A conversation with … Jesús Rojo

Today’s interview makes me especially excited. It is not just because today’s topic is one of my favorites or because the section that I inaugurated with so much love this 2020 before the coronavirus returns. Without a doubt, it is because today’s interviewee is someone very important in my professional career and also in my life in general. But I’ll tell you about that at the end, let’s not get ahead of ourselves!

This year so rare in general for everyone, for me, it is being synonymous with introspection, search and redefinition of vital objectives and new projects each more exciting. And one of those projects has been to focus on what I really like (and I think I do well!): The development of a research career. The RSR website has undergone a brutal change as you can see from now on, and what better way to inaugurate this new approach than with one of the leading international experts in career development and research mobility.

Jesus Rojo González. He has a Degree in Geography from the University of Cantabria, a Master in Cartography, GIS and Remote Sensing from the University of Alcalá, a Postgraduate Degree in European Initiatives and Programs from the Polytechnic University of Madrid and a Master in Intellectual Property, Competition and New Technologies from the Rey Juan University Carlos. Since 1998 he has developed his professional activity in several European countries related to the execution and management of international projects in Earth and Space Sciences. In June 2007 he joined the team of theMadri + d Foundation for Knowledgeas European Project Manager, being responsible for training in European Programs and the Network for the mobility of EURAXESS researchers in the Community of Madrid. In December 2013, he was appointed National Contact Point for the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions of Horizon 2020, advising and informing universities, research centers, companies and individual researchers about the program, in addition to organizing information days, workshops and proposal reviews. Since 2015 he is coordinator of the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) madri + d in the Community of Madrid, a European project that supports the internationalization of Madrid’s SMEs and institutions in terms of R + D + i.

Continuing with his career within the Foundation, based on effort, hard work and honesty and solidarity that is rarely seen in a company, since May 2018 he has been Director of the Technology Transfer and European Programs Area at madrimasd.

Today we are fortunate to be able to speak with him about the development of a research career in Europe through his experience as an MSCA National Contact Point: the true importance of mobility in this globalized world, knowing how to understand well a program as complete as the Marie Sklodowska – Curie Actions, the professional development options that a researcher can have outside of the academy … make yourself comfortable because he begins a talk with … Jesús Rojo.


Q: Jesus, can you briefly tell us how you got involved with the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions?

A: I started to have a relationship with Marie Curie Actions during the Sixth Framework Program back in 2002 in the Italian company where I worked, which was very active in European projects and we requested some Marie Curie related to Knowledge Transfer. Since 2007, the Madri + d Foundation has supported researchers in applying for European programs, including the Marie Curie Actions of the PEOPLE program. Not only in support of preparation, but also by facilitating mobility for researchers through the services we offer from the Euraxess Network.


Q: If I’m not mistaken, since 2014 you have been the National Contact Point for Marie Curie Actions in Spain, which makes you a well-known figure in the national territory. For those neophytes in European programs, could you tell us briefly what an NCP is and what tasks it does?

A: In December 2013 I was nominated as a National Contact Point (NCP) for the Marie Sklodowska Curie Actions of the Horizon 2020 Excellent Science Pillar along with my partner Cristina Gomez from FECTY. An NCP is a person who provides support to any candidate, institution, company that is interested in participating in the program in Spain. As our program is very international and “mobile”, we also support foreign researchers who wish to apply for a Marie Curie project with a Spanish entity. We offer services and organize different activities such as; information days, training sessions such as face-to-face and online workshops and seminars, review of proposals and resolution of queries, among others.


Q: In my day-to-day life as a consultant, I see that only those researchers who understand that Marie Curie actions are actions aimed at career development through science are truly successful. But they are not “a scientific project” 100%. Could you give us your insight on how to understand the balance between science and career development in a Marie Curie project?

A: The program has a certain complexity since we have within it 5 sub-programs that are aimed at different agents (from universities, companies to individual researchers), financing the career development of pre-doctoral and post-doctoral researchers, academy-industry collaboration, co-financing of regional-national programs to attract talent or disseminate science to citizens.

If we talk about Individual Actions, this balance between cutting-edge research, career development and knowledge transfer between the researcher and the host centre is crucial. They have to be clear about the scope of the project, be realistic, propose current research that improves the state of the art and of course what it contributes to the centre and vice versa, we must not forget the exploitation of results, the publication in Open Access and the approach to the citizen.

Q: Taking advantage of your great experience, I want to know your opinion about the fundamental pillar of the Marie Curie Actions: mobility. A priori, it might seem that “changing our country” is enough to get funding for this program. But over the years, we have seen that the European Commission advocates for three different types of mobilities: intersectoral, international and interdisciplinary. Why is it so important to combine this type of mobility for a research career?

A: The European Commission wants and encourages European researchers and other researchers who wish to develop their careers in Europe to have the best training, the best opportunities … and that is why it is essential that researchers obtain this experience in the private sector, in other disciplines that provide other points of view and international connections so that this career development and impact is medium and long term.

Q: In this context of change, a career path for many researchers is to make the leap into industry. In addition to NCP, you are the coordinator of the Enterprise Europe Network in Madrid and the national representative of this same network in EASME. How receptive do you see companies to opening their doors to more basic researchers? Can you tell us a little about what actions have been implemented so that companies can benefit from all this talent?

A: It is important to facilitate the development of a research career in the non-academic sector and not only in large companies where the capacities and resources allocated to research and innovation are abundant, but it is also essential to promote the access of innovative SMEs to these researchers and vice versa. Various European programs have supported the hiring of researchers in companies such as the Society and Enterprise panel of the Marie Sklodowska Curie Actions or the Pilot calls SME Innovation Associate of the COSME program. IN recent years, more than 200 European companies have obtained projects financed by these two programs.

Q: Spain is one of the leading countries in the Marie Curie program. And in large part, it is thanks to the fantastic team of NCPs that we have, in which you include yourself. Even so, it is still one of the most competitive programs in Horizon 2020. Can you share some statistics on the success of Spain in the different MSCA programs and where does that success lie?

A: In these years of the Horizon 2020 program, we have been doing very well in the MSCA program. Recently CDTI published the official statistics divided by programs and that you can download from this link. In MSCA we have returned a total of 451.5 million euros that are distributed in the different sub-programs of MSCA; RISE (€ 48.21 M – 3rd EU Country), IF (€ 121.9 M – 2nd EU Country), ITN (€ 199.1 M – 6th Country), COFUND (€ 80 M – 1st Country).

Q: Finally, I have to ask you about Horizon Europe, the next R & D & I framework program that will start in 2021. Without a doubt, the high competition in these programs together with the avalanche of proposals that is increasing in each call are facts that concern participants. Can you tell us about any relevant changes that will take place in the Marie Curie actions?

A: The work program and changes to future Marie Sklodowska Curie Actions for Horizon Europe are currently being finalized. The most important thing to note is the continuity of the program and its different actions. There will be some changes that we will know in the coming months and some names of the actions and certain characteristics will be modified, but in general, the structure of the program and the proposals will be maintained.

All of us who have been working on European projects in Spain for more than a decade know Jesus, since he has participated as a speaker in conferences, seminars and workshops on preparing proposals for the Framework Program, managing European projects, legal and financial aspects of the Framework Program and European R + D + i policy.

I still remember the first time I met him: it was in a project management course of the Seventh Framework Program in 2013 at the Foundation when he was still working in Córdoba. But it was not until 2015 when we began to work more continuously, I through my work in the Office of European and International Projects of the Autonomous University of Madrid, and he as NCP. That’s when something started that, for me, seen in perspective, has been very important: my true passion for helping researchers develop their research careers in a planned and successful way.

Jesus has contributed a lot to my passion for the Marie Curie programme.  He is a true enthusiast of this type of action, and in addition he has taught me a lot how to really start in this world of European projects. These years until 2018, something has happened that is not usually very frequent, and that is that someone from work becomes a real friend. And it has happened to me with Jesus, since the life of a European project manager is very intense in many ways, and finding someone who knows exactly what you are going through helps a lot. After several attempts, finally, in the summer of 2018 I had the great luck of joining the Madri + d Foundation in the area that Jesús directs, Technology Transfer and European Programs. Specifically, my work is mainly focused on offering the services of the EEN to entrepreneurs and institutions in the Community of Madrid. Effectively, In addition to my services as a consultant in the development of research careers under my RSR brand, my “normal job” is that of a European project technician and technology transfer. It is not easy to combine both, but, over the years, I am reaching a balance that I love and that perfectly complements in terms of expertise.

And I have to say that this is largely due to my boss and friend Jesús because I have discovered what it is like to work with a manager who tries to get the best of you, who always fights for his team, puts your needs before his own. , and besides that every day you learn something valuable. As I said at the beginning, I feel very lucky to have a person around me who is totally honest and very supportive, always helping everyone (sometimes with a prior complaint, but it is part of his charm😊) and with an expertise that keeps me growing.

So that you can see what this interview and this person means to me, not long ago I had a turning point where I considered changing jobs, and my boy told me: “right now you have to put that new job on one side of the scale that looks super good and in the other to Jesus. I think you will not have to think much about the decision ”. That happened a year ago, and I have come to realize something that until now I had not felt so intensely: what loyalty means. It is not just any term, it is not an easy term to understand, but I am fortunate to have Jesus every day to make me understand its true meaning.

My professional career development would not have been the same without him. And you, who would you like to have to accompany you on your way?

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