Industrial Doctorates Plan grows to 437 projects

The industrial doctorates plan (PDI), which began with a pilot plan at the end of 2012 and now enters its sixth year in 2018, is, in the words of Secretary for Universities and Research, Arcadi Navarro, ‘a clear example of the transfer of state-of-the-art knowledge from the Catalan universities to our country's productive fabric’. The aim of the Industrial Doctorates Plan is to contribute to the competitiveness and internationalisation of Catalan industry, strengthen the tools for recruiting the talent generated in the country and place future PhD holders in the right place to carry out R&D&I projects in a company.

Notably, the Catalan Government, through the Secretariat for Universities and Research, has provided support for 437 R&D&I projects since the plan started. Overall, the PDI has been very well received by the Catalan innovation ecosystem. The plan has now been running for six years, during which time it has seen the involvement of 294 companies of all sizes and sectors and collaboration with 245 recognised research groups (SGRs) from 11 universities, 21 CERCA centres, as well as a number of Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) centres based in Catalonia and hospital foundations.

In 2017, the total number of project grants increased to 92. During the recognition ceremony for the first industrial doctorates held last July, the Secretary also stressed that ‘the industrial doctorates enable universities and companies to strengthen each other’.

In this context, the Government of Catalonia has provided a total of €22.13 million, of which €8.3 M have been spent on business environments, €10.12 M on academic environments, and €3.7 has gone directly to the participating doctoral students. Furthermore, the companies themselves have invested €38.47 M by contracting doctoral students. Thus, public-private investment of €60.60 M has been generated overall, 63% from private contributions and 37% from public contributions.

The industrial doctorate projects are open to all areas of knowledge, although most are in science and engineering. More recently, especially in 2017, an additional effort has been made to foster projects in the social sciences, arts and humanities by adding improvements to the programme terms and conditions.

In the business context, the industrial doctorates have been supported by 294 different organisations that, regardless of their size or legal form, consider R&D a strategic vector for competitiveness. The plan is a project open to companies of all sizes; over 65% of the projects are conducted in small or medium-sized companies (including start-ups and spin-offs), which are the most common size in Catalonia. With regard to business sectors, there are no restrictions for industrial doctorate projects, which are open to all sectors, from tourism to sustainable mobility.

In academic terms, the projects have been headed by 331 researchers from 245 Catalan government-recognised research groups at both public and private Catalan universities, CERCA and CSIC research centres in Catalonia and large scientific facilities such as the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre and the Alba Synchrotron. In the Secretary’s words, ‘The cutting-edge research in the projects covers fields as diverse as connected vehicles and artificial intelligence’.

An opportunity for students, companies, universities and research centres

The essential element of the industrial doctorate process is the research project carried out at a company, where doctoral students will further develop their research training in collaboration with a university or a research centre, and which is the object of a doctoral thesis. Thus the industrial doctorates create a stable bridge of cooperation between Catalan companies and institutions and the country’s university and research system.

For companies and institutions, the industrial doctorates are a means of attracting and recruiting talent into the organisation, permitting close collaboration with state-of-the-art research groups with access to their facilities, obtaining project funding, compatible with other sources of R&D&I funds, and, finally, enabling them to benefit from current tax incentives for R&D&I activities.

For universities, the industrial doctorates promote knowledge transfer to productive sectors and society in general, strengthen their links with the business world, increase the academic value with tutoring for theses, articles, conference papers and so on, and provide flexible funding compatible with other sources of funds for the group's lines of research.

For the doctoral students, it enables them to learn in a highly innovative dual environment with both academic and business supervision, and can serve as a bridge to future collaboration between these two environments. All of this comes with a three-year work contract and a number of other advantages, such as free enrolment and a mobility fund to foster internationalisation and the creation of a network for future professional development. Notably, they also receive a set of transferable skills, which are highly valued by both companies and institutions.

The annual calls for public grant applications for industrial doctorate projects are managed by the Catalan Government’s Agency for Management of University and Research Grants (AGAUR), making the most of its management capacity and experience in managing public grants (awarding, monitoring and justification), with the support of the University Services Consortium of Catalonia (CSUC). Mention should be made of the support for the plan from the 12 Catalan universities and the business world to promote knowledge transfer to the productive sector.

Industrial doctorates, doctorates for the future.

More detailed information may be found on the website:

Note: Media interested in interviewing companies who take on industrial doctorates or universities who are running doctorates in companies should contact the Press Office and we will provide contact details.




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