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Call: Testing and Experimentation Facility for Edge AI

Programme
Acronym DIGITAL
Type of Fund Direct Management
Description of programme
"Digital Europe"

The general objectives of the Digital Europe Programme shall be to support and accelerate the digital transformation of the European economy, industry and society, to bring its benefits to citizens, public administrations and businesses across the Union, and to improve the competitiveness of Europe in the global digital economy while contributing to bridging the digital divide across the Union and reinforcing the Union’s strategic autonomy, through holistic, cross-sectoral and cross-border support and a stronger Union contribution.

The Programme shall be implemented in close coordination with other Union programmes as applicable, and shall aim:

  1. to strengthen and promote Europe’s capacities in key digital technology areas through large-scale deployment;
  2. in the private sector and in areas of public interest, to widen the diffusion and uptake of Europe’s key digital technologies, promoting the digital transformation and access to digital technologies.

It will reinforce EU critical digital capacities by focusing on the key areas of artificial intelligence (AI), cybersecurity, advanced computing, data infrastructure, governance and processing, the deployment of these technologies and their best use for critical sectors like energy, climate change and environment, manufacturing, agriculture and health. Thus, the Programme shall have five interrelated specific objectives:

  1. Specific Objective 1 – High Performance Computing
  2. Specific Objective 2 – Artificial Intelligence
  3. Specific Objective 3 – Cybersecurity and Trust
  4. Specific Objective 4 – Advanced Digital Skills
  5. Specific Objective 5 Deployment and Best Use of Digital Capacity and Interoperability.

The Digital Europe Programme is strategic in supporting the digital transformation of the EU industrial ecosystems targeting upskilling to provide a workforce for these advanced digital technologies. It supports industry, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and public administration in their digital transformation with a reinforced network of European Digital Innovation Hubs (EDIH). The Programme will accelerate the economic recovery and drive the digital transformation of Europe.

Specific Objective 1- High Performance Computing

The financial contribution from the Union under Specific Objective 1 – High Performance Computing shall pursue the following operational objectives:

  1. deploy, coordinate at Union level and operate an integrated demand-oriented and application-driven world-class exascale supercomputing and data infrastructure that shall be easily accessible to public and private users, in particular SMEs, irrespective of the Member State in which they are located, and easily accessible for research purposes, in accordance with Regulation (EU) 2018/1488;
  2. deploy ready to use operational technology resulting from research and innovation in order to build an integrated Union HPC ecosystem, covering various aspects in the scientific and industrial value chain segments, including hardware, software, applications, services, interconnections and digital skills, with a high level of security and data protection;
  3. deploy and operate post-exascale infrastructure, including integration with quantum computing technologies and research infrastructures for computing science and encourage the development within the Union of the hardware and software necessary for such deployment.

Specific Objective 2 – Artificial Intelligence

The financial contribution from the Union under Specific Objective 2 – Artificial Intelligence shall pursue the following operational objectives:

  1. build up and strengthen core AI capacities and knowledge in the Union, including building up and strengthening quality data resources and corresponding exchange mechanisms, and libraries of algorithms, while guaranteeing a human-centric and inclusive approach that respects Union values;
  2. make the capacities referred to in point (a) accessible to businesses, especially SMEs and start-ups, as well as civil society, not-for-profit organisations, research institutions, universities and public administrations, in order to maximise their benefit to the European society and economy;
  3. reinforce and network AI testing and experimentation facilities in Member States;
  4. develop and reinforce commercial application and production systems in order to facilitate the integration of technologies in value chains and the development of innovative business models and to shorten the time required to pass from innovation to commercial exploitation and foster the uptake of AI-based solutions in areas of public interest and in society.

Specific Objective 3 – Cybersecurity and Trust

The financial contribution from the Union under Specific Objective 3 – Cybersecurity and Trust shall pursue the following operational objectives:

  1. support the building-up and procurement of advanced cybersecurity equipment, tools and data infrastructures, together with Member States, in order to achieve a high common level of cybersecurity at European level, in full compliance with data protection legislation and fundamental rights, while ensuring the strategic autonomy of the Union;
  2. support the building-up and best use of European knowledge, capacity and skills related to cybersecurity and the sharing and mainstreaming of best practices;
  3. ensure a wide deployment of effective state-of-the-art cybersecurity solutions across the European economy, paying special attention to public authorities and SMEs;
  4. reinforce capabilities within Member States and private sector to help them comply with Directive (EU) 2016/1148 of the European Parliament and of the Council including through measures supporting the uptake of cybersecurity best practices;
  5. improve resilience against cyberattacks, contribute towards increasing risk-awareness and knowledge of cybersecurity processes, support public and private organisations in achieving basics levels of cybersecurity, for example by deploying end-to-end encryption of data and software updates;
  6. enhance cooperation between the civil and defence spheres with regard to dual-use projects, services, competences and applications in cybersecurity, in accordance with a Regulation establishing the European Cybersecurity Industrial, Technology and Research Competence Centre and the Network of National Coordination Centres (the ‘Cybersecurity Competence Centre Regulation’).

Specific Objective 4 – Advanced Digital Skills

The financial contribution from the Union under Specific Objective 4 – Advanced Digital Skills shall support the development of advanced digital skills in areas covered by the Programme in order to contribute to increasing Europe’s talent pool, bridge the digital divide and foster greater professionalism, especially with regard to high performance and cloud computing, big data analytics, cybersecurity, distributed ledger technologies (e.g. blockchain), quantum technologies, robotics, AI, while taking gender balance into account. In order to tackle skills mismatches and to encourage specialisation in digital technologies and applications, the financial contribution shall pursue the following operational objectives:

  1. support the design and delivery of high-quality, long-term training and courses, including blended learning, for students and for the workforce;
  2. support the design and delivery of high-quality, short-term training and courses for the workforce, in particular in SMEs and in the public sector;
  3. support high-quality on-the-job training and work placements for students, including traineeships, and the workforce, in particular in SMEs and in the public sector.

Specific Objective 5 – Deployment and Best Use of Digital Capacities and Interoperability

The financial contribution from the Union under Specific Objective 5 – Deployment and Best Use of Digital Capacities and Interoperability shall pursue the following operational objectives while bridging the digital divide:

  1. support the public sector and areas of public interest, such as health and care, education, judiciary, customs, transport, mobility, energy, environment, cultural and creative sectors, including relevant businesses established within the Union, to effectively deploy and access state-of-the-art digital technologies, such as HPC, AI and cybersecurity;
  2. deploy, operate and maintain trans-European interoperable state-of-the-art digital service infrastructures across the Union, including related services, in complementarity with national and regional actions;
  3. support the integration and use of trans-European digital service infrastructures and of agreed European digital standards in the public sector and in areas of public interest to facilitate cost-efficient implementation and interoperability;
  4. facilitate the development, update and use of solutions and frameworks by public administrations, businesses and citizens, including of open-source solutions and the re-use of interoperability solutions and frameworks;
  5. offer the public sector and the Union industry, in particular SMEs, easy access to testing and piloting of digital technologies and increase the use thereof, including their cross-border use;
  6. support the uptake by the public sector and the Union industry, in particular SMEs and start-ups, of advanced digital and related technologies, including in particular HPC, AI, cybersecurity, other leading edge and future technologies, such as distributed ledger technologies (e.g. blockchain);
  7. support the design, testing, implementation, and deployment and maintenance of interoperable digital solutions, including digital government solutions, for public services at Union level which are delivered through a data-driven reusable solutions platform aiming to foster innovation and establish common frameworks in order to unleash the full potential of the public administrations’ services for citizens and businesses;
  8. ensure the continuous capacity at Union level to lead digital development, in addition to observing, analysing and adapting to fast-evolving digital trends, and share and mainstream best practices;
  9. support cooperation towards achieving a European ecosystem for trusted data sharing and digital infrastructures using, inter alia, services and applications based on distributed ledger technologies (e.g. blockchain), including support for interoperability and standardisation and by fostering the deployment of Union cross-border applications based on security and privacy by design, while complying with consumer and data protection legislation;
  10. build up and strengthen the European Digital Innovation Hubs and their network.
Link Link to Programme
Call
Testing and Experimentation Facility for Edge AI
Description of call
"Testing and Experimentation Facility for Edge AI"

Objective:

The overall aim of the Testing and Experimentation Facility (TEF) for Edge AI hardware is to ensure the availability in Europe of trusted, high-performance, low-power edge components and technologies to support the massive data-processing requirements of AI and the digital transformation. The emergence of novel computing paradigms, such as neuromorphic, provides an opportunity for the European industry to take the lead in a new generation of edge and distributed computing systems.

The Edge AI TEF will also contribute to societal challenges, in terms of:

  • supporting the implementation of the Green Deal, by reducing energy consumption versus centralised computing solutions, also thanks to ground-breaking ultra-low power operation (100 to 1000 times more efficient) and very limited use of the data infrastructure (data transmission consumes even more energy than computing); further, edge AI components enable environmental monitoring as well as increased energy-efficiency of buildings and smart cities;
  • protection of personal data and privacy by processing within the edge device;
  • security and resilience avoiding or limiting dependency on the network;
  • safety and efficiency by reducing latency to near-real-time (e.g. for automotive or manufacturing applications).
  • European sovereignty in generation and management of sensitive data with trusted, secure components;
  • Open technological autonomy by reducing and diversifying strategic dependencies on components that may expose the EU to supply chain disruptions and security vulnerabilities, or not respecting European values in terms of safety, privacy, AI, equality, ethics or environmental aspects.

Scope:

This project aims at delivering a European platform that will enable companies to develop, test and experiment AI product prototypes based on advanced low-power computing technologies, custom-designed for their application environment. It involves the set-up of facilities for design, fabrication, integration and verification, employing leading-edge equipment with advanced semiconductor process and fabrication technologies. Such a platform will be able to bring novel embedded AI technologies to high Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs), delivering prototypes for field validation that can significantly accelerate industrialization and time-to-market for edge AI components, resulting in a competitive advantage for the European ecosystem.

The TEF will realise a joint distributed platform (pilot line) to be led by EU centres of excellence in microelectronics technologies for advanced computing and key industrial actors of the microelectronics ecosystem such as integrated device manufacturers (IDMs) foundries and system integrators. The platform will be open to exploitation by EU industries, including SMEs, through direct support or through projects funded by other European or National programmes. In particular, strong cooperation is envisaged with the Joint Undertaking on Key Digital Technologies, which may support projects in close coordination with the TEF on Edge AI, as well as other EU partnerships in the area of AI, HPC, 5G/6G and cloud computing. Opportunities for future synergies with related actions on quantum computing infrastructure will also be evaluated.

Through the collaboration of a network of European Digital Innovation Hubs, the Edge AI TEF will provide also SMEs and Start-ups with fast and simple access to world-class testing facilities, rich networks of stakeholders and potential customers.

In cooperation with the sectorial TEFs in Manufacturing, Agri-food, Healthcare, Smart communities, the AI components delivered by the Edge AI TEF can be implemented in connected autonomous objects to be integrated in a distributed AI platform for applications such as industrial Internet of Things (IoT), precision agriculture, autonomous vehicles, implanted/wearable medical devices.

The selection of projects to be supported by the Edge AI TEF will be based on the character of innovation, on the business potential and on the strategic dimension for Europe.

The TEF infrastructure will put in place advanced semiconductor equipment that may also serve as a basis for quantum computing technologies, therefore opportunities for synergies with related Digital Europe actions on quantum computing infrastructure will be evaluated.

The first phase of the project will focus on the procurement, installation and preparation of the infrastructure, developing the necessary interfaces and testing of existing solutions, and the development of frameworks for hardware/software co-design and prototyping. In the following phases, the project will develop innovative prototypes employing the most advanced architectures and technologies beyond the state-of-the-art, incorporating energy efficiency, operational trust and security, which will be tested and validated in the respective field of application, before transfer for industrialization and production by IDMs or foundries. Personnel costs incurred by beneficiaries to carry out the above activities next to procurement, will be considered eligible.

Expected Outcome:

  • Procurement and preparation of the infrastructure
  • Equipment installation, design tool finalisation, definition of device functionalities with users, distribution
  • Production of System Exploration Platform software for emulation of hardware
  • Progress of key building blocks (such as sensing, in-memory computing, 3D architectures) to higher TRLs and validation of their design kits
  • Integration of building blocks into solutions, implementing rules and procedures for testing and transfer to industry
Link Link to Call
Thematic Focus Digitisation, ICT, Telecommunication, Research & Innovation, Technology Transfer & Exchange
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, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, SMEs (between 10 and 249 employees), Microenterprises (fewer than 10 employees), Other, Enterprise (more than 250 employees or not defined), Public Services, University, Lobby Group / Professional Association / Trade Union
Applicant details In order to be eligible, the applicants (beneficiaries and affiliated entities) must:
  • be legal entities (public or private bodies)
  • be established in one of the eligible countries, i.e.:
    • EU Member States (including overseas countries and territories (OCTs))

  • Natural persons are NOT eligible (with the exception of self-employed persons, i.e. sole traders, where the company does not have legal personality separate from that of the natural person).
  • International organisations are NOT eligible, unless they are International organisations of European Interest within the meaning of Article 2 of the Digital Europe Regulation (i.e. international organisations the majority of whose members are Member States or whose headquarters are in a Member State).
  • EU bodies (with the exception of the European Commission Joint Research Centre) can NOT be part of the consortium.
Project Partner Yes
Project Partner Details Proposals must be submitted by:
  • a consortium of at least 3 applicants (beneficiaries; not affiliated entities) and which complies with the following conditions:
    • minimum 3 independent entities from 3 different eligible countries
The consortium should include Research and Technology Organisations with advanced logic nodes infrastructure, and may involve silicon wafer manufacturers, device manufacturers, IC design companies, system integrators.
Project duration max 30 months
Further info Proposals must be complete and contain all the requested information and all required annexes and supporting documents:
  • Application Form Part A — contains administrative information about the participants  and the summarised budget for the project (to be filled in directly online)
  • Application Form Part B — contains the technical description of the project (to be downloaded from the Portal Submission System, completed and then assembled and re-uploaded)
  • mandatory annexes and supporting documents (to be uploaded):
    • list of previous projects (key projects for the last 4 years)
    • ethics issues table
    • ecurity issues table
    • ownership control declaration
Proposals are limited to maximum 70 pages (Part B).
Type of Funding Grants
Financial details The available call budget is EUR 78,000,000. This budget might be increased by maximum 20%.

Funding rate: 50 %

Project budget (maximum grant amount): EUR 78,000,000 per project
Submission Proposals must be submitted electronically via the Funding & Tenders Portal. Paper submissions are NOT possible.

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