EPFLinnovators FaQ

Future calls the EPFLinnovators

When can I apply for the EPFLinnovators programme?

There will be 2 calls, scheduled as follows:

Call 1: Opening on 1 November 2017 and the deadline for the submission of applications is Monday 15 January 2018 (17:00 hr. CET).

Call 2: Opening on 1 February 2018 and the deadline for the submission of applications is Monday 16 April 2018 (17:00 hr. CET).

General Questions

How many ‘EPFLinnovators’ fellowships are available?

The programme will fund 36 fellowships (18 per call) for a maximum duration of 48 months each.

How do I apply to EPFLinnovators?

Applications for EPFLinnovators is done on the EPFL Doctoral School (EDOC) online application form (The online application form will be available upon opening of the call on November 1st 2017), in parallel to the candidate’s application to the chosen EPFL doctoral programme(s). Candidates to the EPFLinnovators must tick the EPFLinnovators box and provide some specific information in addition to the usual information requested by EDOC.

Which research areas are covered by EPFLinnovators?

EPFLinnovators fellowships are available for young researchers in all disciplines that are covered by the research of the EPFL doctoral programmes. Candidates choose freely the doctoral programme they want to apply to.

Where can I carry out the EPFLinnovators fellowship?

EPFLinnovators fellowships can only be carried out in Switzerland, at the EPFL campus in Lausanne, Neuchâtel, Valais, Geneva or Fribourg. The mandatory secondment phase (6 to 24 months) in the non-academic sector can however be carried out outside Switzerland, according to the research project agreed on with the thesis director.

How much is an EPFLinnovators fellowship worth?

The EPFLinnovators fellowship consists of a monthly contribution of EUR 1’855 to the salary of the doctoral candidate at EPFL. The remaining part of the salary is the responsibility of the thesis director. You should contact the Human Resources of the hosting faculty to inquire about the basic salary level, which includes social benefits such as AVS (pension scheme), AC (unemployment insurance) and family allocations. See also the following link: Doctoral student’s salary

Eligibility criteria

What are the eligibility criteria?

The eligibility criteria can be found on: Eligibility Criteria

Can I apply if I am already at EPFL or in Switzerland?

If you have studied/worked at EPFL or in Switzerland for more than 12 months (365 days) out of the three years immediately before the submission deadline for the application, then you are not eligible to apply for EPFLinnovators.

Can I apply if I do not have my Master’s degree yet?

We allow candidates to apply before they have finalized their Master’s degree. However, you should have obtained your degree at the latest by the time of employment of the fellowship contract. The fellowships start at the latest on 1 September 2018. In order to be able to accept your application, you should present a formal statement from the institution where you are pursuing your Master, confirming that you will have obtained your Master’s degree by this date. A statement – on track – is not sufficient.

Can I apply if I have already started my PhD at EPFL?

No, the EPFLinnovators programme is only open to new doctoral candidates.

Should I find a thesis director before applying to the EPFLinnovators programme?

No, you should only choose the EPFL doctoral programme(s) you wish to apply for. If you are accepted by the doctoral programme (phase I) and considered for an EPFLinnovators fellowship, your application will be forwarded to potential thesis directors for a candidate-project matching phase. You will then be contacted by interested thesis director(s) for an interview.

What happens if no thesis director is interested in supervising me as an EPFLinnovators fellow?

Candidates who did not find a matching project and thesis director will be informed by the Office of the programme that they are no longer considered for the EPFLinnovators fellowship. However, they remain eligible for the regular EPFL PhD programme.

Submitting your application

How do I submit my application?

Applications for EPFLinnovators should be submitted via the online submission platform https://isa.epfl.ch/imoniteur_ISAP/!farforms.htm?x=edoc. For authentication, use your EPFL computer account if you have one, or otherwise you can create a temporary account. This authentication allows you to return to the form to complete it or to observe the status of your candidacy. The electronic submission form makes it possible to enter the data necessary for the application and to upload the required documents.

What is the exact deadline?

The exact submission deadlines are:

Call 1: 15 January 2018 at +17:00:00 (Central European Time)

Call 2: 16 April 2018 at +17:00:00 (Central European Time)

When filling out the application form, you will however be asked to select an application deadline, related to the programme you apply for, which doesn’t necessarily correspond with the EPFLinnovators’ call deadlines mentioned above. You should select the date closest to the call deadline you will apply to.

How many reference letters should I submit and how to request them?

Every applicant is requested to provide the contact details of three referees who can supply a recommendation. These recommendations are confidential and will only be accepted if they are received through the electronic application process. Each recommendation consists of two elements:

  • A form to be filled out by the referee
  • An additional letter with the referee’s comments

Your referees’ recommendations are a required part of your application file and, as such, are also due by the chosen deadline. Messages will automatically be sent to referees when you submit your application in the system; they will then be invited to complete their recommendation online. Therefore, submit your application early enough in order to leave your referees enough time to complete this task before the deadline. Please be aware that it is not possible to change your referee details once you have submitted your application.

As a courtesy, you should ask your referees ahead of time if they are willing to supply a recommendation letter to support your application. Doing so will also give your referees time to consider what they wish to say and, if they wish, to discuss your plans with you.

You will be notified by email when each referee has provided his or her recommendation to the doctoral program. The system allows you to send one reminder per referee.

Evaluation of your application

What are the different steps in the selection process?

The evaluation is divided in two phases:

Phase 1: The doctoral programme committees verify the eligibility criteria, evaluate the applicants’ level of excellence and decide, based on a scoring system, on the admissibility of each candidate to their respective doctoral programme. The 40 highest ranked applicants from all doctoral programmes are then proposed to EPFL laboratories for the candidate-project matching phase.

Phase 2: All successful candidate-project matches, proposed by EPFL professors, are then submitted by the Office of the programme to the Intersectoral Excellence committee (IEC). The IEC makes a final ranking and, with the approval of the President of the IEC, prepares the final selection of the 23 (18 selected + 5 on waiting list) best candidates for each call.

What criteria are used to assess the applications?

The international evaluation panel and the doctoral programme committees will review your application against the following criteria and threshold/weight:

Is it possible to update my application after the submission?

No, modifications will not be accepted after the submission deadline.

Role of the thesis director

Who is entitled to be a thesis director?

The thesis director must be an EPFL Professor or a Senior Scientist (“Maître d’enseignement et de recherche”). A co-supervision with an entitled person (holding a PhD) from the non-academic sector where the doctoral candidate will conduct part of her/his research is strongly encouraged. There is no restriction on the number of EPFLinnovators candidates an EPFL professor can host.

What is the role of the EPFL thesis director in the framework of the EPFLinnovators programme?

If a thesis director is interested in supervising an EPFLinnovators fellow, s/he must:

a) Conduct interview with EPFLinnovators candidates and potential co-director for the candidate-project matching phase

b) If an agreement has been found, submit the following documents to phase II of the evaluation:

  1. Two-page project proposal including a secondment phase in a non-academic sector
  2. Interview report which summarizes the interview conducted with the EPFLinnovators’ candidate

c) If granted, the EPFLinnovators fellowship consists of a monthly contribution of EUR 1’855 to the salary of the doctoral candidate at EPFL. The thesis director is responsible for the remaining part of the salary.

These responsibilities are mentioned in addition of those described in the doctoral regulations, which apply to all PhD candidates at EPFL, that is – in order of legal importance – the Federal Ordinance, the Directive concerning doctoral studies, the doctoral program regulations, and finally the decisions taken during the doctoral commission meetings.

What does the EPFLinnovators interview consist of?

If a thesis director is interested in supervising an EPFLinnovators fellow, s/he will contact the candidate and propose an interview with the potential co-director from the non-academic sector. Interviews last around 30 minutes and should be carried out in person at the EPFL or via teleconferencing.

What does the EPFLinnovators interview report consist of?

After this interview, the potential thesis director writes an EPFLinnovators’ interview report (template – coming soon) whether it was successful or not. If the interviewers and candidate agree that they would like to work together on the proposed project, the report should explain why the candidate is the right one for this specific project. When an interview is not successful, the report should explain the mismatch.

After the decision

When is the result communicated?

In May 2018 (call 1) and August 2018 (call 2), the Office of the programme informs the candidates on the outcome of their application. For more details, see the timeline.

What happens if I am not selected among the 40 highest ranked applicants (not eligible for the EPFLinnovators candidate-project matching phase)?

Candidates who are not ranked among the 40 highest applicants will be informed by the Office of the programme (in March 2018 for call 1, and in June 2018 for call 2) that they are no longer considered for the EPFLinnovators fellowship. However, they remain eligible for the regular EPFL PhD programme.

Is it possible to change the starting date of the fellowship?

You can start immediately after you have received the decision letter and the formal requirements for the salary payments (contract) have been organized. EPFLinnovators should start at the latest on 1 September 2018.

Do I have to provide an annual and final report?

Each year, fellowship holders should submit an annual report to their EPFL thesis advisor, according to the regulations of their doctoral programme to which they are affiliated, as well as to the Office of the programme ([email protected]).

Can an EPFLinnovators fellowship be prolonged?

The duration of an EPFL Fellows fellowship is 48 months and cannot be prolonged. Employment after the initially granted time must be financed from other sources.

Where can I find practical information regarding living in Switzerland? How do I find accommodation in Lausanne?

Please consult the information available on the following web‐site: Just joined EPFL

What languages do you speak?

EPFL is situated in the French‐speaking part of Switzerland (Suisse Romande), where French is the language of daily interaction and of most undergraduate teaching. EPFL is also a high‐level international institution: a large proportion of our research and our Master and PhD level courses are conducted in English. Although you do not need to be able to speak French to begin doctoral studies at EPFL, for convenience and personal enrichment we strongly encourage you to learn the language. A language center on the EPFL campus enables new students and employees to learn French quickly, efficiently, and free of charge. You also have the opportunity to take courses to help you bring your level of written and spoken English up to the high standards required in international research. Courses in two of Switzerland’s other national languages, Italian and German, are also available.


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 754354.