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Robotics: Autonomous or semi-autonomous UGV systems to supplement skills for use in hazardous environments
Horizon Europe - Cluster 3 - Destination 5: Disaster-Resilient Society for Europe
Estimated EU contribution per project
Link to the call
Link to the submission
The scope of this topic is not only to develop new robotic solutions for specific tasks but addresses also more holistically the surrounding environment and factors that impact civil protection on a larger scale.
Robotics and automation are key technologies that help increase productivity and efficiency to prevent, prepare, and/or respond to natural and human-made disasters. Demographic change and lifestyle changes, such as shifting several time centre of one’s life, build up lots of pressure, especially on volunteer-based first responder organizations, which need long training to be mission ready. First responders supported by robotics will be able to fulfil more work within a shorter amount of time and with less personnel. In this industry, cheaper, more capable, and more ﬂexible technologies are accelerating the growth of fully automated production facilities. It is necessary to bring this innovation also into saving lives. Fundamental changes (procedures, tactics and strategies) in the civil protection traditional way of working are needed. Robotic systems with and without autonomous functionalities are not entirely new in disaster relief, but still, there is no continuous and decisive step towards bringing this innovation into the first responders’ daily work. In order to be successful in this process, various aspects should be considered.
Firstly, there is a need to identify the fields and domains that will benefit from (autonomous) robotic systems. For a start, there is an urgent need to look into the deployments in hazardous environments or where the danger for first responders and citizens is the highest. What kind of technologies can be replaced with robotic solutions to complete the task more efficiently? What are the situations which cause the most significant danger to human life during a disaster situation? Also, it is essential to look into options where robotic systems might be more effective than humans. Extensive technology inventory is needed. Altogether this first step can be considered as the exhaustive requirements and gaps analyses which is an inevitable step bringing robotics closer to the civil protection.
Secondly, the identified gaps and needs should be the basis for proof-of-concept research and development studies. Proof of concept studies can either focus on autonomous systems or semi- autonomous systems (e.g. optionally manned or tele-operated systems). These solutions enable managers and practitioners to immerse themselves in what is happening on- site from a great distance and make decisions or even actively intervene in what is happening. To this end, new sensing capabilities should be developed to enhance robotic capabilities and provide more information about the hazards in the environment they operate. They should be adapted in a compact system to be mounted on robots. Human-machine interaction technologies that enable an overlapping control of the robotic systems between the artificial Intelligence entity and the operator need to be developed. The interaction between the user and the robotic system has to be intuitive and should work without extended training. Thirdly, first responders' training, preparedness, and mindset should be considered when bringing new technologies into the field. This is necessary in order to reach a required paradigm shift. This is a long-term process and therefore has to be strategical and well planned.
Fourthly, the relevant infrastructure needs to be put in place. Robotic systems should be seen as an integral part of first responder ecosystems and not as a single technology. Further research is needed to define the basic physical and organisational structures and facilities required for the operation of robotic solutions and integration to the current operational infrastructure. Therefore, adapted standard operational procedures have to be developed.
Overarching topics like ethics, legal and societal implications are highly relevant in the robotics context. They form the basis for the societal acceptance of artificial intelligence in control and decision-making. As robotics become a new resource for the application in hazardous environments (but not only), their acceptance has to be ensured from the perspectives of emergency services, just as the people to be rescued.
In summary, the scope of this topic is not only to develop new robotic solutions for specific tasks but addresses also more holistically the surrounding environment and factors that impact civil protection on a larger scale (urbanisation, ageing, climate change, increased complexity in the area of critical infrastructure protection etc.). There are many research and engineering challenges that need to be addressed in the framework of this topic. First responders play a vital role in ensuring that the robotics solutions are based on the needs and are valuable assets for the civil protection ecosystem.
This topic requires the effective contribution of SSH disciplines and the involvement of SSH experts, institutions as well as the inclusion of relevant SSH expertise, in order to produce meaningful and significant effects enhancing the societal impact of the related research/innovation activities.
In order to achieve the expected outcomes, international cooperation is encouraged.
Projects’ results are expected to contribute to some or all of the following outcomes:
- Broad acceptance of autonomous systems by first responders and affected people in civil protection;
- Higher safety and security standards for operational forces working in hazardous environments;
- Get ahead of future shortcomings of trained first responder personnel by increasing first responder efficiency (less personnel do more work in shorter time);
- Increased ability to conduct on-scene operations remotely without endangering first responders;
- European robotics industry is strengthened through engagement in the civil protection research as well as an economic and political advantage through building up know-how for innovative technologies;
- Reduction of false positive readouts from various sensors carried by robots.
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), 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
This topic requires the active involvement, as beneficiaries, of at least two first responders’ organisations or agencies, and one representative of local or regional authorities in charge of disaster response, from at least 3 different EU Member States or Associated Countries. For these participants, applicants must fill in the table “Information about security practitioners” in the application form with all the requested information, following the template provided in the submission IT tool.
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 achieve TRL 6-8 by the end of the project.
For the Technology Readiness Level (TRL), the following definitions apply:
- TRL 1 — Basic principles observed
- TRL 2 — Technology concept formulated
- TRL 3 — Experimental proof of concept
- TRL 4 — Technology validated in a lab
- TRL 5 — Technology validated in a relevant environment (industrially relevant environment in the case of key enabling technologies)
- TRL 6 — Technology demonstrated in a relevant environment (industrially relevant environment in the case of key enabling technologies)
- TRL 7 — System prototype demonstration in an operational environment
- TRL 8 — System complete and qualified
- TRL 9 — Actual system proven in an operational environment (competitive manufacturing in the case of key enabling technologies, or in space)
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.