Back UPF strengthens its doctoral network programmes with four Marie Curie Doctoral Networks

UPF strengthens its doctoral network programmes with four Marie Curie Doctoral Networks

The principal investigators from UPF linked to the grant-winning doctoral network projects hail from four different departments: Ricard Zapata-Barrero (Political and Social Sciences), Jérôme Noailly (Information and Communications Technologies), Emma Rodero (Communication) and Gema Revuelta (Medicine and Life Sciences). The four projects will focus on migrations in the Mediterranean, the challenges of ageing, human and artificial voices and innovative cancer treatment systems


Imatge inicial

Within the framework of the European Commission’s Marie Sklodowska Curie Actions, the results of the 2023 call for Doctoral Networks, part of the Horizon Europe programme, were recently published. The purpose of this aid is to implement doctoral programmes through partnerships between organisations from different sectors, to train highly skilled doctoral candidates, stimulate their creativity, enhance their innovation capacities and boost their employability in the long-term.


Of the 128 grants awarded to doctoral programmes, which provide funding to the amount of €443 million, UPF’s four grants represent 21.1% of the aid ascribed to Spanish universities (which obtained 19 grants) and 2.3% at European Union level. These numbers are notable taking into account the reduced size of Pompeu Fabra University, which, with the four grants awarded in this call, has received funding to the amount of almost €1.6 million.


UPF's four grants represent 21.1% of the aid ascribed to Spanish universities and 2.3% at European Union level


The principal investigators from UPF linked to the projects financed within the framework of the international doctoral networks are from four different departments:


Ricard Zapata Barrero, full professor in the Department of Political and Social Sciences and director of the GRITIM-UPF Research Group, for the project “EuroMedMig PhD Network (EuroMedMig)”, with funding to the amount of €2,927,570 (€755,913 of which corresponds to UPF, the coordinating university, with the rest divided among the other 9 participating universities) and a duration of four years. Of the four projects at UPF, this is the only one coordinated by the University.


Jérôme Noailly, full professor in the Department of Information and Communications Technologies (DTIC) and head of the Biomechanics and Mechanobiology Research Group (BMMB) at BCN MedTech, as part of the project “InSilicoHealth - Training the virtual twin professionals to support healthy ageing”, with funding to the amount of €3,944,784 (€335,961 of which corresponds to UPF) and a duration of five years.


Emma Rodero, full professor in the Department of Communication and director of the Media Psychology Lab, as part of the project “Voice Communication Sciences (VocS)”, with funding to the amount of €4,136,853, of which €251,971 correspond to UPF, and a duration of four years.


Gema Revuelta, director of the Centre of Studies on Science, Communication and Society (CCS-UPF) in the Department of Medicine and Life Sciences (MELIS), as part of the project “Macrophage Targets for Metastatic Treatment (Mac4Me)”, with funding to the amount of €4,175,409, of which €251,971 correspond to UPF, and a duration of three years.


Training doctoral students to respond to research needs


These network projects implement doctoral programmes through partnerships between universities, research institutions and infrastructures, businesses and other socio-economic actors from different countries around the world. The aim is to respond to well-identified needs in various areas of research and innovation and offer researchers not only research training, but also transferable skills and competences relevant for innovation and long-term employability.


Altogether, the initiative will serve to train over 1,900 doctoral students from both standard doctoral programmes (to which UPF’s four grants correspond) as well as industrial and joint doctoral programmes. 1,066 proposals were submitted in this call: bearing in mind the 128 proposals that were selected, the success rate of this call was 12%.


The four doctoral networks involving UPF

UPF is slated to coordinate the EuroMedMig Doctoral Network, focused on researching migrations in the Mediterranean


EuroMedMig is an interdisciplinary research network on Migrations in the Mediterranean that was created in 2018 and is coordinated by UPF, with support from the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) and the International Migration Research Network (IMISCOE). Its philosophy is based on promoting the multilateral co-production of knowledge on migration and ensuring geographical representativeness and the plurality of perspectives and disciplines.


In this context, fifteen leading universities and research institutions from all banks of the Mediterranean, coordinated by Pompeu Fabra University through the GRITIM-UPF Research Group, have joined forces and entered into a commitment with the “EuroMedMig PhD Network”, with a view to training the next generation of researchers intent on analysing the Mediterranean at the regional level. The aim of the network is to develop political recommendations and promote the nexus between research, governance and politics.


The network coordinated by GRITIM-UPF, under the leadership of Ricard Zapata-Barrero, is comprised of the following universities: Koç (Turkey), Sousse (Tunisia), Mohammed V in Rabat (Morocco), degli Studi di Catania (Italy), Harokopio (Greece), Côte d’Azur (France), Liège (Belgium), New York Tirana (Albania); in addition to the following institutions: IOM Morocco, European Institute of the Mediterranean (IEMed, Spain), Eurac Research (Italy), The American University in Cairo (Egypt) and Centre Méditerranéen d’Études et de Recherches Internationales et Communautaires (CericMed, Morocco). 


Addressing the challenges of ageing through virtual twins


Based on virtual human twin technology, the programme “Training the virtual twin professionals to support healthy ageing” will address complex future challenges in the field of ageing, particularly with regard to cardiovascular, musculoskeletal and cerebral health.


UPF, from which Jérôme Noailly will act as principal investigator, is part of the European consortium, coordinated by KU Leuven and comprised of eight institutions, universities and companies from the technology and health sectors, which are due to develop this programme over the next 5 years.


The InSilicoHealth Consortium will also offer an interdisciplinary training programme on digital health. As many as 11 predoctoral researchers will learn not only methodologies and techniques, but also about ethical, social and legal aspects of the health world's digital revolution. In doing so, the project will help train a new generation of professionals with highly translational competences for the future of medicine.


Research on human and artificial voices with applications in several fields 


The project "Voice Communication Sciences (VocS)" is being undertaken by a network of 21 European partners, among them UPF, and aims to study voice in all its applications and disciplines. The project will address some of the main scientific challenges related to the processing of paralinguistic information, i.e. aspects of spoken communication that do not involve words, such as identity, emotional state and health.


Broadly speaking, the project, in which UPF will be represented by Emma Rodero, aims to deepen our understanding of paralinguistic information and the techniques for processing the human voice and creating more natural-sounding artificial voices. It will also pursue applications in a host of fields (health, forensics, etc.), with a view to, for example, improving voice perception for people with auditory impairment and detecting false information.


The aim of the project is to train a new generation of researchers –17 doctoral students– in the subject and position Europe at the forefront of voice communication sciences. 


Innovative and patient-centred cancer treatment systems


When cancer spreads to other organs and localised treatment is no longer feasible, options are limited. In this situation, immunotherapy represents a particularly promising development. Nonetheless, despite the encouraging success in certain types of cancer and patient profiles, the response in many other cases is limited or highly variable. To establish more efficient immunotherapies, it is necessary to gain a better understanding of the specific interactions between the cancer cell and the immune host in the place where metastasis occurs.


The aim of the Macrophage Targets for Metastatic Treatment (Mac4Me) Doctoral Network is to understand this interaction and use innovative organ-on-a-chip systems, an alternative to animal models, to replicate the early formation of metastasis in the brain, bones and liver. The knowledge generated from these preclinical models will be integrated into established clinical data on metastasis and coupled with automatic AI learning algorithms to identify new immunotherapy targets.


Mac4Me will be aligned with patients and the public from the start, placing the expectations of society and the needs of patients at the centre of the project, to smooth the way toward new standards in shared decision-making and acceptable healthcare solutions. The Studies Centre on Science, Communication and Society (UPF), under the leadership of Gema Revuelta, will examine the processes of this integrative and participatory research, as well as the most effective ways to communicate cancer research to different groups with a view to improving shared decision-making.



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04. Quality education
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