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Career advancement with Esprit: The new FWF programme for the career promotion of postdocs starts on April 27. © Shutterstock

A higher funding budget, longer project durations, and year-round submissions—the ESPRIT career advancement programme starts on April 27. The new programme promotes the careers of highly qualified postdocs and replaces the Lise Meitner and Hertha Firnberg programmes.

Through ESPRIT the Austrian Science Fund FWF offers postdocs a higher funding amount, greater flexibility in the use of funds, and the opportunity to submit applications on a year-round basis. Rolling submissions means that careers can be advanced more quickly— a particularly important aspect for postdocs in their career planning. The duration of research projects has been extended and now covers three years. The project-specific funds have been increased and can be used flexibly within the scope of a global budget. To underscore the researchers’ scientific independence, ESPRIT relies on mentors who provide the researchers with sustainable advice and support on their long-term career development.

The new programme aims to attract the best and most creative researchers from Austria and abroad and strengthen Austrian research institutes with research projects of outstanding quality. In addition, ESPRIT is designed to address the funding needs of postdocs from all fields of science and research in one common programme for the purpose of integrating them as best as possible into Austria’s universities and research institutions, regardless of their discipline. The promotion of women is also one of the primary goals of the programme.

Overview of what’s new in the ESPRIT Programme

  ESPRIT Programme Previous programmes
(Lise Meitner and Hertha Firnberg)
Funding volume: approx. €20 million per year approx. €13 million per year
Funding amount: Funding for the salary of the principal investigator plus up to €25,000 per year in project-specific costs Funding for the salary of the principal investigator plus up to €12,000 per year in project-specific costs
Flexibility: Global budget for ongoing projects with the option to reallocate funds Little flexibility in the reallocation of funding for personnel and non-personnel costs
Submissions: Rolling submission and thus faster awarding of grants; in the case of rejection, faster chance for resubmission Two calls for proposals per year (in the Hertha Firnberg Programme)
Territoriality: No territoriality principle; in exchange, application submitted by the Austrian research institution
(PROFI funding)
Territoriality principle in effect
Duration: Up to 36 months for all grantees 24 months (Meitner), 36 months (Firnberg)

Next step in the promotion of women and equal opportunities

Although ESPRIT is open to both men and women, the programme is designed to prioritise the promotion of women’s careers. At all stages of the programme, from the submission of applications to the reaching of decisions to the implementation of the projects, various steps have been taken to ensure equal opportunities. These include, for instance, transparent and objective evaluation criteria, which also take the personal situations of researchers into consideration; budgetary measures, such as reserving half of the ESPRIT project fundings for women; and increasing the supporting measures for the promotion of women that have proven to be effective in the Firnberg programme.


Overview of the measures for the promotion of women

  • Promotion of women in the application stage
    • Information and advising events specifically for female researchers in various forms
    • Gender-sensitive guidelines for curriculum vitae and transparent evaluation criteria

  • Promotion of women in the decision-making stage
    • Consideration of equal opportunities in the decision-making process: transparent and objective evaluation criteria, awareness-raising among the reviewers, and anti-bias training for the decision-making bodies
    • External evaluation of the programme’s implementation and the decision-making process regarding equal opportunities by international experts
    • Half of the funds reserved for women
    • In the case of equal qualifications and equal quality of proposals, women are given priority

  • Promotion of women in the project stage
    • Know-how transfer and visibility measures through ongoing mentoring, workshops, and networking meetings
    • Child allowances up to the child’s third birthday in the case of full-time employed principal investigators

Ongoing external evaluation of the change

The implementation of the new programme will be scientifically monitored under the supervision of Joanneum Research (“GRANTeD”) and will focus on the topics of equal opportunities and gender bias in the peer-review and decision-making process. In addition, information on the proportion of women among proposed and approved projects and the approval rate by gender will be collected on a regular basis.

You can find further information on the new ESPRIT career programme, the application requirements, and funding criteria here:

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