EPFLglobaLeaders secondment

Find information about the secondment at a non-academic partner.

EPFL 2020 – Alain Herzog


Collaboration with the non-academic sector is an essential part of the EPFLglobaLeaders program that is designed to expose the doctoral candidates to real societal and industrial challenges. The non-academic partners collaborating with the programme shall help the EPFLglobaLeaders fellows in:

The Development of solutions promoting the transition to sustainable societies.

Maximizing the impact of their work by establishing, at an early stage of their project, contacts with partners interested in transferring the developed technology and ultimately using it in their own activities.

Gaining work experience outside academia.

– Benefiting from the additional expertise and knowledge of the non-academic partner.

Learning new approaches to research & innovation work.

Key features

– Mandatory collaboration with the non-academic sector ( companies, startups, international organizations, NGOs, and foundations) .

– Stay of 3 to 12 months at a non-academic partner : It can be carried out in a single period or divided into several shorter periods. However, it is recommended that the secondment takes place after the first year, once the candidate has passed the candidacy exam and is officially admitted to do their PhD.

– A formal or informal co-supervision of the PhD thesis by the non-academic partner is strongly encouraged .

– The second can take place outside Switzerland . If an international secondment is foreseen, please note that certain countries, specific research fields, and/or nationalities may be subject to international sanctions by the EU .

– Fellows should discuss with their supervisors which partner is suitable, which length is realistic, and related administrative and financial issues (eg reimbursement of travel costs, accommodation, etc.).

The non-academic partner is not expected to pay the salary of the fellow. The fellow will remain employed at EPFL.

– The EPFLglobaLeaders program does not provide additional funds for the secondment , as mentioned in the Rules and Regulations.

– The secondment must be relevant to the fellow’s research project.

– If – as part of their mandatory secondment in the non-academic sector – fellows plan to spend a block of 3 months (or more) outside of Switzerland, they need to liaise with their lab assistant and fill out well in advance the leave of absence form for HR/insurance/permit purposes. The details and further information can be found here. Under “type of absence requested” in the form, they should choose “internship – paid by EPFL lab” as fellows will continue to be employed and receive the salary as usual via their EPFL lab during the non-academic sector secondment.

– Fellows should in general check with their lab assistants whether there is anything specific to do from an HR or administrative point of view in relation to their secondment.

– The secondment should be formalized with the secondment letter (below).

Collaboration framework

The conditions of collaboration between EPFL and the non-academic partner (host) are defined in the agreement terms related to the EPFLglobaLeaders programme.

To formalize the collaboration between EPFL and the non-academic partner (host), the thesis supervisor and the non-academic partner (host) will have to sign a letter confirming acceptance of the agreement terms for the secondment.

Getting the secondment letter signed

Step 1: The supervisor fills in all the fields in the draft letter together with the non-academic partner and the fellow and sends it to the Research Office ([email protected]). Neither the supervisor nor the non-academic partner should sign the document at this stage.

Step 2: Once approved by the Technology Transfer Office, the supervisor will receive an e-sign request from the Research Office and the signed letter.

Step 3: The supervisor should request the signature of the non-academic partner and send the counter-signed letter to [email protected].

Contact for support

[email protected]

Funded by

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 945363.