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Novel paradigms and approaches, towards AI-powered robots– step change in functionality (AI, data and robotics partnership)
Horizon Europe - Cluster 4 - Destination 4: Digital and Emerging Technologies for Competitivness and Fit for the Green Deal
Estimated EU contribution per project
Link to the call
Link to the submission
For robots to be usefully and efficiently deployed to perform new activities in physical interaction with the real world requires an improvement in and expansion of the range of functionalities robots can deploy.
The improvement expansion of the range of functionalities robots can deploy need to take place in sectors where the capabilities of robots can be utilised to progress productivity in critical industries, support European industries essential for sovereignty and in sectors with high impact across Europe such as manufacturing, healthcare, agri-food, construction etc.
In particular the following major areas of functional performance need to be progressed to the next level of performance:
- significant enhancement of navigation capabilities in order to enhance mobility (underwater, on the ground, in the air, in the body, in areas difficult to reach, on rough terrain, in unpredictable environments, in areas including people or other moving agents, etc.), particularly in highly dynamic and complex environments.
- extension of manipulation capabilities to address:
- large (of the order of metres to 10s of meters in scale), or heavy (of the order of 100kg to multiple 100kg )
- or small objects of millimetre or centimetre scale, or smaller; ,
- or of objects that are soft, deformable, articulated, delicate or hazardous objects;
Each of these require significant advances in precision, force, speed, re-planning, physical perception, grasping, manipulation (including bi-manual), etc.), in order to achieve beyond human capability in manipulation and dexterity.
For large scale manipulation applications include but are not limited to manufacturing, assembly, maintenance and installation of large infrastructure; for example wind turbines, energy pylons, pipelines, dwellings, industrial buildings, transport infrastructure etc.)
For small scale manipulation applications include but are not limited to medical and healthcare (human and animal), pharmaceutical and laboratory automation, process industries, materials processing and micro-fabrication and assembly.
- significant enhancement of functional interaction capabilities to deliver efficient, safe and natural interaction with people, objects, with other robots, within complex and dynamic working environments, including the ability to adapt to variation in the working environment and the needs and dynamics of users, objects and structures, etc.).
Making significant next step advances in these functional capabilities will require paradigm shifts in terms of both physical and systems architecture particularly through the removal of silos between disciplines that contribute to robotics functionalities.
Proposals will need to address safety and security aspects at all levels, as well as consider the data life cycle in line with GDPR.
Proposals should aim to address bold and significant challenges to the enhancement of robot functionality and do so by utilising multidisciplinary research activities.
Proposals should address several of the following in the context of improved functional performance relevant to deployment barriers in a high impact sector:
- Robust perception and the integration of sensing into physical structures to enhance motion and perception
- Advanced safe and reliable navigation functionalities, integrating anticipation, re-planning, high-level goal optimisation. Natural human-robot interaction functionality
- Advanced cognitive capabilities, integrating any type of learning (from experience, collaborative intelligence or learning from human knowledge, frugality in terms of data, unsupervised, etc.), modelling, reasoning, introspection, etc.
- Novel design approaches, e.g. soft robotics, under-actuated, miniaturised, modular/reconfigurable robots including those capable of self-reconfiguration, e.g. for guidance/navigation/manipulations in places hard to reach
- Mobile manipulation, natural manipulation of arbitrary objects including soft, fragile or other items complex to handle (e.g. dirty, slippery, deformable)
- Advanced navigation/manipulation in extreme environments, extremely small and precise in the body, autonomous navigation on shifting and uneven surfaces and in transition, for example between water and air or water and land, field robotics in harsh environments, the handling and manipulation of extremely large/heavy objects, etc.
Where relevant, proposals should contribute to making AI and robotics solutions meet the requirements of Trustworthy AI, based on the respect of the ethical principles, the fundamental rights including critical aspects such as robustness, safety, reliability, in line with the European Approach to AI. Ethics principles need to be adopted from early stages of development and design.
Critical to success will be the interaction of End Users in the definition of the problem domains and use cases that act as barriers to long term deployment and uptake across multiple sectors.
Multidisciplinary research activities should address all of the following:
- Proposals should involve appropriate expertise in the necessary relevant disciplines to reach their objectives. SSH is particularly relevant in addressing human aspects related to human-robot interaction, sensible task distribution between humans and robots, agency, control, trust and handling of data collection, to achieve usability, trustworthiness, safety and adoption of the developed solutions.
- It is essential that scientific and technological results are reproducible and re-usable in order to contribute to the advancement of the targeted research area.
- S&T progress should be demonstrated through use-cases with major and broad socio-economic impact.
- Projects should build on or seek collaboration with existing projects and develop synergies with other relevant European, national or regional initiatives, funding programmes.
All proposals are expected to embed mechanisms to assess and demonstrate progress (with qualitative and quantitative KPIs, benchmarking and progress monitoring, as well as illustrative application use-cases demonstrating well-defined potential added value), and share communicable results with the European R&D community, through the AI-on-demand platform or Digital Industrial Platform for Robotics, public community resources, to maximise re-use of results, either by developers, or for uptake, and optimise efficiency of funding; enhancing the European AI, Data and Robotics ecosystem through the sharing of results and best practice.
This topic implements the co-programmed European Partnership on AI, data and robotics.
Projects are expected to contribute to all of the following primary outcomes:
- Achieve the substantial next step in the ability of robots to perform non-repetitive functional tasks in realistic settings, based on underlying robot functions (e.g. guidance/navigation/manipulation/interaction etc.), demonstrated in key high impact sectors where robotics has the potential to deliver significant economic and/or societal benefits. This next step functionality should clearly delineate from state of the art solutions and can be illustrated by the following non-exhaustive examples that illustrate different types of functional ability. Proposals should address functional challenges that are of equivalent or greater complexity and/or combine different types of functions to deliver greater functional complexity:
- To reach the point where the robot systems operating in harsh complex and dynamic working environments can carry out sequences of complex functions to achieve a functional goal.
- For example a robot able to carry out a range of different types of functions where the choice and sequence of execution depends on the dynamics of the operating context as the task progresses.
- In navigation to reliably and purposefully move between destinations within complex people centric environments that are occupied such as busy transport hubs, shopping malls or entertainment and sporting venues; or to move purposefully maintaining a direction of travel towards a target destination or sequence of destinations over variable terrain where the surface is shifting and reactive to the robot’s motion for example on sand, gravel or waterlogged ground; or to be able to navigate, move purposefully and transition between water and air or water and land including mixed surfaces attaining a target destination, or sequence of destinations over extended distances beyond the current state of the art.
- In manipulation to reach human speed with equivalent dexterity, or manipulate objects beyond human capability, such as very small objects, or very precise manipulation tasks, or vary big objects, beyond current capabilities and functionalities; to manipulate complex articulated objects either as part of an assembly task or in order to use those objects as tools to achieve a specific function. For example handling a complex articulated part while a processing operation is taking place on it; or to manipulate and assemble soft objects or materials that deform under their own weight such as textiles as a part of a useful process.
- Step change in the enabling conditions essential for the accelerated diffusion of robots in various industries, sectors and services which can 1) handle tasks efficiently, robustly, and safely and 2) interact naturally and smoothly to support humans in their daily activities, based on a strong multidisciplinary approach, including the relevant SSH dimension.
- The development, use and exploitation of major advances in science and technology for the enhancement of European robotics, in order to maintain Europe’s scientific excellence and ensure sovereignty of key technologies relevant to robotics
- Create opportunities to affect society in the longer term by contributing to impact on major broad societal challenges.
Regions / countries for funding
Moldova (Moldova), Albania (Shqipëria), Armenia (Հայաստան), Azerbaijan (Azərbaycan), Belarus (Беларусь), Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosna i Hercegovina / Босна и Херцеговина), Faeroes (Føroyar / Færøerne), Georgia (საქართველო), Island (Ísland), Israel (ישראל / إِسْرَائِيل), Kosovo (Kosova/Kosovë / Косово), Montenegro (Црна Гора), Morocco (المغرب), New Zealand (Aotearoa), North Macedonia (Северна Македонија), Norway (Norge), Serbia (Srbija/Сpбија), Tunisia (تونس /Tūnis), Türkiye, Ukraine (Україна), United Kingdom
Education and training institution, International organization, Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) / Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Other, Private institution, incl. private company (private for profit), Public Body (national, regional and local; incl. EGTCs), Research Institution incl. University, Small and medium-sized enterprise (SME)
To be eligible for funding, applicants must be established in one of the following countries:
- the Member States of the European Union, including their outermost regions
- the Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) linked to the Member States
- third countries associated to Horizon Europe - see list of particpating countries
Only legal entities forming a consortium are eligible to participate in actions provided that the consortium includes, as beneficiaries, three legal entities independent from each other and each established in a different country as follows:
- 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.
Any legal entity, regardless of its place of establishment, including legal entities from non-associated third countries or international organisations (including international European research organisations) is eligible to participate (whether it is eligible for funding or not), provided that the conditions laid down in the Horizon Europe Regulation have been met, along with any other conditions laid down in the specific call topic.
A ‘legal entity’ means any natural or legal person created and recognised as such under national law, EU law or international law, which has legal personality and which may, acting in its own name, exercise rights and be subject to obligations, or an entity without legal personality.
- Affiliated entities — Affiliated entities (i.e. entities with a legal or capital link to a beneficiary which participate in the action with similar rights and obligations to the beneficiaries, but which do not sign the grant agreement and therefore do not become beneficiaries themselves) are allowed, if they are eligible for participation and funding.
- Associated partners — Associated partners (i.e. entities which participate in the action without signing the grant agreement, and without the right to charge costs or claim contributions) are allowed, subject to any conditions regarding associated partners set out in the specific call conditions.
- Entities without legal personality — Entities which do not have legal personality under their national law may exceptionally participate, provided that their representatives have the capacity to undertake legal obligations on their behalf, and offer guarantees to protect the EU’s financial interests equivalent to those offered by legal persons.
- EU bodies — Legal entities created under EU law including decentralised agencies may be part of the consortium, unless provided for otherwise in their basic act.
- Joint Research Centre (‘JRC’)— Where provided for in the specific call conditions, applicants may include in their proposals the possible contribution of the JRC but the JRC will not participate in the preparation and submission of the proposal. Applicants will indicate the contribution that the JRC could bring to the project based on the scope of the topic text. After the evaluation process, the JRC and the consortium selected for funding may come to an agreement on the specific terms of the participation of the JRC. If an agreement is found, the JRC may accede to the grant agreement as beneficiary requesting zero funding or participate as an associated partner, and would accede to the consortium as a member.
- Associations and interest groupings — Entities composed of members (e.g. European research infrastructure consortia (ERICs)) may participate as ‘sole beneficiaries’ or ‘beneficiaries without legal personality’. However, if the action is in practice implemented by the individual members, those members should also participate (either as beneficiaries or as affiliated entities, otherwise their costs will NOT be eligible.
other eligibility criteria
If projects use satellite-based earth observation, positioning, navigation and/or related timing data and services, beneficiaries must make use of Copernicus and/or Galileo/EGNOS (other data and services may additionally be used).
Activities are expected to start at TRL 2-3 and achieve TRL 4-5 by the end of the project.
Relevance for EU Macro-Region
EUSAIR - EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region, EUSALP - EU Strategy for the Alpine Space, EUSBSR - EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, EUSDR - EU Strategy for the Danube Region
UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN-SDGs)
All proposals must be submitted electronically via the Funders & Tenders Portal electronic submission system (accessible via the topic page in the Search Funding & Tenders section). Paper submissions are NOT possible.
Proposals must be complete and contain all parts and mandatory annexes and supporting documents, e.g. plan for the exploitation and dissemination of the results including communication activities, etc.
The application form will have two parts:
- Part A (to be filled in directly online) contains administrative information about the applicant organisations (future coordinator and beneficiaries and affiliated entities), the summarised budget for the proposal and call-specific questions;
- Part B (to be downloaded from the Portal submission system, completed and then assembled and re-uploaded as a PDF in the system) contains the technical description of the project.
Annexes and supporting documents will be directly available in the submission system and must be uploaded as PDF files (or other formats allowed by the system).
The limit for a full application (Part B) is 45 pages.