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Call: Tackling gender, race and other biases in AI

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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
Tackling gender, race and other biases in AI
Description of call
"Tackling gender, race and other biases in AI"

Expected Outcome:

Proposal results are expected to contribute to the following expected outcomes:

  • Increased availability and deployment of unbiased and bias-preventing AI solutions across a wide range of industrial and digital sectors
  • AI-based solutions for enhancing digital equality and social inclusion for women and girls, and other groups at risk of discrimination, such as ethnic minorities and the LGBTIQ community
  • Increased involvement of underrepresented persons in the design, development, training and deployment of AI.
  • Increased awareness, knowledge and skills about trustworthy, bias-free and socially responsible AI in the tech industry and scientific community

Scope:

Research demonstrates how bias exacerbates existing inequalities and reinforces gender, racial and other stereotypes in, for instance, the labour market, education, online advertising systems, social media, taxation and the justice system.

Bias in AI can occur in three dimensions: training data, bias in algorithms, and bias in the interpretation of the results. This topic investigates preventing and mitigating bias in AI, focusing on (1) recommender and personalisation systems, (2) algorithmic decision-making, and (3) surveillance software, including facial recognition. Proposals may focus on more than one of these AI-based systems and should clearly identify the expected use-case/s in society.

Testing and assessment of AI systems with real-life data is needed to detect and reduce bias and improve accuracy, in line with the General Data Protection regulation. Assessing the fairness and social benefit of AI-based systems and gaining more scientific understanding about their transparency and interpretation will be necessary to improve existing methods, and develop new ones in employment, advertising, access to health care, fraud detection, combatting online hate speech, and in general addressing bias affecting people’s ability to participate in the economy and society. This becomes particularly relevant in light of the pandemic and ongoing social justice movements, such as #MeToo and Black Lives Matter.

In line with the European Commission’ priority to strive for a ‘Union of Equality’, the European Pillar of Social Rights, the Gender Equality Strategy 2020 – 2025, the EU Anti-racism Action Plan 2020-2025, and the LGBTIQ Equality Strategy 2020-2025, proposals are expected to:

  • Develop technologies and algorithms to evaluate and address bias in AI-based systems. These underlying methods will help addressing gender, racial, age bias, as well as bias against persons with disabilities, people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, and the LGBTIQ community in AI-based systems, and support the deployment of such bias-free AI-based solutions.
  • Develop standardized processes to assess and quantify the trustworthiness of the developed AI systems, in particular assessment of bias, diversity, non-discrimination and intersectionality – based on different types of bias measures. This might include a methodology for considering diversity and representativeness of data, ensuring the reliability, traceability, and explainability of the AI systems, testing models on various subgroups and enabling appropriate stakeholder participation. It could also include mechanisms to flag and remove risks of biases and discrimination.
  • Develop recommender and algorithmic decision-making systems which reduce bias in the selected use-case
  • Conduct trainings and awareness raising on preventing gender and intersectional bias for AI researchers, students and practitioners in line with the Digital Education Action Plan 2021 – 2027. Trainings should also target practitioners of AI as a whole to avoid that the topic be limited to those with an already existing interest in socially responsible AI. These activities should be carried out in cooperation with the Public-Private Partnership on AI, Data and Robotics and other relevant initiative and projects (such as the AI-on-demand platform).
  • Cooperate with the Public-Private Partnership on AI, Data and Robotics and other relevant partnerships across a wide range of industrial and digital sectors, including representatives of international digital professional associations (e.g. IEEE), computing industry, hi-tech start-ups / SMEs etc. to further promote the use and uptake of the developed tools.

Proposals should focus on the development of tools and processes for design, testing and validation, including software engineering methodologies. The proposed approaches should also build tools to support deployment and uptake, auditing, certification (where appropriate). The inclusion of underrepresented and marginalised groups in the design development, and training of the AI systems, and a transdisciplinary approach, involving multidisciplinary and intersectorial partners in the consortium will be essential.

All proposals are expected to embed mechanisms to assess and demonstrate progress towards their objectives of meeting the key requirements for removing bias (with qualitative and quantitative KPIs, demonstrators, benchmarking and progress monitoring), and share results with the European R&D community, through the AI-on-demand platform, as well as the GEAR tool to maximise re-use of results and efficiency of funding. It is essential to ensure that the publicly available results from relevant EU funded research projects (e.g. SHERPA, SIENNA, Panelfit, TechEthos) are taken into account.

Activities are expected to achieve at least TRL5-6 by the end of the project

The consortia should exchange information and build synergies with the relevant projects funded under Horizon Europe, Work programme 2021-202 WIDENING PARTICIPATION AND STRENGTHENING THE EUROPEAN RESEARCH AREA.

All proposals are expected to allocate tasks to cohesion activities with the PPP on AI, Data and Robotics and funded actions related to this partnership, including the CSA HORIZON-CL4-2021-HUMAN-01-02.

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, Health, Social Affairs, Sports, Equal Rights, Human Rights, People with Disabilities, Social Inclusion, Community Integration, European Citizenship, Shared Services
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.
Call opens 22.06.2021
Call closes 21.10.2021
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 3.00 and 3.50 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 10.00 million.
Typ of ActionResearch and Innovation Actions (RIA)
Funding rate100%

Activities are expected to start at TRL 3-4 and achieve TRL 5-6 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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