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Call: eXtended Collaborative Telepresence

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Programme
Acronym HE-CL4-HUMAN
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:

  • KSO D, Creating a more resilient, inclusive and democratic European society, prepared and responsive to threats and disasters, addressing inequalities and providing high-quality health care, and empowering all citizens to act in the green and digital transitions

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

  • A human-centred and ethical development of digital and industrial technologies, through a two-way engagement in the development of technologies, empowering end-users and workers, and supporting social innovation.

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

Expected impact

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:

  • Increased inclusiveness, by supporting a human-centred approach to technology development that is aligned with European social and ethical values, as well as sustainability;
  • Sustainable, high-quality jobs by targeting skills mismatches, the need to empower workers, and ethical considerations relating to technological progress[[2019 CIGI-Ipsos Global Survey on Internet Security and Trust]].
Link Link to Programme
Call
eXtended Collaborative Telepresence
Description of call
"eXtended Collaborative Telepresence"

Expected Outcome:

Proposals are expected to contribute to the following outcome:

  • Establishing European industry leadership in eXtended collaborative telepresence solutions, while ensuring ethics, privacy, security and safety.

Scope:

This topic aims to increase the European competitiveness and innovation capacity and foster the adoption of European eXtended collaborative telepresence technologies in both professional and private spheres, taking benefit of combining real and virtual environments to improve distant human-human interactions through wearables and computer mediated technologies.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused major disruptions to the way we work and live. Physical distancing and global lockdown, as well as pressing climate and environmental concerns, have accelerated the need for development and adoption of telepresence technologies to sustain the productivity of remote and online contactless activities, as well as maintaining social bonds. With a worldwide CO2 emission reduction of more than 20%, the crisis has also revealed that teleworking and reduction of travel is an efficient mitigating solution. Tools supporting enhanced teleworking have become of primal importance.

However, existing collaborative telepresence tools and solutions raise concerns in terms of functionalities, interoperability, efficiency, versatility, openness, accessibility, security and privacy of personal data.

Proposals should leverage existing open standards and technologies in the domain of eXtended Reality, combining human-machine interactions and all real, mix, augmented and virtual environments, accessibility, networks, security and privacy to provide low-cost and widely available eXtended collaborative telepresence solutions.

To ensure wide take-up, proposals should demonstrate their capacity to scale up by involving high numbers of end-users in tests in real environments.

The proposals are expected to address several of the following points:

  • Support a wide range of networking bandwidth with adequate compression transmission of information so as to optimise end-to-end quality of service;
  • Overcome the limitations of the current technologies handling large number of simultaneous users;
  • Support different input and output modalities as the bandwidth capacities extend (text, speech, audio, video, AR/VR, 3D, holography);
  • Through open standards, support the integration of additional services such as recording and sharing meeting recording speech transcription, translation, anonymisation, summarisation, context-aware instant search;
  • Optimise the results of eXtended collaborative meetings through easy access, analysis and syntheses of recordings;
  • Ensure security and protect user privacy, through a mix of necessary technologies (encryption, blockchains, edge-processing, standardisation, …);
  • Develop, document and promote open standards based interfaces (such as APIs) which can be used by third parties to further enhance the project solutions and adapt them to other environments and user needs, avoiding vendor lock-in.
  • Provide systems to facilitate human-to-human and human-to-machine interaction, that allows real-time as well as offline communication;
  • Apply eXtended Reality technologies to support the communication and collaboration experience;
  • Apply eXtended Reality models to enhance the collaborative aspects of telepresence;
  • Apply haptics devices to further improve the intuitiveness and accessibility of the solutions;
  • Follow existing and propose new standards ensuring the privacy and security of the users to guarantee compliance with the European legal framework on personal data protection taking into account the complexity and particularities of eXtended Reality technologies;
  • Demonstrate clear and efficient integration paths for take-up by European industries;

To further extend the application domains, guarantee reproducibility and demonstrate the integration paths, proposals are expected to organise a number of competitive calls with financial support to third parties (FSTP). At least 50% of the funding should be dedicated to FSTP. To that end, the consortium will provide guidelines and technical support with expertise in engineering integration, testing and validation to support the development of such use-cases. The maximum amount of FSTP, distributed through a grant, is EUR 200 000 per third party for the entire duration of the action, but smaller amounts may also be justified.

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, Children & Youth, Education & Training, Employment & Labour Market, Art & Culture, Cultural Heritage, History, Media, Consumer Protection, Competitiveness, SME
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), Education and Training Centres, 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.
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 5.00 and 8.00 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 14.00 million.
Typ of ActionInnovation Actions (IA)
Funding rate70% (except for non-profit legal entities, where a rate of up to 100% applies)

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 200 000 to further extend the application domains, guarantee reproducibility and demonstrate the integration paths for take-up by European industries.
Activities are expected to start at TRL 4 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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