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Call: AI, Data and Robotics at work (AI, Data and Robotics Partnership)

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Programme
Acronym HE-CL4-DIGITAL-EMERGING
Type of Fund Direct Management
Description of programme
"Horizon Europe - Cluster 4 - Destination 4: Digital and Emerging Technologies for Competitivness and Fit for the Green Deal"

This destination will directly support the following Key Strategic Orientations, as outlined in the Strategic Plan:

  • KSO A, ‘Promoting an open strategic autonomy by leading the development of key digital, enabling and emerging technologies, sectors and value chains to accelerate and steer the digital and green transitions through human-centred technologies and innovations.’
  • KSO C, ‘Making Europe the first digitally led circular, climate-neutral and sustainable economy through the transformation of its mobility, energy, construction and production systems

Proposals for topics under this Destination should set out a credible pathway to contributing to the following expected impact:

  • Open strategic autonomy in digital technologies and in future emerging enabling technologies, by strengthening European capacities in key parts of digital and future supply chains, allowing agile responses to urgent needs, and by investing in early discovery and industrial uptake of new technologies.

Electronic and photonic components, and the software that defines how they work, are the key digital technologies that underpin all digital systems. As the digitalisation of all sectors accelerates, most industries depend on early access to digital components. Dependence on these technologies represents a clear threat to Europe’s autonomy, particularly in periods of geopolitical instability, exposing Europe to risks of vulnerability. Actions under this Destination will build on EU strengths in low-power consumption and ultra-secure components, Europe needs to develop the essential electronic and photonic components for a wide range of applications such as healthcare equipment, electric and autonomous vehicles, manufacturing and production plants and equipment, telecom networks, aerospace vehicles, consumer products

R&I initiatives on 6G technologies are now starting in leading regions world-wide, with the first products and infrastructures expected for the end of this decade. 6G systems are expected to offer a new step change in performance from Gigabit towards Terabit capacities and sub-millisecond response times, to enable new critical applications such as real-time automation or eXtended Reality (“Internet of Senses”). Europe must engage now to be among the top influencers of - and competitors in - these technologies and ensure that emerging network technology standards are defined following European values and energy-efficiency requirements. Main actions on 6G technologies will be undertaken in the Smart Networks and Services Joint Undertaking.

Despite a strong European scientific community’s on AI and robotics, Europe lags behind in AI diffusion. Actions under this Destination will develop world-class technologies serving the needs of all types of European industries (e.g. manufacturing, healthcare, transport, agriculture, energy, construction), providing top-performing solutions that businesses will trust and adopt to maintain their competitiveness and maximise their contribution to environmental sustainability.

While Europe is strong in many sectors, it must take ownership of its unavoidable future transformations for competitiveness, prosperity and sustainability, by early leadership in new and emerging enabling technologies, e.g. alternative computing models such as bio- and neuro-morphic approaches, use of biological elements as part of technology, and sustainable smart materials. In particular, the far-reaching impact of quantum and graphene technologies on our economy and society cannot be fully estimated yet, but they will be disruptive for many fields. Actions in this Destination will ensure that Europe stays ahead in this global race and is in a position to achieve game-changing breakthroughs.

In line with the vision set out in the Digital Decade Communication (COM(2021)118), in particular its ‘secure and performant sustainable digital infrastructures’ pillar, actions under this Destination will support Europe’s open strategic autonomy, and reinforce and regain European industry’s leaderships across the digital supply chain. It will direct investments to activities that will ensure a robust European industrial and technology presence in all key parts of a greener digital supply chain, from low-power components to advanced systems, future networks, new data technologies and platforms. Autonomy will require sustaining first-mover advantage in strategic areas like quantum computing and graphene, and investing early in emerging enabling technologies.

Investments in this Destination contribute substantially to climate change objectives. Energy efficiency is a key design principle in actions, which will lead to new technologies and solutions that are cornerstones for a sustainable economy and society. These solutions range from ultra-low-power processors to AI, Data and Robotics solutions for resource optimisation and reduction of energy consumption and CO2 emissions; from highly efficient optical networking technologies and ultra-low-energy 6G communication networks to robotics that overcome the limitation of energy autonomy. Furthermore, promising emerging avenues are addressed via ultra-low power operations enabled by spintronics and 2D materials-based devices and systems for energy storage and harvesting.

Actions should devote particular attention to openness of the solutions and results, and transparency of the research and innovation process. To ensure trustworthiness and wide adoption by user communities for the benefit of society, actions should promote high standards of transparency and openness. Actions should ensure that the processes and outcomes of research and innovation align with the needs, values and expectations of society, in line with Responsible Research and Innovation.

As a result, this Destination is structured into the following headings, which group topics together with similar outcomes to address a common challenge:

  • Ultra-low power processors

Today Europe is not highly present in the microprocessor market. The objective of this heading is to ensure EU open strategic autonomy through the development of low-power, low environmental impact, secure and trusted components and software for strategic value-chains.

Proposals are invited under the topics of this heading in this work programme and under the topics of the ‘Key Digital Technologies’ Joint Undertaking addressing the electronics value chain (including software technologies).

  • European Innovation Leadership in Electronics

Europe currently has a leading position in key digital technologies for the strategic sectors of automotive, industrial manufacturing, aerospace, defence and security and healthcare. In the emerging area of post-Moore components, there is a number of promising technological approaches with no established players or dominant regions.

The objective of this heading is to secure access in Europe to cutting-edge digital technologies, to strengthen current leadership in strategic value-chains, and to seize emerging opportunities addressing existing technological gaps.

Proposals are invited under the topics of this heading in this work programme and under the topics of the ‘Key Digital Technologies’ Joint Undertaking addressing the electronics value chain (including software technologies).

  • European Innovation Leadership in Photonics

The European photonics industry has an excellent position in core segments, far above the average EU market share. The objective of the topics grouped in this heading is to strengthen current leadership in photonic technologies and applications, and to secure access in Europe to cutting-edge photonic technologies.

The topics of this heading are under the co-programmed Partnership ‘Photonics’.

  • 6G and foundational connectivity technologies

Today European suppliers of connectivity systems are well placed with around 40% of global 5G market share, but with high competitive pressure from Asian and US players. In terms of technology, first 5G standards are available since end of 2017 enabling Gigabit/s speeds and ~millisecond latencies. Trusted industrial services based on 5G technology are at very early stage.

The objective of this heading is to develop a strong supply chain for connectivity, increase European competitiveness and autonomy in Internet infrastructures, and to contribute to a reduction of the growing global energy consumption of the Internet and of the industry vertical users of the Internet, and to other key SDG’s such as affordability and accessibility to infrastructures. The topics under this work programme address in particular the need to develop micro electronic components and systems supporting future disaggregated Radio Access Networks and components enabling the advent of all optical networks for ultra low consumption and ultra high security networks.

Proposals are invited under the topics of this heading in this work programme and under the topics of the ‘Smart Networks and Services” Joint Undertaking addressing the future connectivity platforms including edge cloud and IoT technologies.

  • Innovation in AI, Data and Robotics

Europe has an outstanding track record in key areas of AI research, Europe’s scientific community is leading in AI and robotics, but substantial efforts are needed to transform this into (disruptive) European AI technology products that can withstand international competitors. Europe also lags behind in technology diffusion, less than half of European firms have adopted AI technology, with a majority of those still in the pilot stage. 70% of these adopter companies, only capture 10% of full potential use, and only 2% percent of European firms in healthcare are using those technologies at 80% of potential[[See https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/artificial-intelligence/tackling-europes-gap-in-digital-and-ai (based on data from 2017 and 2018)]]. Moreover, as demonstrated during the COVID-19 crisis, many AI, Data and Robotics solutions exist today but only a limited number of them reaches the level of maturity and adoption necessary to solve the problems at hand. Therefore, there is room for improved adoption by industry, which requires a drastic increase of industry-driven R&I, from basic research to large-scale piloting. In general, industry acknowledges the potential of AI technologies, but often lacks demonstrable benefits for their particular use cases.

The objective of this heading is to ensure autonomy for Europe in AI, data and robotics in developing world-class technologies serving the needs of all types of European industries, from manufacturing to healthcare, public sector, utilities, retail, finance, insurance, transport, agriculture, energy, telecommunications, environmental monitoring, construction, media, creative and cultural industries, fashion, tourism, etc. providing top-performing solutions that industries will trust and adopt to maintain their competitiveness and maximise their contribution to environmental and resources sustainability.

Several topics of this heading are under the co-programmed Partnership ‘AI, Data and Robotics’.

  • Tomorrow’s deployable Robots: efficient, robust, safe, adaptive and trusted

Europe is leading in robotics industry, with a high intensity of use of robots. Europe is also scientifically leading in robotics’ cognition, safety, manipulation, soft robotics, underwater and aerial robotics, with demonstrated impacts in many use-cases in key industrial sectors (e.g.: healthcare, agri-food[[The term Agri-Food is intended to cover a wide range of food production sectors including livestock farming, fisheries,

horticulture etc as well as produce processing, ingredient preparation and food manufacture and assembly.]], forestry, inspection and maintenance, logistics, construction, manufacturing, etc.) and across multiple modalities (aerial, marine, ground, in-vivo and space).

The objective of this heading is to ensure autonomy for Europe in robotics, leading the way in research, development and deployment of world-class technologies.

Several topics of this heading are under the co-programmed Partnership ‘AI, Data and Robotics’.

  • European leadership in Emerging Enabling Technologies

Europe’s leading industry sectors have a solid track-record in constant improvement, but less so for embracing transformative ideas. The pathway from research to industry uptake is often long and staged, with no intertwining of research and industry agendas. In the age of deep-tech, though, this intertwining is essential.

The objective of this heading is to identify early technologies that have the potential to become Europe’s future leading technologies in all areas of this cluster and to establish industry leadership in these technologies from the outset. This heading has a unique focus on off-roadmap transformations with a longer time-horizon but profound potential impact.

  • Flagship on Quantum Technologies: a Paradigm Shift

Since 2018, the Quantum Technologies Flagship has been consolidating and expanding Europe’s scientific leadership and excellence in quantum, in order to foster the development of a competitive quantum industrial and research ecosystem in Europe. The EU’s aims for quantum R&I in the next decade are set out in detail in the Quantum Flagship’s Strategic Research Agenda (SRA[[https://ec.europa.eu/newsroom/dae/document.cfm?doc_id=65402]]) and its associated main Key Performance Indicators,[[Link to provide later]] which drafted and published in 2020 on quantum computing, quantum simulation, quantum communication, and quantum sensing and metrology. Projects in each of these areas are currently supported by the Flagship, by other EU research initiatives and by national programmes.

The objective of this heading is to further develop quantum technologies and their applications in the areas of quantum computing, simulation, sensing and communication, in order to strengthen European technological sovereignty in this strategic field and achieve first-mover industry leadership, capitalising on Europe’s established excellence in quantum science and technology maintaining and developing quantum competences and skills available in the EU and raising the capabilities of all Member States in this field.

The aim of the Commission’s Digital Decade strategy is for the EU to become digitally sovereign in an interconnected world, and in the coming years quantum technologies will be a key element of this digital sovereignty, as they are of global strategic importance. Quantum technologies will be also used, among others, for sensitive applications in the area of security, and in dual-use applications. Other world regions are already investing heavily in all areas of quantum technologies research. In this context, the EU must take action to build on its strengths, and to carefully assess and address any strategic weaknesses, vulnerabilities and high-risk dependencies which put at risk the attainment of its ambitions. This will enable it to safeguard its strategic assets, interests, autonomy and security, while advancing towards its goal of open strategic autonomy.

The Quantum Technologies Flagship conducts research and development activities in the key domains of quantum computing and simulation, quantum communication, and quantum sensing. The Flagship will contribute to world-leading quantum computers and simulators, that will be acquired by the European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking, and will be crucial to achieving its Digital Decade goal of having its first computer with quantum acceleration by 2025, with a view to being at the cutting edge of quantum capabilities by 2030. These machines will have a profound impact, with applications in medicine, manufacturing, or new material and new drugs design but also in cryptography, finance and many other sensitive domains.

Moreover, the Flagship’s research into quantum communication will support the development of a European quantum communication infrastructure (EuroQCI). This key component of the EU Cybersecurity Strategy will provide an extremely secure form of encryption to shield the EU’s government data and critical infrastructures against cyber-attacks. Ensuring that the latest quantum communication technologies remain accessible in the EU is crucial to maintaining European security in the face of future threats.

Research in quantum sensing technologies is also vital to the EU’s interests, as it will develop European expertise in quantum clocks for navigation (including for embarkation on Galileo satellites) and precise timing applications, sensors for autonomous vehicles, and the next generation of medical sensors.

It is therefore clearly in the EU’s interests to protect European research in these domains, the intellectual property that it generates, and the strategic assets that will be developed as a result, while taking steps to avoid situations of technological dependency on non-EU sources (in line with the call of the October 2020 European Council to reduce Europe’s strategic dependencies). With this in mind, the Commission has decided that, in the research areas covered by 12 actions in this work programme in quantum computing and simulation, communication, and sensing, only Associated Countries that meet certain conditions will be eligible to participate in these actions.

As agreements with candidate Associated Countries are not yet in force, the eligibility to participate in such actions is limited for the moment to legal entities established in the EU, Norway and Iceland. However, in view of ensuring maximum excellence of R&I for the EU and to maintain EU’s spirit of global openness, before opening these actions for applications, the eligibility to participate in these 12 actions will be extended to include legal entities established in (candidate) Associated Countries which provide assurances concerning the protection of EU’s strategic assets, interests, autonomy or security. On the basis of the outcome of the discussions in the relevant configurations of the Horizon Europe Programme Committee, the Commission will reflect the changes in the work programme in full consistency with the decision establishing the Horizon Europe specific programme, especially through comitology procedures as foreseen in articles 13 and 14(4) of it.

  • Graphene: Europe in the lead

The starting point is the Graphene Flagship, launched in 2013, which already reached European leadership in graphene and related 2D materials. The work is now coming to a critical point where first simple products are being launched. R&I activities would now need to be pursued and accelerated in order to translate achieved technology advances that are at TRL 3-5 into concrete innovation opportunities and into production capabilities in many industrial sectors (e.g. aviation, automotive, electronics, batteries, healthcare).

The objective of this heading is to strengthen and accelerate the technology developments that support a strong European supply and value chain in graphene and related materials and provide first-mover market advantages of scale.

Activities beyond R&I investments will be needed to realise the expected impacts: testing, experimentation, demonstration, and support for take-up using the capacities, infrastructures, and European Digital Innovation Hubs made available under the Digital Europe Programme; large-scale roll-out of innovative new technologies and solutions (e.g. new energy-efficient connectivity technologies) via the Connecting Europe Facility; further development of skills and competencies via the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, in particular EIT Digital; upscaling of trainings via the European Social Fund +; and use of financial instruments under the InvestEU Fund for further commercialisation of R&I outcomes.

Expected impact

Proposals for topics under this Destination should set out a credible pathway to contributing to digital and emerging technologies for competitiveness and fit for the Green Deal, and more specifically to one or several of the following impacts:

  • Europe’s open strategic autonomy by sustaining first-mover advantages in strategic areas including AI, data, robotics, quantum computing, and graphene, and by investing early in emerging enabling technologies.
  • Reinforced European industry leadership across the digital supply chain.
  • Robust European industrial and technology presence in all key parts of a greener digital supply chain, from low-power components to advanced systems, future networks, new data technologies and platforms.

Link Link to Programme
Call
AI, Data and Robotics at work (AI, Data and Robotics Partnership)
Description of call
"AI, Data and Robotics at work (AI, Data and Robotics Partnership)"

Expected Outcome:

Proposal results are expected to contribute to at least one of the following expected outcomes:

  • A new human-centred paradigm to keep people away from unsafe and unhealthy jobs via collaborative embodied (physical) AI, engaging and empowering end-users and workers, regardless of their gender, age or background.
  • Human-centric AI supporting professionals in trustworthy hybrid decision-making, and optimising their tasks

Scope:

Proposals are expected to demonstrate how AI, data, robotics and automation solutions can support workers in their daily tasks, improving working conditions (both physical and social) and work performance/efficiency, while considering safety, security and resilience, as appropriate. The added value to the application field should be demonstrated by qualitative and quantitative industry/production or service relevant KPIs, demonstrators at TRL6-7, benchmarking and progress monitoring processes.

The involvement of the application sector stakeholders, including social partners, workers, managers and decision makers must be a key driver in the proposals, not only to identify the needs and the application scenarios, but to be involved in the co-creation and testing and uptake of the solutions and providing feedback to adapt the solutions to optimise the impact on working conditions and performances.

The selection of the application sector should prioritise sectors and use-cases where the technology can demonstrate maximum impact and added value.

While the focus is on technology, a human-centred approach will be key, with involvement of the workers, professionals, (front-line operators and managers) and other relevant experts, such as experts in human-centred design. They will closely collaborate with the technology providers and integrators. Engagement with SSH expertise is also needed to improve interaction design and to provide expertise on trustworthiness and acceptability by workers, as well as ethical perspective of human-machine collaboration. Gender and intersectionality dimension analysis should be a part of the proposals, where relevant.

Each proposal will focus on one of the two following use-cases:

  1. Collaborative embodied AI (robotics system), empowering end-users and workers keeping them away from unsafe and unhealthy jobs: the focus will be on demonstrating improved working conditions (health/safety/level of stress, etc.), and worker trust and acceptance. The assistance should also take into account other factors less related with physical assistance like stress level. Meaningful human oversight of autonomy should be addressed.
  2. AI and data supporting professionals in trustworthy hybrid decision-making and supporting workers to optimise and facilitate their tasks; the focus will be on demonstrating how AI and data can improve the effectiveness and efficiency as well as management of trade-offs within the decision-making, building on the human and machine complementarities, exploiting the best capability of both for a better outcome. Meaningful human oversight of decision outcomes and explainability should be addressed. Specific effort should be made to develop re-usable decision-support systems or modules.

All proposals should exploit the latest results in AI, data and robotics, as well as multimodal interaction technologies, User interface experience, for natural and seamless interaction between the human and the technology/sources of information, including Augmented/Virtual Reality when appropriate.

Proposals should incorporate skills developments activities or/and connect with existing skills activities in that domain, as appropriate.

Proposals should clearly identify which of the two use-cases listed above they will focus on.

Two types of proposals are expected:

  1. Focused projects (EU contribution around EUR 3.00 million), involving the user industry and technology provider(s),
  2. Larger projects (EU contribution around EUR 5.00), where a number of companies in a given application sector will identify in the proposal common challenges and use-cases, and organise competitive calls for AI, data and robotics solution providers to address such challenges. Competitive calls will be open to all types of companies, but only SMEs and Start-ups will receive financial support to third parties, with a maximum of EUR 200 000 per third party and 70% funding (100% for start-ups). At least 40% of the requested amount should be dedicated to financial support to third parties. The consortium will provide technical support with expertise in engineering integration, testing and validation to support the selected SMEs and start-ups acting as technology providers to demonstrate the added value of their solutions to address the challenges of the use-cases. Maximum one type of third party project will be funded per use-case.

In all proposals, user industries are expected to play a major role in the requirement and validation phases.

Besides financial support, these SMEs and start-ups successfully demonstrating the potential of their solutions, must receive support from business experts, provided by the action, to further develop their business and develop their market reach, and maximise their business opportunities.

When possible, proposals should build on and reuse public results from relevant previous funded actions. Proposals should make use of connections to the Digital Innovation Hub networks, particularly those in Robotics, Data and AI. Full use should be made of the common resources available in the AI-on-Demand platform, Digital Industrial Platform for Robotics, data platforms and, if necessary other relevant digital resource platforms. Communicable results from projects should be delivered to the most relevant of these platforms in order to enhance the European AI, Data and Robotics ecosystem through the sharing of results and best practice.

All proposals are expected to allocate tasks to cohesion activities with the PPP on AI, Data and Robotics and funded actions related to this partnership, including the CSA HORIZON-CL4-2021-HUMAN-01-02. Where relevant, synergies with other PPPs are encouraged.

This topic implements the co-programmed European Partnership on Artificial Intelligence, Data and Robotics.

Link Link to Call
Thematic Focus Research & Innovation, Technology Transfer & Exchange, Capacity Building, Cooperation Networks, Institutional Cooperation, Clustering, Development Cooperation, Economic Cooperation, Digitisation, ICT, Telecommunication, Health, Social Affairs, Sports, Community Integration, European Citizenship, Shared Services, Employment & Labour Market, Demographic Change, Migration, Equal Rights, Human Rights, People with Disabilities, Social Inclusion
Funding area EU Member States
Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)
Origin of Applicant EU Member States
Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)
Eligible applicants Research Institution, Lobby Group / Professional Association / Trade Union, International Organization, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, SMEs (between 10 and 249 employees), Microenterprises (fewer than 10 employees), NGO / NPO, Public Services, Other, Start Up Company, University, Enterprise (more than 250 employees or not defined), Association
Applicant details

eligible non-EU countries:

  • countries associated to Horizon Europe
At the date of the publication of the work programme, there are no countries associated to Horizon Europe. Considering the Union’s interest to retain, in principle, relations with the countries associated to Horizon 2020, most third countries associated to Horizon 2020 are expected to be associated to Horizon Europe with an intention to secure uninterrupted continuity between Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe. In addition, other third countries can also become associated to Horizon Europe during the programme. For the purposes of the eligibility conditions, applicants established in Horizon 2020 Associated Countries or in other third countries negotiating association to Horizon Europe will be treated as entities established in an Associated Country, if the Horizon Europe association agreement with the third country concerned applies at the time of signature of the grant agreement.

  • low-and middle-income countries

Legal entities which are established in countries not listed above will be eligible for funding if provided for in the specific call conditions, or if their participation is considered essential for implementing the action by the granting authority.

Specific cases:

  • Affiliated entities - Affiliated entities are eligible for funding if they are established in one of the countries listed above.
  • EU bodies - Legal entities created under EU law may also be eligible to receive funding, unless their basic act states otherwise.
  • International organisations - International European research organisations are eligible to receive funding. Unless their participation is considered essential for implementing the action by the granting authority, other international organisations are not eligible to receive funding. International organisations with headquarters in a Member State or Associated Country are eligible to receive funding for ‘Training and mobility’actions and when provided for in the specific call conditions.
Project Partner Yes
Project Partner Details

Unless otherwise provided for in the specific call conditions , legal entities forming a consortium are eligible to participate in actions provided that the consortium includes:

  • at least one independent legal entity established in a Member State;and
  • at least two other independent legal entities, each established in different Member States or Associated Countries.
Call opens 22.06.2021
Call closes 21.10.2021
Further info

Proposal page limits and layout:

The application form will have two parts:

  • Part A to be filled in directly online  (administrative information, summarised budget, call-specific questions, etc.)
  • Part B to be downloaded from the Portal submission system, completed and re-uploaded as a PDF in the system

Page limit - Part B: 45 pages

Type of Funding Grants
Financial details
Expected EU contribution per projectThe Commission estimates that an EU contribution of between EUR 3.00 and 5.00 million would allow these outcomes to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of a proposal requesting different amounts.
Indicative budgetThe total indicative budget for the topic is EUR 22.00 million.
Typ of ActionInnovation Actions (IA)
Funding rate70% (except for non-profit legal entities, where a rate of up to 100% applies)

To ensure a balanced portfolio coverage, grants will be awarded to applications not only in order of ranking but also to at least 2 highest ranked for each use-case, provided that the applications attain all thresholds.

Beneficiaries may provide financial support to third parties. The support to third parties can only be provided in the form of grants. As third parties' grants may include robotics components, requiring high equipment investment and/or important effort to integrate in a use-case to address the sectorial challenges, the maximum amount to be granted to each third party is EUR 200 000.

Activities are expected to start at TRL 3-5 and achieve TRL 6-7 by the end of the project.

Submission Proposals must be submitted electronically via the Funding & Tenders Portal Electronic Submission System. Paper submissions are NOTpossible.

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