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Call: Advanced detection of threats and illicit goods in postal and express courier flows

Acronym HE-CL3-BM
Type of Fund Direct Management
Description of programme
"Horizon Europe - Cluster 3 - Destination 2: Effective management of EU external borders"

This Destination addresses, among other, objectives identified by the Security Union Strategy [[COM(2020) 795 final.]] as well as the border management and security dimensions of the New Pact on Migration and Asylum [[COM(2020) 609 final.]]. As such, topics included under the Destination are aimed at ensuring strong European land, air and sea external borders. This includes by developing strong capabilities for checks at external borders hence safeguarding the integrity and functioning of the Schengen area without controls at the internal borders, by compensating the absence of intra-EU border checks; being capable to carry out systematic border checks, including identity, health and security checks as necessary, while facilitating the travel of bona fide travellers and respecting rights and possible vulnerabilities of individuals; providing integrated and continuous border surveillance, situational awareness and analysis support; combating identity and document frauds; supporting future technology for the European Border and Coast Guard; supporting the interoperability and performance of EU data exchange and analysis IT systems; supporting better risk detection, incident response and crime prevention; improving European preparedness to, and management of, future rapidly evolving changes; and updating our maritime security management including migration, trafficking as well as search and rescue capabilities.

Taking into account the central role of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) in defining capability requirements for the European Border and Coast Guard, it will be closely associated with, and will assist the European Commission in drawing up and implementing, relevant research and innovation activities. The European Union Agency for the Operational Management of Large-Scale IT Systems in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (eu-LISA) could also assist the European Commission on relevant research and innovation activities and specific topics. Research should also consider how future management of borders can develop protection of human rights, and how it can facilitate protection of refugees.

This research will also contribute to the implementation of the European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR) and the development of tools and methods for Integrated Border Management.

Regarding maritime security, the topics under this Destination will also support the implementation of the relevant actions under the Capability development, research and innovation area of the EU Maritime Security Action Plan[[]]. Research activities will therefore enable better security and management of EU maritime borders, maritime critical infrastructures, maritime activities and transport, contributing as well to a better performance and cooperation on coast guard functions. Research and innovation in the area of maritime security will also support the development of future capabilities for the protection of sea harbours and related sea lines of communication including entry/exit routes. The objective of maritime security research activities in this regard covers prevention, preparedness and response to expected and unexpected events including, anthropogenic and natural disasters, accidents, climate change as well as threats such as terrorism and piracy, cyber, hybrid and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) ones. The EU Maritime Security Research Agenda lays down in this regard specific areas to address, including cybersecurity, interoperability and information sharing, autonomous systems, networking and communication systems and multi-purpose platforms. Specific EU maritime security legislation [[Regulation (EC) No 725/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 31 March 2004 on enhancing ship and port facility security, Directive 2005/65/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 2005 on enhancing port security.]] also emphasises maritime passenger transport, and the threats to passengers. Innovative and more efficient capabilities for the security of maritime passenger transport could therefore also be a useful area of research.

Regarding security in the movements of goods across external borders, research will address requirements identified by the European Commission and EU customs authorities and should contribute to capabilities for detecting illegal activities both at external border crossing points and through the supply chain. EU customs authorities face increasing volumes of commerce, trade and traffic of goods, as well as having a range of tasks to fulfil besides security. International smuggling has the potential to become more sophisticated and/or increase in the coming years and decades, and could be facilitated by cybercrime. Criminal networks may exploit potential weaknesses of global supply chains, transport and logistics to pursue illicit trade and other crimes. At the same time, threats and hazards that may need to be detected in the flow of goods are very diverse and often need different sensors and technologies to be detected (from chemical, biological, nuclear, radiological and explosive material to drugs, firearms, money, waste, trafficked wildlife, cultural goods, etc.). Hence, customs need innovation to enable detection and to ensure security without at the same time disrupting or unnecessarily hampering trade flows. Capabilities built through research will contribute to the implementation of the new EU Customs Union action plan to reinforce customs risk management and effective controls. Capabilities include those on threat detection in postal flows; automated controls and detection that reduce the need to open or stop containers, packages, baggage or cargo; decision support; portability of control solutions; and technologies to track cross-border illicit trade.

Furthermore, in order to accomplish the objectives of this Destination, additional eligibility conditions have been defined with regard to the active involvement of relevant security practitioners or end-users.

Successful proposals under this Destination are invited to cooperate closely with other EC-chaired or funded initiatives in the relevant domains, such as the Networks of Practitioners projects funded under H2020 Secure Societies work programmes, the Knowledge Networks for Security Research & Innovation funded under the Horizon Europe Cluster 3 Work Programme, the Community of Users for Secure, Safe and Resilient Societies (future CERIS –Community of European Research and Innovation for Security) or with other security research and innovation working groups set-up by EU Agencies.

Furthermore, successful proposals under this Destination should be complementary and not overlap with relevant actions funded by other EU instruments, including projects funded by the Digital Europe Programme as well as European Defence Fund and the European Defence Industrial Development Programme, while maintaining a focus on civilian applications only.

Proposals submitted under this Destination should demonstrate how they plan to build on relevant predecessor projects; to consider the citizens’ and societal perspectives; to include education, training and awareness raising for practitioners and citizens; to measure the achieved TRL; and to prepare the uptake of the research outcomes.

Proposals involving earth observation are encouraged to make use primarily of Copernicus data, services and technologies.

This Destination will develop knowledge and technologies that may be taken up by other instruments, such as the Integrated Border Management Fund, that will enable exploitation of research results and final delivery of the required tools to security practitioners.

Expected impacts:

Proposals for topics under this Destination should set out a credible pathway to contributing to the following expected impact of the Horizon Europe Strategic Plan 2021-2024:

“Legitimate passengers and shipments travel more easily into the EU, while illicit trades, trafficking, piracy, terrorist and other criminal acts are prevented, due to improved air, land and sea border management and maritime security including better knowledge on social factors.”

More specifically, proposals should contribute to the achievement of one or more of the following impacts:

  • Improved security of EU land and air borders, as well as sea borders and maritime environment, infrastructures and activities, against accidents, natural disasters and security challenges such as illegal trafficking, piracy and potential terrorist attacks, cyber and hybrid threats;
  • Improved border crossing experience for travellers and border authorities staff, while maintaining security and monitoring of movements across air, land and sea EU external borders, supporting the Schengen space, reducing illegal movements of people and goods across those borders and protecting fundamental rights of travellers;
  • Improved customs and supply chain security though better prevention, detection, deterrence and fight of illegal activities involving flows of goods across EU external border crossing points and through the supply chain, minimising disruption to trade flows.
Link Link to Programme
Advanced detection of threats and illicit goods in postal and express courier flows
Description of call
"Advanced detection of threats and illicit goods in postal and express courier flows"

Expected Outcome:

Projects are expected to contribute to all of the following expected outcomes:

  • Improved detection of threats and dangerous and illicit goods by practitioners and operators within post and parcel flows, without disruption to the flow;
  • Improved capacity of practitioners and operators to deny the misuse of the postal and parcel service by criminal or terrorist group to move items;
  • Improved risk assessment, preparedness and reaction capacities in the postal and parcel service.


Research under this topic will contribute to build capabilities for more effective detection of threats and of dangerous and illicit goods within postal and express courier flows, without impeding those flows or disproportionate intrusion into privacy. Currently there is a lack of technology that allows screening the volumes and at the speed of processing the parcels, making manual intervention necessary. At the same time, organised crime groups think they run a relatively low risk in exploiting postal and parcels supply chains to move a range of illicit and dangerous goods. Successful innovation could hence also have a deterrent effect on criminal organisations to use such channels.

Examples of threats and dangerous and illicit goods include explosives and explosive precursors, CBRN material, drugs, cash, contraband or counterfeit items, including counterfeit identity documents, and fake medicines. Detection capabilities should be built for post and parcels crossing the external borders of the Union, but also for internal shipping, but without introducing additional controls that may disrupt free movement of goods. Cooperation with operators of postal and express courier service in the research project is strongly encouraged. Solutions that could improve data quality, availability, integration among different steps in the flow, and interpretability, would also be welcome of projects.

Testing and validation, within the project, of developed tools and solutions in an operational environment, will be an asset. Proposals should be convincing in explaining the methods they intend to use for demonstrating, testing and validating the proposed tools and solutions. Proposals should also delineate the plans to develop possible future uptake and upscaling at national and EU level for possible next steps after the research project.

Research proposals should consider, build on if appropriate and not duplicate, previous research, including but not limiting to research by other projects funded by the Framework Programmes for Research and Innovation. Proposed research that could also link with innovation for fighting crime and terrorism would be an asset.

In order to achieve the expected outcomes, international cooperation is advised.

In this topic the integration of the gender dimension (sex and gender analysis) in research and innovation content is not a mandatory requirement.

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, Administration & Governance, Justice, Safety & Security, Mobility & Transport/Traffic , Health, Social Affairs, Sports
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, Public Services, University, Federal State / Region / City / Municipality / Local Authority, National Government, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, SMEs (between 10 and 249 employees), NGO / NPO, Enterprise (more than 250 employees or not defined), Lobby Group / Professional Association / Trade Union, Education and Training Centres
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.
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 around EUR 4.00 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 8.00 million.
Typ of ActionResearch and Innovation Actions (RIA)
Funding rate100%

This topic requires the active involvement, as beneficiaries, of at least 2 Customs Authorities and 2 Police Authorities63, from at least 3 different EU Member States or Associated countries. For these participants, applicants must fill in the table “Eligibility information about practitioners” in the application form with all the requested information, following the template provided in the submission IT tool.

Some activities, resulting from this topic, may involve using classified background and/or producing of security sensitive results (EUCI and SEN). Please refer to the related provisions in section B Security — EU classified and sensitive information of the General Annexes.

Activities are expected to achieve TRL 4-6 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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