Call: European Network of AI Excellence Centres: Pillars of the European AI lighthouse
|Type of Fund||Direct Management|
|Description of programme |
"Horizon Europe - Cluster 4 - Destination 6: A Human-centred and Ethical Development of Digital and Industrial Technologies"
This destination will directly support the following Key Strategic Orientations, as outlined in the Strategic Plan:
Proposals for topics under this Destination should set out a credible pathway contributing to the following expected impact:
As Europe takes the lead in the green and digital transitions, workers, regions, and societies are faced with extremely fast transformations, and will be differently affected by these changes. The rapid adoption of new technologies offers an immense potential for improved standards of living, safer mobility, better healthcare, new jobs, or the personalisation of public services. At the same time, it presents risks such as skills mismatches, digital divides, customer lock-in, or serious breaches of security or privacy.
As Europe sets off on its path to recovery towards a greener, digital and more resilient economy and society, the need to improve and adapt skills, knowledge and competences becomes all the more important. Developments in digital and enabling technologies have the potential to enhance social inclusion, can inform up-skilling training programmes and ensure a two-way engagement with society with regard to developing technologies.
The issue of trust has become central in the use of technologies, following revelations about the exploitation of personal data, large-scale cybersecurity and data breaches, and growing awareness of online disinformation. As outlined in the White Paper on Artificial Intelligence (COM(2020)65), for AI technologies, trust requires in particular improving transparency (explainability, expected levels of performance). For the Internet, increasing trust requires new tools and services to ensure that GDPR is a reality for end-users.
It is also an opportunity for Europe to re-gain presence on the consumer electronics market, by developing new interactive applications in various sectors with solutions meeting European values and requirements in terms of privacy and security. The COVID-19 crisis has also shown how important distance and innovative learning is for society.
Actions under this Destination will support EU objectives of inclusiveness, by supporting a human-centred approach to technology development that is aligned with European social and ethical values, as well as sustainability. These actions will further contribute to addressing the challenges faced by European industry and support the creation of sustainable, high-quality jobs by targeting skills mismatches, the need to empower workers, and ethical considerations relating to technological progress.
Actions should devote particular attention to openness of the solutions and results, and transparency of the research process. To ensure trustworthiness, public awareness and support, wide adoption by user communities for the benefit of society, actions should promote the highest 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.
This Destination is structured into the following headings, which group topics together with similar outcomes to address a common challenge:
Leadership in AI based on trust
The objective of this heading is to ensure autonomy for Europe in AI, leading the way in research, development and deployment of world-class technologies that are beneficial to humans individually, organisationally and societally, and that adheres to European values, such as the principles reflected in our fundamental rights and environmental sustainability. Technologies need to be developed that industries and citizens will trust, so and that they could be applied in a wide range of applications and industrial sectors. Trustworthy AI is particularly key in applications such as (but not limited to) healthcare or in diverse critical infrastructures such as energy and transportation.
Some topics of this heading are under the co-programmed Partnership ‘AI, Data and Robotics’.
Proposals are encouraged to link with relevant European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) and its Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs), in particular the EIT Digital.
EIT Digital plays role in shaping technologies and innovations that work for people. At least two of its focus areas, Digital Wellbeing and Digital Cities, address directly topics such as ethical artificial intelligence, predictive analytics or augmented and virtual reality that are relevant to this areas. The solutions will benefit from the increasing will of citizens to participate in the sharing economy. EIT Digital, through projects with cities for example, improves engagement and inclusiveness of the citizens and of the visitors by increasingly organising and exposing data, especially in real time and along with analytics and machine learning. Augmented and virtual reality of the cities are another facet of exposing or simulating city data from the past, present or future to the benefit of citizens.
An Internet of Trust
The issue of trust in the internet has become central, following revelations about the exploitation of personal data, large-scale cybersecurity and data breaches, and growing awareness of online disinformation. A 2019 survey[] shows that half of the global internet users are more concerned about their online privacy compared to a year previously. Distrust in the Internet is causing people to change the way they behave online, for example by disclosing less personal information. Users also express an increasing level of distrust of social media platforms.
The objective of this heading is to develop a trustworthy digital environment, built on a more resilient, sustainable, and decentralised internet, to empower end-users with more control over their data and their digital identity, and to enable new social and business models respecting European values.
eXtended Reality (XR)
Due to its low presence in the consumer electronics industry, Europe is increasingly dependent on external providers in this area. This raises concerns about its digital sovereignty in crucial domains such as digital interaction services that are being adopted by a growing number of European users and industries. The COVID-19 crisis has shown how important distance and innovative learning is for society, our children, their parents and their teachers, maintaining social and educational links under challenging circumstances. Emerging technologies such as virtual reality, eXtended Reality or immersive environments provide numerous opportunities for personalised, innovative, efficient and inclusive learning, for learners of all ages, gender and condition
The objective of this heading is to gain industrial leadership in eXtended Reality technologies and immersive environments, while ensuring the European values of privacy, ethics and inclusiveness. It also aims to support the digital transformation of education through these technologies in particular.
Systemic approaches to make the most of the technologies within society and industry.
This heading promotes various systemic approaches to encourage creativity and make the most of the technologies developed elsewhere within society and industry. They include testing ideas in local communities; support for IP, standardisation and industry-academia exchanges; art-driven design; and assessments of complex socio-economic systems. These are complemented by support for a network of National Contact Points (NCPs), with a special emphasis on engaging with new actors.
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; further development of skills and competencies via the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, in particular EIT Digital and EIT Manufacturing; upscaling of trainings via the European Social Fund +; use of financial instruments under the InvestEU Fund for further commercialisation of R&I outcomes; and links to the thematic smart specialisation platform on industrial modernisation
Proposals for topics under this Destination should set out a credible pathway to contributing to a human-centred and ethical development of digital and industrial technologies, and more specifically to one or several of the following impacts:
|Link||Link to Programme|
European Network of AI Excellence Centres: Pillars of the European AI lighthouse
|Description of call |
"European Network of AI Excellence Centres: Pillars of the European AI lighthouse"
Proposal results are expected to contribute to the following expected outcomes:
To ensure European open strategic autonomy in critical technologies such as AI, with huge socio-economic impact, it is essential to reinforce and build on Europe’s assets in such technologies, including its world-class research community, in order to stay at the forefront of technological developments.
Europe has undeniable strengths with its many leading research centres, but the efforts are scattered.
As stated in the communication from the European Commission on Artificial Intelligence for Europe and the coordinated action plan between the European Commission and the Member States and Associated Countries, joining forces will be crucial for international competitiveness. Europe has to scale up existing research capacities and reach a critical mass through tighter networks of European AI excellence centres. The proposals should develop mechanisms to reinforce and network excellence centres in AI, bringing the best scientists from academia and industry to join forces in addressing the major AI challenges hampering its deployment; therefore, reinforcing excellence through collaboration in AI throughout Europe.
Such networks are expected to mobilise researchers to collaborate on key AI research challenges and to progress faster in joined efforts rather than working in silos, leading to fragmented and duplicated efforts. Such networks, are essential to reach critical mass and overcome the present fragmentation of AI research in Europe.
To complement and extend the initiative started in H2020 to develop a vibrant European network of AI excellence centres, and a vibrant AI scientific community, the proposals should create a network of excellence for the following topic:
Safe and secure AI addressing safety and security by design: foster the collaboration between AI with safety engineering communities, security, cybersecurity and related communities, to develop safe-by-design and secure-by-design AI, data and robotics systems, contributing to safety and security of citizens and any users of such AI-powered systems. The focus is on research, but the work should also contribute to good practices, standards and certification, complying with regulations for AI safety and protection of fundamental rights.
Topics to be covered include, but are not limited to:
Proposals will bring together the best European research teams around AI to join forces and address major technical as well as sector- or societal-driven challenges in strengthening excellence, networking, multidisciplinarity and developing academia-industry synergies, as relevant.
Composition of the Network:
Activities of the Network:
The proposals should:
Activities are expected to achieve TRL 4-5 by the end of the project.
Proposals are expected to develop synergies:
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.
The network of excellence centres on AI safety and security will contribute to the larger objective of the European Commission to establish the European AI lighthouse.
The AI lighthouse is expected to mobilise the AI community to collaborate on key AI research challenges and to progress faster in joined efforts rather than working in silos, leading to fragmented and duplicated efforts. This is essential to reach critical mass and overcome the present fragmentation of AI research in Europe.
The lighthouse will bring together stakeholders from research, innovation and deployment, to become a world reference in AI that can attract investments and the best talents in the field. The lighthouse will build on key pillars, each of them being a network of excellence centres specialising in a given topic where Europe has the potential to become a global champion. The initiative started with the H2020-ICT-48 call establishing the first networks of excellence centres and will further develop in Horizon Europe.
|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, Consumer Protection, Disaster Prevention, Resiliance, Risk Management|
|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, 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)|
|Applicant details|| |
eligible non-EU countries:
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.
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.
|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:
|Further info|| |
Proposal page limits and layout:
The application form will have two parts:
Page limit - Part B: 45 pages
|Type of Funding||Grants|
|Financial details|| |
Beneficiaries may provide financial support to third parties. The support to third parties can only be provided in the form of grants. The maximum amount to be granted to each third party is EUR 60 000.
Activities are expected to start at TRL 2 and achieve TRL 4 by the end of the project.
|Submission||Proposals must be submitted electronically via the Funding & Tenders Portal Electronic Submission System. Paper submissions are NOTpossible.|