The Single Entry Point (SEP) on this portal provides the overall list of tools and methods available and is the portal to submit a proposal. As there are limitations to the amount of access available for each facility, it is necessary to set a procedure over the whole duration of the SFERA-III project allowing optimum use of access time. Therefore, SFERA-III will organize five annual Calls for Trans-national Access (TA) to a chosen number of its infrastructures/installations. The first call will be launched in march 2019 and the following ones will be launch the following years for 2020, 2021, 2022 and the last one for 2023.
Eligibility of the user-groups
Trans-national Access is granted to user-groups, i.e. teams of one or more researchers, led by a user-group leader, according to the following eligibility criteria:
The user-group leader and the majority of the users must work in a country other than the country(ies) where the installations are located.
The selection will be done through the evaluation of the received user-project proposals by an independent external expert panel (USP) from different domains that are involved in Concentrating Solar Technologies and Applications (thermal storage, solar desalination, solar water treatment, thermal process and combustion, concentrating solar thermal, advanced materials).
The duration of the work will be defined by the work plan described in the proposal and will be agreed with the Installation Project Leader.
The experimental research on the selected research topics must be implemented in one of the offered research infrastructures listed here: Services offered by SFERA-III_Consortium_191205
Technical feasibility will be checked in advance by the corresponding research infrastructures based on the available equipment/facility and offered services.
How to submit a proposal
Please note: contacting the requested access providers to discuss the project idea prior to application submission is a requirement, but does not result in automatic acceptance of the project by the service providers during the technical assessment.
The first step before submitting a proposal is to check the technical feasibility to the installations. Therefore, for technical questions and before writing your proposal, you have to send an e-mail to the Access Manager of the Research Infrastructure Service Providers:
User Groups requesting access are required to submit a complete SFERA-III Application Form (SAF) – which is available here – before the Call deadline. This includes all the following information:
- Project title
- Project acronym
- Scientific field
- The installation requested for access (for application to more than one installation, please send separate proposals).
- Applicant (name, gender, nationality, home institution, …
- Short explanation identifying the research group and of its current lines of research.
- Brief CV of the group leader, including a short list of the most relevant papers.
- A PDF file of the description of the research proposed projet according to this template and including the period of access requested
- How did you know about this access campaign?
- Commitments of the applicant
Proposals submitted after the Call deadline will not be considered for evaluation.
We ask you to fill and submit the SAF before the deadline displayed in the news !
All access proposals will go through three stages of review:
At first, a pre-screening of the incoming proposals is conducted by the Trans-national Access coordinator to check the compliance of the proposals with the eligibility criteria as set down by the EC Trans-national Access rules. Eligible proposals are then classified by focus group as defined in the SFERA-III project (thermal storage, solar desalination, solar water treatment, thermal process and combustion, concentrating solar thermal, advanced materials).
Technical feasibility assessment:
Access proposals are then checked for technical feasibility by the Access Managers of each Infrastructure based on the available equipment/facility and offered services. Proposals assessed as “feasible” will be then sent for evaluation of scientific merit by an independent, external Users Selection Panel (USP).
A panel of independent, external experts evaluates the access proposals from the point of view of scientific content and relevance of the outcome. The expert gives ratings to the application based on three criteria:
- scientific excellence
- overall methodology of the project, and
- qualifications and complementarity of the user-group.
In case of competition between projects at equal level of scientific ranking by USP members, a preference will be given to:
- have not previously used the installation,
- are working in countries where no equivalent research infrastructure exist,
- are young researchers, taking into account the parity of male-female users, and
- are from outside the SFERA-III network.
Those proposals contributing to the improvement of the services provided by the infrastructures, the harmonisation and optimization of methodologies, and the reinforcement of the partnership with industry will receive a special consideration.
The review process will be moderated by the SFERA-III Access Coordinator, and the application will remain strictly confidential throughout the review process. Applicants will be informed about the decision within 6–8 weeks after the end of the submission period, during which the project was submitted.
Non-selected proposals will always be accompanied by a written report explaining the reasons for rejection. Where appropriate, the report will also include recommendations and suggestions for improvement and possible resubmission of a new proposal.
The purpose of this procedure is to ensure the transparency, fairness and impartiality of the selection.
How the access stays occur?
The selected date, the technical details of the access stay, the travel and accommodation are prepared together between the User-Group Leader and the Installation Project Leader of the selected installation.
- Each selected User-Group sends one or two people simultaneously, for periods ranging between one week and three months, as defined with the Access Provider. The typical duration of an access stay may vary from one week up to one month. Longer stays up to three months are in principle possible but in such a case the Trans-national Access Coordinator should be contacted in advance in order to check installation availability and potential budget restrictions.
- Each User must sign a declaration of use of the Research Infrastructure before leaving.
- Different project deliverables are expected at the end of the access stays.
What are the expected project deliverables?
User-groups are required to send to the Access Manager a report with the work done and the results obtained at the end of the period of research stay, within two weeks of the end of the stay. The SFERA-III Summary Report Form (to be made available soon) is available from here.
- All Users conducting a project in the framework of this Trans-national Access activity are asked to provide feedback on their experience with the work conducted with all service providers. To fill in the Access Evaluation Report (to be made available soon) is mandatory as they are essential for SFERA-III to optimize its services and to further establish the common infrastructure platform that integrates services across multidisciplinary fields (energy, chemistry, material science, …). This feedback form should be sent in electronic format by e-mail to the Trans-national Access Coordinator.
- Each Group Leader of a user-project is requested to complete the User Group Questionnaire. This exercise will enable the Commission to evaluate the Research Infrastructures Action, to monitor the individual contracts, and to improve the services provided to the scientific community. Note that the number for the SFERA-III EC Grant Agreement is 823802.
- User-groups (except for SMEs) are required to publish results related to their SFERA-III Access stay at the selected Research Infrastructure in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
- Users are requested to communicate any publication, in whatever form and by whatever medium, resulting from their access stays under this Trans-national Access activity and to acknowledge both the use of the facilities and its researchers/technology experts, and the European Community support: We thank the <name of the Research Infrastructure> for providing access to its installations, the support of its scientific and technical staff, and the financial support of the SFERA-III project (Grant Agreement No 823802).
The list of the selected proposals will be published on the SFERA-III website along with a publishable short abstract.
What if i want to know more ?
What is funded ?
No funding is provided directly to the User-Group. Instead, through SFERA-III Access Providers, the European Commission bears the cost of access to the infrastructure and expenses such as sample shipment, as well as the travel costs and related subsistence allowances of the selected User Groups’ members.
A maximum of two Users (exceptionally three Users) per proposal can be supported. The final decision on the number of Users per project and per Access stay will be made between the User Group Leader and the Installation Project Leader, being this reflected in the Technical Annex of the User Access Policy (to be provided soon).
Reimbursement is handled by each Access Provider, in line with infrastructures rules. Rules and procedures on how to claim refund of Travel and Subsistence Expenses can be found here (to be provided soon).
SFERA-III TA reimbursements will be made exclusively to the users on an individual basis. SFERA-III Access Providers will not reimburse in any form the advance payments or reimbursements made by the User-groups’ home institute.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 823802