Industrial Doctorate Program in Catalonia

A special PhD program in which a PhD Candidate is hired by the industrial organization as a full-time employee with a significant and sufficient dedication to the execution of her PhD Thesis.
A special PhD program in which a PhD Candidate is hired by the industrial organization as a full-time employee with a significant and sufficient dedication to the execution of her PhD Thesis.

A special program developed by the Catalan government, in which an industrial organization and a university agree to collaborate for the successful execution of a PhD. The organization agrees to co-locate a PhD Candidate as a full-time employee with a significant dedication to the execution of her PhD Thesis. A representative is assigned as supervisor, helping the student to transfer knowledge from the university. The university appoints a professor to be the advisor of the student, guiding her through the journey.

Process Main Stages: 


A representative of an industrial organization located in Catalonia and a researcher from a Catalan University must agree on a topic to jointly develop in the context of an Industrial Doctorate Program. The Industrial partner typically provides an industrial challenge, whereas the academic partner ensures that there is a research gap that can be fulfilled by a PhD Candidate. A document explaining the challenge is jointly written and both parties start the process to request the Catalan government approval.


As part of the government approval, both partners must sign a formal agreement with at least some agreements on conflict resolution, Intellectual Property rights, and a declaration of understanding (including the velocity and progress in innovation processes). The legal and financial representatives of both parties may support in this process.


After the government approves the research proposal, it is published on the Industrial Doctorate website in which students around the world can check the latest offerings. The industrial supervisor and the academic advisor oversee the hiring process, and must periodically generate a report on the interviews until a candidate is found and hired by the industrial organization.


After the PhD Candidate is found and hired, the student must register to the PhD program of the advisor’s university. The first major task that the student must complete during the first year is the research plan, a document compromising a formal description of the research challenge, propose a solution, a detailed state of the art, and a planning for the execution of her research activities. The academic advisor must guide the PhD Candidate on this process.


After the research plan is validated by the University, the student must continue with the execution of her PhD activities. The administrative staff from the university may ask for progress reports during the end of the second and third years, to detect deviations from the research plan and mitigate potential issues.


Even though the current academic regulation in Spain allows the continuation for two more years, the student has a maximum of six months after the third-year review to submit her PhD Thesis and defense it following the University procedures. This process may start prior to the third-year review if the academic advisor recommends it, or the research activities are conducted earlier than expected.

Touchpoints & Bottlenecks: 

Touch point 1: face2face meetings

The main touch points of an industrial doctorate are the regular and periodical face-2-face meetings between the PhD Candidate, the Industrial Supervisor and the Academic Advisor. The objective of these meetings is to enable a space in which it is possible to keep track of the research activities, discuss about applicability to the organization, detect and remediate bottlenecks and blocking issues.

Touch point 2: Co-located meetings

Another important touch points are the regular meetings and seminars that the industrial organization and the university may hold during their normal activities. The student is co-located in both organizations at the same time and, hence, must be capable of learn and transfer knowledge from both sides.

Success Factors / Barriers: 

The main success factors of an industrial doctorate are the motivation of the PhD Candidate, her ability to deal with uncertainty and a trustful relationship between the candidate, supervisor and advisor.

From the company side, the supervisor should keep the objectives of the PhD aligned with business’ goals. If necessary, the objectives of the research activity may change during the execution of the project. The advisor must ensure that such changes will not affect the correct evaluation of the PhD Thesis, which must follow academic standards.

As for the barriers, there is a significant gap between the velocity of academic production and expectations from industry. Both university and organization must understand this gap, and understand a lack of response from the other stakeholder during critical moments (such as preparing a paper, or other business activities).


Since the first industrial doctorate call, in 2014, CA Technologies has started three Industrial Doctorates with different professors of the Universitat Politécnica de Catalunya (UPC) – with one of them on the last stage of Thesis Defense, this is also an example of a successful inter-sectoral staff mobility. Informal feedback from these three PhD candidates and their network of other Industrial Doctorate students has been recollected on this case study.

  • Project challenge must attract graduate students and, hence, must be aligned with societal needs.
  • The industrial organization must align the initial goals of the research project to business goals for the next 2 to 3 years.
  • Provide PhD Candidate with enough resources to execute her PhD Thesis.
  • Understand that PhD Candidates may need time to spend time to learn new technologies and/or techniques. This might require additional training expenses.
  • Align research goals to immediate research goals.
  • Use PhD Candidates as another resource, they need to allocate most their time to the execution of the research project.
  • Start the project until there is an informal understanding of each other’s goals and objectives.