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How to succeed with ITN applications

Successful applicants: Hesso Farhan (IMB) is a coordinator for an ITN consortium and a co-coordinator for another one. Hartmut Luecke (NCMM) and Tom Eirik Mollnes (Klinmed) are partners in their respective consortiums. They all had their applications accepted in 2019. You can now plan your ITN application for 2020.

Professor Hesso Farhan

Hesso Farhan is a coordinator for the SAND ITN consortium and a co-coordinator for the SECRET ITN consortium. Photo: Silje Kile Rosseland, UiO

Photo: Silje Kile Rosseland, UiO

ITN stands for "Innovative Training Networks" and a Marie S. Curie ITN consortium is a network for training researchers, sharing knowledge and developing expertise. Candidates are assessed on the basis of scientific quality, the innovative methods they employ when educating PhD students for future academic and non-academic careers, and the ability to undertake main and subordinate projects in the best possible way within the given frameworks.

You need a wide network

In order to apply you need to have previously found partners at other universities and research institutions, as well as industrial partners. Putting together such a network is a feat in its own right and is something that Professor Hesso Farhan has achieved with the help of his co-coordinator Anne Simonsen. She has previously been successful with her application for being a network coordinator.

Regular contact and sharing experiences in ITN networks

Here is how works: the network coordinator allocates fellows to partners in the consortium. Industrial partners do not have their own fellows, but fellows are able to participate in exchanges and use their advanced equipment. Fellows are also allowed to work with the company’s staff in its laboratory in order to exchange experiences and methods. Sometimes companies recruit new employees from the network, so this is a win-win situation for all the parties concerned.

Professor Farhan’s ITN consortium, SAND, will meet once a year. Fellows will also undertake secondments for a while with the various partners, participate in seminars and attend courses which are set up for SAND participants.

Professor Farhan at his new super microscope which is available for use by new ITN fellows.
Photo: Silje Kile Rosseland, UiO

In his capacity as a SAND coordinator, Hesso Farhan allocated fellowships equally between his partners, one position for each. In the SECRET consortium, in which he is involved as a co-coordinator, he has acquired two fellows. He thus has a total of three fellowships over four years.

How to achieve success

If you fail to achieve success the first time round, the evaluation provides clear feedback about areas for improvement. You can also attend an application course run by the Research Council of Norway and the UiO. Most successful applicants have previously submitted the same application several times.

Fakultetets EU-rådgivere

The Faculty’s EU advisers can also provide support when you work on your application and they can proofread it if you submit it to them in plenty of time. Professor Farhan took the criticism contained in the application he submitted last year seriously. One of the things he did was to attend a short course for a whole week in collaboration with Thermo Fisher. This new course provides consortium participants with important new knowledge and gave his application the boost it needed, raising it from 87% to a fantastic 97% and right to the top of the competition for funding.

The UiO supplements the salaries of Marie S-Curie fellows. Consequently applications must always be supported by the departmental management in advance.

Five billion krone in the pot for 2020

ITN is divided into European Training Networks (ETN), European Industrial Doctorates (EID) and European Joint Doctorates (EJD). There are no limitations on the fields of study, and no pre-defined subjects. The deadline for applications is 14 January 2020. More than five billion krone will be in the pot when funding for the Marie Sklodowska-Curie action’s popular research education network is advertised for the final time under Horizon 2020.

Putting together a network takes time, so it is now time to draw up applications. Why not attend the information meeting on 12 September?

You should be prepared to try again a couple of time before you succeed. Similar announcements will be made under new framework programmes which you could try for if your ITN 2020 application is unsuccessful.

These are the four new consortiums which the Faculty is involved in:

1. SAND – Secretion, Autophagy and their role in Neurodegeneration

Diseases where the brain cells are destroyed are becoming more common as the population ages. Most of these diseases display an imbalance between synthesising, sorting and degrading proteins. The network coordinated by Professor Farhan will train a new generation of researchers in the fundamental intracellular processes which govern protein levels in cells.

Coordinator:  Hesso Farhan, UiO. Co-coordinator: Anne Simonsen, UiO

  1. Christian Behrends, Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich, Germany
  2. Sabine Liebscher, Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich,
  3. Germany Christoph Kaether, Leibniz Institute on Ageing, Jena, Germany
  4. Catherine Rabouille, Hubrecht Institute, Netherlands
  5. Georg Haase, INSERM, France
  6. Per Nilsson, Karolinska Institute, Sweden
  7. David Rubinsztein, Cambridge Institute for Medical Research, UK
  8. Thomas Vaccari, University of Milan, Italy
  9. Siddharthan Chandra, University of Edinburgh, UK
  10. Hilal Lashuel, EPFL, Switzerland
  11. Afshin Samali, CellStressDiscoveries, Ireland
  12. Erik Christensen, PreDiagnostics, Oslo
  13. Gianpiero Lazzari, DarwinMicrofluidics, France  


  • Koret Hirschberg and Roded Sharan from the University of Tel-Aviv, Israel
  • Laurence Bindoff, University of Bergen, Norway
  • The following industrial companies are involved: GenoSplice, Thermo Fisher, BioTalentum

2. SECRET – Exploitation of the SECRETory pathway for cancer therapy to address European research

Coordinator: Angelika Hausser, University of Stuttgart. Co-coordinator: Hesso Farhan, UiO.

There are many things which change in cancer cells when they develop and become more aggressive. One of the drivers in this development is increased secretion from the cells. The project’s researchers will be looking at the mutual effects between cancer cell development and cellular secretion mechanisms.


Tom Eirik Mollnes is a partner "CORVOS – COmplement Regulation and Variations in Opportunistic infectionS".

Some pathogens exploit the fact that some people have impaired immune systems. They are investigating what we call opportunistic infections, which can be difficult to treat. In such cases the immune system is dependent on a series of proteins called the complement system. The project researchers will fill the gaps in our knowledge about how the complement system stops such opportunistic infections. They will also look at how the complement system can be used in treatment.


Hartmut Luecke from NCMM is a partner in the project entitled "PROTON – Proton transport and proton-coupled transport".

We treat many illnesses with medicines, but what impact do they have at a molecular level? How do they affect cells? We need more knowledge about this. One interesting thing is how cells use hydrogen ions (protons) to transport things across membranes. There is a lot of uncovered ground here, and this is where the project’s researchers will be concentrating their efforts.

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By Silje M. Kile Rosseland
Published Sep. 5, 2019 9:55 AM - Last modified June 11, 2021 2:00 PM