The Industrial Doctorates Plan: an opportunity and a

As in the main European countries, the number of doctoral students trained by Catalan universities is increasing annually. In Catalonia, universities and public research centers are the main employers of doctoral graduates, whilst the private sector tends to provide fewer opportunities, as only 15% of people with PhDs work in companies.

In the current knowledge economy, high-level human capital and innovation in processes, products and services are essential to achieve sustainable social and economic growth. To a large extent, the source of these assets is our universities and research centers, many of which are among the best in the world. Therefore, we must improve mechanisms for transferring knowledge to business environments, to benefit from the leading position of our research model and specifically from our research and innovation training system.

In this context, the Government of Catalonia created the Industrial Doctorates Plan, based on successful, consolidated international experiences such as that of France, Denmark, the United Kingdom and even some of the European Commission’s specific programs.

The keystone of the Plan is the industrial doctorate project. This is a company’s strategic research project, undertaken in collaboration with a research group recognized by the Government of Catalonia. The project will be the subject of a doctoral thesis at a university within the Catalan university system. Consequently, the doctoral student will carry out their research training within the framework of the company’s project.

This year, the second edition of the Plan has been launched with the aim of setting up 75 new industrial doctorate projects. Currently, 71 projects are underway in Catalonia. These began in previous editions of the Plan. They involve companies large and small – from major corporations to spin-offs – and address all the knowledge areas (including information and communication technologies, life sciences, civil engineering, chemistry, social sciences and humanities) covered by the public and private Catalan university system.

The Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya•BarcelonaTech plays an important role in the Industrial Doctorates Plan, as it is the university that is involved in the most projects: 27 in total, mainly in the fields of information and DI2fotocommunication technology, civil and geoenvironmental engineering. Numerous companies collaborate with this university; SEAT and AGBAR in particular are involved in many of the projects.

In this second edition of the Industrial Doctorates Plan, the Government of Catalonia has maintained the economic support it provided in the previous edition. It contributes 50% of the funding for the doctoral students’ training, including project supervision by the company and the university, and the internationalization of doctoral students through mobility grants.

Those interested in the Industrial Doctorates Plan can find more information on the website The process itself has three stages: announcement of the project, selection of candidates and grant application (which involves a business-university agreement).

Industrial doctorate projects have the following benefits for those involved:

• For companies, industrial doctorates promote innovation through cooperation with leading research groups. In addition, companies gain access to highly specialized facilities and infrastructure, and can attract talent by incorporating into their workforce the trainee research staff who take on the project and provide added value. In addition, industrial doctorates help companies to project an image of high social responsibility.

• For Catalan universities and research centers, industrial doctorate projects are an opportunity to transfer their technology and knowledge to the production sector and thus strengthen their ties with the business world.

• For future PhD holders, the projects provide a brilliant opportunity to experience a highly innovative environment, where academic supervision of a thesis is combined with tutoring provided by the companies. Participating doctoral students benefit from a three-year contract with the company with a minimum gross salary of 22,000 euros per year and other advantages.


In conclusion, the aim of the Industrial Doctorates Plan is to increase competitiveness and internationalization of the Catalan industrial sector by training doctoral students in a joint university-business project. It is an opportunity, and a challenge, for those who wish to become leaders in innovation in the coming years. It is our investment for the future.


Dr. Antonio Huerta
Academic Director
Government of Catalonia’s Industrial Doctorates Plan

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