Top researcher grant

When may a grant be applied for?                            Frequently asked questions
What are applications evaluated on?                       Results

There will be no more calls for the Mobilitas Pluss top researcher grant.


Programme activities are carried out by the Estonian Research Council in accordance with Decree No. 481 of the Minister of Education and Research of 30 December 2015. It lays down the conditions for the provision of grants under the ‘Internationalisation of research and support for mobility and the next generation’ or Mobilitas Pluss programme.

The budget for Mobilitas Pluss is 35 373 770 euros, 83.5% of which is covered by the European Regional Development Fund.

The programme aims to:

  • improve the international visibility of Estonian research, business and higher education and Estonia’s attractiveness as a destination country for study and research;
  • strengthen the international competitiveness of Estonian researchers and research performing organisations, including companies;
  • support opportunities for Estonian research institutions and companies to collaborate with transnational research organisations and networks, including through synergy with Horizon 2020 actions;
  • expand international collaboration and professional development opportunities for the state, R&D institutions, higher education institutions, companies, students and academic staff by improving intersectoral and international mobility and cooperation (opportunities).

What do we support?

We support the hiring of top-level researchers with direct professional experience from abroad at Estonian R&D institutions. A top researcher creates her/his own research group in Estonia, employs new competencies at an institution, supports innovation, participates in supervising postgraduate students and involving them in the work of her/his research group. The plan is to provide 15 top researcher grants.

What is the objective for the top researcher grant?

In order for Estonia to produce new world-class research groups and provide for the next generation of top researchers, researchers of that calibre already need to be brought to Estonia now to create new groups and supervise young researchers. In order for top researchers to take an interest in coming to Estonia and for their stay here to be effective, favourable conditions need to be created and reliable funding needs to be secured for them in the longer term. In this way, we will be able to compete with other similar international grants and incentivise top researchers to choose Estonia as the location for pursuing their research.

In this respect, cross-sectoral collaboration, including collaboration with the private sector, is particularly welcome. It is also important for the conducted research to have innovation potential (for example, linked to the strategic framework for smart specialisation).

As a result of the activity, Estonian students, specifically doctoral students, will have broader opportunities to work in international research groups, the efficiency of doctoral studies will improve, and the international competitiveness of the relevant sector will grow. The objective is for researchers who have received top researcher grants to be supervising 30 doctoral students.

What is the amount of the grant?

The cap on the grant amount is 180 722,89 euros per annum of which the host institution’s own contribution forms 17%. The grant is provided for a maximum of five years.

The research grant of a top researcher can include:

  • Salary of the top researcher, including all state taxes and statutory benefits for full-time work, up to the amount of €80,280 per year;
  • Salaries of the members of the research group, including all state taxes and statutory benefits;
  • Travel costs of the top researcher for a return travel to the country of origin once a year (includes flight, train, ferry and bus tickets);
  • Research expenses (incl. travel expenses) of the top researcher and the research group;
  • Overhead costs amounting to 15% of direct personnel expenses.

How long is the period of the grant?

The minimum grant period is 36 months and the maximum period is 60 months.

Implementation of the top researcher project should commence within one year after the decision to grant the application, unless a different agreement has been negotiated with good reason. The grant period will commence on the date specified in the grant agreement.

What are the requirements for the applicant?

ETAG provides grants for host institutions, which may include R&D institutions that have been positively evaluated during the regular evaluations. Researchers hired by the host institutions have to be leaders and heads of research groups in their sector who have a good international reputation professionally, produce high-level publications, and steer the strategic vision for the future in their sector at the selected R&D institution. Preferably, they will meet the R4 level or, at a minimum, the R3 level requierments specified in the European Reasearch Career Framework.

The researcher must have been working outside Estonia for the past five years at least and must not have had any labour law or law of obligations relationships with Estonian R&D institutions/companies. This does not extend to law of obligations contracts concerning the short-term performance of a one-off task (for example, examining, reviewing or the like). The top researcher must work in Estonia at host institution for at least 75% of the standard full-time working time during the implementation of the top researcher’s project.

ETAG may introduce additional requirements for the host institutions when publishing a call for proposals.

When may the grant be applied for?

The application instructions and application form are scheduled to be published on the day of the announcement of the call at the latest. Applications can be submitted via Estonian Research Portal ETIS. In order to fill in the application in ETIS one needs to create a personal account. This can be done by contacting host institution. Application is successfully submitted when it is confirmed by the host institution. There will be no more open calls for applications.

What are applications evaluated on?

An application meeting the requirements is evaluated by the evaluation committee at ETAG involving independent experts. Applications are evaluated based on the following selection criteria approved in the relevant instructions:

  • justification and scientific quality of the application (methods, expected results, including particular field-specific or application related characteristics, etc);
  • the qualifications of the top researcher and the capacity to implement the project;
  • sufficiency of the infrastructure, budget and cost-efficiency of the top researcher’s project;
  • impact of the project on achievement of the objectives of the measure, on the development of Estonian society and economy, and horizontal themes.


Applications are evaluated based on selection criteria on a scale of 1 (unsatisfactory) to 5 (excellent). Evaluation is provided with the precision of 0.5 points. The cumulative score is made up of the weighted average for the selection criteria. Weights are indicated in the evaluation instructions.

The evaluation of applications will result in a ranking. Applications meeting the requirements are subject to funding based on the ranking, until the allocated funding volume for grants during the call has run out. In case of applications with equal cumulative scores, we will give preference to an application with a higher score on the criterion of scientific quality. Where the scientific quality is equal, we will give preference to an application with a higher score on the criterion evaluating the impact on the objectives of the measure.

Applications with a cumulative score below 3.5 will not be funded. In the case that an application has received an affirmative funding decision, we will conclude a trilateral grant agreement between ETAG, the host institution and the researcher.


Tiina Loit-Oidsalu
Mobilitas Pluss Consultant
+372 731 7359