The ESPRIT program (Early-Stage Program: Research - Innovation - Training) is intended to improve the skills and support the professional development of researchers from all disciplines early in their research careers by giving them the opportunity to lead an independent research project.

Target group

This funding program is aimed at highly qualified postdoc-level researchers of all disciplines in the early stages of their scientific career.

Funding goals

ESPRIT promotes career development by giving junior researchers the opportunity to act as principal investigator in an independent research project.

The main objectives of the ESPRIT program are:

  • Funding excellent, innovative research
  • Recruiting, retaining, and winning back outstanding researchers to strengthen Austria’s research institutions
  • Supporting outstanding women researchers
  • Career and skill development (development/establishment of an independent research profile)
  • Improving career prospects (boosting competitiveness through publications, collaborations, and increased visibility)

Funding period and funding amount

  • Funding period: 36 months
  • Funding amount
    • Principal investigator’s salary (current senior postdoc rate)
    • Project-specific costs from €45,000 (flat rate) to €75,000 (upon request, if justifiable)


  • The applicant must have the academic qualifications needed to lead the proposed research project.
  • Completed doctoral degree awarded no more than 5 years prior to the time of application
  • A mentor to support the principal investigator’s scientific and professional development
  • Project to be carried out at an Austrian research institution with the necessary infrastructure
  • For further details, please see the application guidelines.


  • Decided by the Scientific Board based on an international review process
  • In the case of equal qualifications and equal quality of proposals: Women will be given priority in the selection process
  • Five approval meetings per year

Application information

Rolling submissions using the online application portal elane

Funding institution

Austrian Science Fund (FWF) and, if applicable, other funding agencies



Inquiries and contact

Staff members of the specialist department Strategy - Career development

Application portal

Program-specific FAQ

Where is the ESPRIT application on elane? The ESPRIT Program does not appear in the program selection drop-down menu. 

Please note that the ESPRIT Program funding is administered in PROFI mode. This means that after logging in to elane, you must first select the correct type of funding: “Application PROFI” (not “Application ad personam”). Then you can then select the funding category "ESP - ESPRIT Program" after creating a new application.

Do I have to be in Austria or have already done research in Austria when I submit my application? 

The territoriality principle does not apply to the ESPRIT program, so this is not a requirement. You do, however, have to find a mentor in Austria in advance, and applications can only be submitted with an Austrian research institution (PROFI).

As a principal investigator in a Lise Meitner or Hertha Firnberg project, am I excluded from applying for the ESPRIT program? 

No, not automatically. However, you do need to meet all application requirements before submission, i.e. you cannot have earned your doctorate more than 5 years ago.

Can I apply if I haven’t completed my doctorate yet? 

Yes, provided that the other application requirements are met and you will officially be completing your doctoral degree within the anticipated processing time (approximately 4 to 6 months). Should your application be approved before you have officially completed your doctoral degree, however, you will not be able to commence with the project until you have submitted your doctoral degree certificate.

I have two PhDs/doctorates. Which degree counts towards the application requirement for the ESPRIT program (doctoral degree awarded no more than 5 years prior to application)? 

The subject-specific degree counts for the ESPRIT program (like for the START program).

Can I use the ESPRIT program as a return option after a long stay abroad? 

Yes. Since the territoriality principle does not apply to the ESPRIT program, applications can be submitted from abroad.

Does the mentor have to work at the same institution where the project is going to be carried out? 

No. Although this arrangement is most likely and makes sense, a mentor can also work at another Austrian research institution.

Can I submit an ESPRIT application without a mentor? 

No, you are required to have a mentor and to submit an appropriate professional development and mentoring plan.

Can a mentor supervise more than one ESPRIT principal investigator? 

Yes, there is no formal limit to the number of ESPRIT mentees an individual can mentor. Co-applicants of ongoing Firnberg and Meitner projects can also be mentors for ESPRIT principal investigators. However, an ESPRIT application requires a detailed professional development and mentoring plan, which factors into the review process.

What should I consider when choosing my mentor? Does their academic rank or gender play a role? Can this individual also be compensated for their time using project funds? 

There are no formal requirements with regard to mentors’ academic titles or career stages. To be able to support mentees well in their longer-term professional development, however, mentors should be experienced, scientifically active researchers who are respected in their field or scientific community and familiar with the international and national research context. It is important that they have the relevant experience, enjoy sharing their knowledge, and are open-minded and capable of reflection. In addition, mentors should be highly motivated to support less experienced colleagues and have sufficient time resources.

The extent to which similarities or differences between mentee and mentor in terms of research area, gender, and professional or life experiences are beneficial varies from individual to individual; no one answer can apply to all cases. However, trust and a strong personal connection – regardless of academic rank or gender – is generally considered an essential prerequisite for a successful mentoring relationship.* Mentors should take on these responsibilities on a voluntary basis, as no payment is provided for mentors.

* See also: Grasenick K.  (2017): Mentoring als Nachwuchsförderung an der Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz. Ein Handbuch mit praktischen Anleitungen für Mentoren & Mentorinnen. Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz: Koordinationsstelle für Geschlechterstudien und Gleichstellung. ISBN: 978-3-9501271-5-7;; available in German only).

Does the project need to include a cost breakdown? 

No cost breakdown is required for the use of the €45,000 lump sum. However, if it seems relevant for reviewers, the proposed use of the funds may be described in the application. When applying for up to €75,000, a cost breakdown for the entire amount requested must be submitted with appropriate justification.

Can I apply for a project in another funding program at the same time? 

If you are applying for an ESPRIT project, you cannot submit a parallel application for the ESPRIT program or the other FWF career programs Erwin Schrödinger, Elise Richter, or Elise Richter PEEK. You can apply for FWF funding in other programs by submitting a separate application, provided that the program-specific application requirements are met and the applicable project number limits have not been exceeded.

With the ESPRIT program, the FWF is placing particular emphasis on the advancement of women; what does that mean in concrete terms? 

For one thing, the program documents are designed to make sure that career interruptions do not bring disadvantages, and the specifications for academic CVs and the questions for the reviewers have been written with particular attention to equal opportunities. Half of the funds will be awarded to women. In the case of equal qualifications and equal quality of applications, women will be given priority. Women who are employed full-time will be paid a child allowance up to the child’s third birthday. In addition, networking activities (annual workshops and networking meetings) and opportunities to increase visibility are available to women involved in ESPRIT projects.

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