The EXPANSION project, support for research projects and the development of partnership chairs
What is the EXPANSION project?
EXPANSION is the university's project in response to the France 2030 call for projects "Accelerating the development strategies of higher education and research establishments (ASDESR). The 44 award-winning establishmentsincluding Avignon University, were announced on 14 April. The ASDESR programme is designed to support the implementation of a policy of sustainable development of own resources. State aid is concentrated on human resources, one of the main objectives being to enable the recruitment and retention of staff with skills that are rare in the higher education sector, with their funding to be provided in the long term by new resources linked to the development of the activities funded.
Avignon Université has been allocated a budget of €2.083m to meet 3 challenges: to strengthen its training engineering centre in order to promote the widespread development of sandwich courses, to speed up the deployment of partnership chairs via sponsorship - a particular feature of the project - and to create a Europe unit to respond better and more often to European calls for proposals. These challenges will be supported by the Lifelong Learning Department (SFTLV) and the Research and Innovation Support Department (DARI).
The DARI will strengthen its "projects, partnerships and international development for the implementation of two challenges: to provide researchers with greater support in responding to calls for European projects, and to accelerate the deployment of partnership chairs through sponsorship.
Four people will be recruited on contracts financed at 100 % by the aid received for three years (start-up phase). In the long term (balance to seven years), they will have to be financed by new resources linked to the development of the activity concerned.
How will ASDESR help strengthen the Projects, Partnerships and International Development Division?
The answer from Mariama Cottrant, division manager and engineer specialising in project development
Obtaining ASDESR funding will enable us to move into a new phase. Two people will be helping to develop the project engineering activity.
This new organisation will mean that each of the university's institutes (Culture, Heritage, Digital Societies and Agrosciences, Environment and Health) will have a dedicated project manager within the DARI. They will monitor and provide personalised support for researchers responding to national, regional and European calls for projects. The aim is to raise awareness of the various funding options available. At present, the university does not have the resources to organise in-depth information and training sessions, and cannot offer optimum support for ambitious projects such as the ERC or the coordination of Horizon Europe collaborative projects. These projects require expertise and close support for the research teams, which requires a high level of availability that only new, qualified staff can provide.
A "projects unit" to obtain European funding
This 'projects unit' will be responsible for supporting applications to all types of research calls for projects, with a strong European focus, as well as training projects at European level such as Erasmus + or Erasmus Mundus partnerships. The unit will be supported by an assistant project manager.
This person will be the main contact for laboratory managers and the various university departments concerned, in particular the DFACI (Finance, Purchasing and Internal Control Department) and the HRD (Human Resources Department).
Fluency in English is essential, as European projects require special monitoring and qualified staff who can work in English. This person will be an invaluable resource in ensuring optimum project follow-up.
The rise of partnership chairs
In terms of partnerships and sponsorship, the person recruited will be responsible for supporting the development of partnership chairs. With the increasing number of chairs at the university, it has become necessary to offer the best possible support, with staff dedicated to this task.
New Chairs are being prepared, which will require full-time support, particularly in the search for future sponsorship partners, but also more generally in project management to ensure that the Partnership Chairs programme as a whole runs smoothly.
Current partnership chairs at the university
- The LIAvignon chair in artificial intelligence (Avignon computer laboratory) - launched in 2021
- The Green and Sustainable Plant Chemistry Chair (UMR SQPOV/GREEN) - launched in 2023
- GIF Chair: Geodata Real Estate (UMR ESPACE) - launched in 2023
- The GeEAUde chair, specialising in groundwater resources (UMR EMMAH) - launched in 2023
These posts are due to be filled by the beginning of 2024 at the latest, and auditions are being held in September/October. The arrival of these new people is an opportunity for the university and its laboratories, but it is also a challenge: we will have to demonstrate our ability to develop our own resources in order to secure these posts.
This project has benefited from State aid managed by the Agence Nationale de la Recherche under the France 2030 programme, reference ANR-22-ASDR-020.