing the main parts of a grant proposal for MSCA in the context of the most critical success factors. Group work was based on improving participants' ability to create a favourable first impression, highlight excellence in research and innovation, summarise the relevant impacts, and avoid common mistakes. The day closed with a compelling presentation of outcomes from the group work, where participants obtained useful feedback from experts and peers.
The final day opened with a welcoming address delivered by Prof Godfrey Baldacchino, the Rector’s Delegate for the SEA-EU Initiative. The information session of the Grants Week's last day was focused on strengthening the link between education & research within the EU programme for education, training, youth and sport: Erasmus+. With a budget of some €26 billion, Erasmus+ 2021-2027 now offers more mobility and cooperation opportunities than ever before. Therefore, it merited a very detailed presentation on opportunities and available key actions for individuals and institutions within Higher Education, which was delivered by UM’s International Office. The day concluded with presentations about UM’s success stories delivered by Erasmus+ Key Action 2 grantees from the Faculty of Education and the Faculty of Arts, who also shared their experience and good practices relating to difficulties with project output delivery and management under the decidedly trying COVID-19 circumstances.