Seal of Excellence Fund (SELF)
The two-year Horizon Europe "Marie Skłodowska Curie Postdoctoral Fellowships" (MSCA PF) finance individual research projects that support the scientific career of the applicant through mobility and training. The budget of Horizon Europe allows funding of approx. 15% of the applications. Project proposals that were judged to deserve funding but did not get it and that achieved at least 85% of the maximum possible score receive the "Seal of Excellence" quality label.
The "Seal of Excellence Fund" (SELF) is an internal grant of the University of Bern to employ excellent international researchers at postdoctoral level whose MSCA PF applications with the University of Bern were (just) not funded but were awarded the “Seal of Excellence”. SELF provides matching funds to the financial support of the institute to employ these researchers for a minimum of 6 months (and max. 2 years) at the University of Bern.
What is the aim of SELF?
- The aim is to increase the chances of the researchers at postdoctoral level obtaining a competitive career development grant within 2 years. Furthermore, SELF aims to increase the attractiveness of the University of Bern as a research site for excellent researchers at postdoctoral level from abroad.
What is supported?
- SELF co-finances the employment of researchers who were awarded the Seal of Excellence. The contributions are generally the same as the financial investment of the institute, up to a maximum of CHF 50,000 per year per person. SELF thus basically doubles the duration of the employment that could be financed with the funds of the institute alone.
- In addition, SELF pays a flat rate of CHF 800 per month of employment for research costs.
- SELF cannot be used to substitute existing employment contracts.
- The detailed rules are described in the SELF Regulations (in German only).
Who can apply for SELF?
- Requests for SELF matching funds are submitted by the direct superior at the University of Bern who wants to employ the researchers at postdoctoral level. Normally, this is the person who has the role of supervisor in the MSCA PF proposal. This person must have the funds to employ the researchers full time for at least 3 months and must also commit to hosting them at the institute for at least 6 months.
- Applications for SELF are only possible in conjunction with MSCA PF proposals submitted during the 9th EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation "Horizon Europe" (2021-2027) and with the University of Bern as the host institution.
How does it work?
- The MSCA PF have an annual application deadline (mid-September). The evaluation is carried out on the basis of peer review by the European Commission. The results (also on receiving the Seal of Excellence) follow within 5 months (in February). An Expression of Interest must be submitted by the supervisor before the evaluation results of the Horizon Europe MSCA PF (usually approx. mid-January of the following year). The Grants Office will provide an online form for this.
- If the MSCA PF applicant is awarded a Seal of Excellence, the Grants Office will ask the supervisor to confirm that they are still interested in employing the researcher at postdoctoral level and to confirm the institute contribution. All the necessary information about the planned employment will also be requested.
- If the University of Bern funds for SELF are not sufficient to finance all the applications, priority will be given to those applicants whose evaluation score for the MSCA PF proposal is the closest to the panel-specific cut-off score that would have resulted in funding from the European Commission.
- Once the employment has started, the Grants Office will transfer the approved amount to the institute. Employment must start within one year of the communication of the MSCA PF results and the award of the Seal of Excellence by the European Commission.
- If the employment contract at the University of Bern is terminated prematurely, the unused SELF funds are generally to be returned. A (partial) exception will be made if the termination is due to the successful application for competitive third-party career funding by the SELF Fellow (e.g., SNSF Ambizione). This also applies for a resubmission of the MSCA PF proposal, in the event that the Horizon Europe eligibility criteria are still fulfilled.