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Digital for nature
Horizon Europe - Cluster 6 - Destination 1: Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
Estimated EU contribution per project
Link to the call
Link to the submission
In line with the European Green Deal and in particular with the objectives of the EU biodiversity strategy for 2030 projects’ results will contribute to the following impacts of the destination “biodiversity and ecosystem services”: “Plan, manage and expand protected areas and improve the conservation status of species and habitats based on up-to-date knowledge and solutions”; “to understand and address drivers of biodiversity decline and “mainstream biodiversity, ecosystem services, including through the development of Nature-based Solutions”.
As quoted in a recent paper in Nature Communications, the growing amount of the collected environmental data is not optimally used: “there is a mismatch between the ever-growing volume of raw measures (videos, images, audio-recordings) acquired for ecological studies and our ability to process and analyse this multi-source data to derive conclusive ecological insights rapidly and at scale”. In the European Union, there is already a range of group of experts monitoring species and habitats, including in the view of reporting under the Birds and Habitats directives. However, the generated datasets are not sufficiently accessible (too many small, isolated communities of practice, different servers, different data access methods, different formats, rarely accessible through web-services) and too often not well known or advertised outside of their original circle of experts: the access to the results (consolidated data, statistics, maps) of these field surveys should be significantly concentrated behind single entry points. Also, the access to modern technologies (e.g., image recognition, sound analysis, high-throughput DNA-based techniques, usage of AI, usage of space, etc.) too often represents an important effort for each group of experts, beyond their environmental expertise. As a result, the technological developments remain an important effort for each group, while the solutions should better be provided as a service (to be configured to the need of each group) and mutualised. The natural domain being very large and sometimes difficult to access, the existing databases are still not dense enough, in terms of spatial and temporal coverage: many species and habitats are insufficiently covered (and sometimes not monitored at all), resulting in information gaps. Also, scarce samplings do not allow to distinguish non-presence from a lack of/insufficient/inadequate fields visit. A massive use of automated, and potentially mobile, sensor technologies (such as, but not limited to, images, video, sounds/ultra-sounds recording, spectral signatures, structure description by lidar, environmental DNA sampling, etc.) the use of remote sensing technologies (e.g. to over large areas, monitor environmental condition) and associated with processing algorithms (in particular, but not limited to, deep learning and AI processing algorithms) is therefore needed. The goal of this topic is to facilitate the access to data, encourage the usage of automated/robotic/space data collection systems for data collection, encourage community approaches for the exchange of data and good practices (in particular for data processing).
Proposals should address Area A or Area B as follows. The Area should be clearly indicated on the application.
- Area A: a project focussing on data harvesting through high-throughput methods (as described in the introduction, e.g. environmental DNA, sound/image analysis, lidar, spectrometry, usage of mobile platforms, remote-sensing, etc.), analysis and interoperability solutions, with the goal of concentrating the information in a single access point, and lowering the technical hurdle for the biologist and managers of natural sites, offering the best solutions in a ready-to-use form;
- Area B: a project focussing on new robotic solutions, including mobile, to improve the efficiency of biodiversity related solutions, allowing to improve the performance of the field campaign, with denser information of species and habitats.
Area A: data harvesting, analysis and interoperability solutions
The successful proposal is expected to address the needs in terms of IT solutions, to increase information density, in terms of species and habitats sampled, territory coverage, timeliness, and accuracy.
As a result, much denser data collections should be available through a common data portal. The successful proposal should demonstrate the feasibility to combine different sources of information, for example to assess the conservation status of habitats or species. In that respect, several approaches could be tested, from data combinations defined by expert rules, and data storage formats, to machine learning or data-mining technologies. Such digital solutions could support the definition of conservation measures and management plans, and the monitoring and forecast (though model ingesting in-situ observations) of their progress to their objectives, at site, regional and national levels. Furthermore, the results could be used by member states for their formal monitoring and reporting obligations, or to check and enhance the performance of Nature Based Solutions.
The successful proposal should:
- Ensure interoperability of available data, enabling EU-scale information systems by developing solutions to connect and harvest data from already existing data bases. This will guarantee information fusion and support third party usage of the data.
- Develop cost-effective and easy-to use tools and software to collect and analyse different existing data sources and formats (in vivo data, photographs, sound recordings, lidar, spectrometry, eDNA, satellite images etc.), to facilitate cost-effective data analysis, map and link existing databases and provide algorithms to better analyse them.
- Develop data hosting and data processing solutions to extract information on populations (such as diversity, counts, trends), habitats (such as identification, area covered, and area change in time), assessment of conservation status and trend, information of species and habitats health conditions, degradations, and destructions (natural or human-driven). The accumulation of information should allow synoptic analysis of species and habitats, allowing to detect hot spot of issues and trends. Innovative solutions, such as data mining, remote-sensing and AI approaches need to be considered.
- Develop a solution to host, process, analyse and search available data in relation to protected habitats and species (including protected sites management information, their conservation objectives and measures, and restoration actions).
- Analyse and define infrastructure solutions, that would let biologists and managers of natural sites quickly create a dedicated working framework, furbished with all data harvesting, processing, sharing solutions. In this approach, the future European Green Deal data space should be considered as a potential common solution, or part of the solution.
- Develop tutorials for practitioners, based on academics and industry knowledge, on how to best use existing databases and data harvesting, data analysis and data sharing solutions. The tutorials should help the users to quickly set up and use their working environment.
- Propose easy-to-use solutions to utilise robotic sensors and Internet of Things (IoT): automated sensors, automated sampler, including mobile sensors (terrestrial, aerial and under-water) and animals tagging solutions, data sharing through wireless communication systems, to support a systematic data collection. Such approach should help better mapping the known/unknown and significantly increase the density of collected data, spatially and temporally.
- Analyse the conditions under which data, raw data acquired from sampling, data coming from existing databases and data resulting from processing can be shared. A clear data sharing framework, accommodating special needs, simple to use in practice, supporting open data policies, and enabling the broadest usage whilst encouraging the largest community to contribute, should be defined. Special attention will be paid to endangered species and sensitive species (in the sense of the Birds and Habitats Directives) for which the shared data needs to be controlled, and methods for effective detection of invasive species by high throughput search would be encouraged.
- Enable EU Member States, Associated Countries, and accession countries to coherently set conservation objectives, preparing management plans, manage shared habitat types and species, deal with similar conflicts and socio-economic dimensions, permitting procedures, spatial planning, with a focus on implementing the Birds and Habitats Directives and their Natura 2000 network.
- Fully exploit and build complementarities with the ongoing work regarding the establishment of the European Open Science Cloud and interact with relevant projects developing metadata standards and added value tools to ensure interoperability within and across fields of study.
- Contribute to a web of FAIR data and supporting services that enable an interconnected disciplinary ecosystem that allows stakeholders to share digital objects and build on them in a seamless fashion.
- The architecture for a unified EU web-GIS with all the data collected from the Directives should be considered. In that matter, the proposed system should allow the member states sharing their habitats and species maps, and in particular the habitats maps used to designate their Natura 2000 sites, as well as subsequent updates. Also, the platform should help collecting information to update habitats and species maps, in order to obtain a common knowledge database about habitats and species, and their evolution, in relation to the Birds and Habitats Directives. The platform should as well foster the implementation of open data best practices at European level and across boundaries.
- Automatic translation functions should be offered by the platform to better connect EU Member States, Associated Countries and Accession Countries to support them in the implementation of the legislation on nature protection (such as the Birds and Habitats directives, the Invasive Alien Species regulation or the Marine Strategic Framework Directive).
Proposals should consider the possibilities offered by the future “Green data spaces” (CNECT). The DEP CSAs on the “preparatory actions for the European Green Deal Data Space” (exploring cloud-to-edge solutions, platforms and initiatives for data storage, exchange, and analysis as good practices for setting up the data spaces) are expected for Q4 2022-Q2 2024 and the “data spaces support centre” will start delivering on architectural blueprints in late 2023 and onward.
Proposals should earmark the necessary resources for cooperation and networking activities. Proposals should link to other relevant Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe projects and initiatives, such as BiCIKL, EuropaBON, BioDT and connect to existing European Biodiversity data infrastructures including DiSSCo, eLTER and LifeWatch, where relevant. Proposals should also connect with relevant projects under Horizon Europe topics, such as HORIZON-CL6-2021-BIODIV-01-01: European participation in global biodiversity genomics endeavours aimed at identifying all biodiversity on Earth.”, HORIZON-CL6-2021-BIODIV-01-02: Data and technologies for the inventory, fast identification and monitoring of endangered wildlife and other species groups, HORIZON-CL6-2021-BIODIV-01-07: Ecosystems and their services for an evidence-based policy and decision-making and HORIZON-MISS-2021-OCEAN-02: Protect and restore marine and fresh water ecosystems and biodiversity. Projects using satellite data should link to HORIZON-CL6-2021-GOVERNANCE-01-14: User-oriented solutions building on environmental observation to monitor critical ecosystems and biodiversity loss and vulnerability in the European Union.
The possible participation of the JRC would help ensure that the methodologies proposed can support environmental compliance assurance, particularly by leveraging geospatial intelligence.
Collaboration with the European partnership on biodiversity “Biodiversa +” should be explored, as needed.
Area B: new robotic sensors for biodiversity
To increase the density of species and habitats observations across the EU territory, new robotic, and possible mobile, solutions need to be developed.
The proposed innovative solutions should:
- Be ready to use, easy to deploy and operate in natural environment.
- Consider automated solutions, and mobile platforms (land, air, water and under water) carrying sensors (such as, but not limited to, image, sound, lidar, spectrometry, eDNA, etc.) should be designed with fields campaigns in mind, in particular in terms of autonomy (energy, autonomy of moving and sampling decisions). Improvements in terms of species tagging, and species-carried tracking or telemetry devices should also be considered.
- The project should focus on innovative sensors that would allow significantly increasing knowledge in biodiversity, or bringing new information about the species and habitats conservation status, and increase spatial and temporal coverage, and to facilitate access to environments that are difficult to sample.
- Propose a large degree of data collecting automation and compatibility with the system described in project 1.
- The project should generate at least 1 innovative prototype of robotic/automated sensor and 1 innovative prototype of mobile solution, demonstrating improved performances compared to the currently available solutions.
- The project should analyse the conditions and costs of the production of the robotic system, as well as the conditions and costs of its usage and maintenance.
The project “Natural Intelligence for Robotic Monitoring of Habitat” could provide hints about the usage of mobile robotic sensors.
International cooperation is encouraged.
The projects results are expected to contribute to all of the following expected outcomes:
- A better monitoring (in terms of the number of species and habitats, more exhaustive territory coverage, more frequent in time, more accurate and cost-effective) of biodiversity in the EU by high-throughput methods (for example environmental DNA, sound/image/spectral analysis, lidar, usage of mobile platforms, space technologies, etc.), leading to a better implementation of the nature directives.
- A better understanding of the state of nature and of the drivers of biodiversity loss (linked to direct human activity, to climate change, etc…) and of the state of conservation of nature through a better usage of existing data, and through the bridging of data gaps in order to support the implementation of the EU biodiversity strategy for 2030 and therefore to reverse biodiversity loss and to restore and protect ecosystems.
- A more complete view of the state of nature and its evolution which is needed to support policy implementation and policy making, including the Member States’ reporting obligations, supporting the definition and implementation of prevention and restoration measures and the monitoring of the achievement of their objectives, the extension of protected areas, the monitoring of invasive alien species, and the implementation of Nature based solutions and the assessment of their performance.
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
Activities should reach TRL 6-7 by the end of the project.
The Joint Research Centre (JRC) may participate as member of the consortium selected for funding.
To ensure a balanced portfolio, grants will be awarded to applications not only in order of ranking but at least also to one project within the area A that is the highest ranked, and one project highest ranked within the area B, provided that the applications attain all thresholds. Proposals shall clearly indicate the area they are applying to.
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).
Purchases of equipment, infrastructure or other assets specifically for the action (or developed as part of the action tasks) may be declared as full capitalised costs.
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.