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Call: Trustworthy open search and discovery

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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
Trustworthy open search and discovery
Description of call
"Trustworthy open search and discovery"

Expected Outcome:

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

  • Empowered citizens and companies able to search and discover information, data, smart objects, resources and people online, with increased security, accuracy, diversity and transparency in search results while preserving the privacy of the end-users.
  • Increased European competitiveness and sovereignty in future search and discovery systems with a strong focus on serving end-users’ needs (including privacy), providing trustworthy and pluralistic recommendations and increasing public trust in search results.
  • A European ecosystem of top internet and social media innovators, with the capacity to set the course of the Internet evolution and the search ecosystem according to a human-centric approach.
  • New business and sustainability models based on improved access to online data, smart objects and resources and on open source.

Scope:

The objective of this topic is to develop technologies and solutions enabling new and trustworthy ways of searching and discovering information on the internet across a variety of resources such as personal, scientific, industrial and environmental data, connected devices and smart objects, services, multimedia content, intranets and other IT resources, both public and private. It is also to empower end-users, including through agents acting on their behalf, to share and discover more data and reliable information sources, while preserving their privacy and increasing public trust in search results.

Proposals should focus on advancing the state-of-the-art in one of the two research areas below:

  1. Advanced methods of search and discovery such as voice-based search or cognitive search combining technologies for natural language processing, semantic analysis, AI-based taxonomies, network analysis, social computing and data visualisation, enabling new ways of discovering and accessing information, in an energy-efficient way.
    Proposals under this research area will support third party projects from outstanding open source innovators, academic research groups, high-tech startups, SMEs, social innovators, and other multidisciplinary actors, so that multiple actors are funded and collectively contribute to building a more open, trustworthy and user-centric search and discovery ecosystem. As the primary purpose of this research area is to support and mobilise internet and social media innovators, a minimum of 80% of the total requested EU contribution should be allocated to financial support to third parties, selected through open calls. Beneficiaries should make explicit the intervention logic for the area, their capacity to attract internet talents, to deliver value-added services to the third-party projects, as well as their expertise and capacity in managing the full life-cycle of the open calls transparently and efficiently (a minimum of five open calls during the lifetime of the project). They should explore synergies with other research and innovation actions, supported at regional, national or European level, to increase the overall impact.
  2. Improving search and discovery infrastructures, with a view to increasing European sovereignty in future search, discovery and recommendation systems. Projects could notably design and pilot distributed search infrastructures, with a strong focus on sustainability, security, reliability, interoperability and trust.
    Proposals under this research area will incorporate third party contributions from outstanding open source innovators, academic research groups, high-tech startups, SMEs, and other multidisciplinary actors. A minimum of 15% of the total requested EU contribution should be allocated to financial support to third parties, selected through open calls.

Proposals should clearly identify the research area they are addressing.

The projects should support open source software and open hardware design, open access to data, standardisation activities, as well as an IPR regime ensuring lasting impact and reusability of results. The focus of this topic is on advanced research; apps and services that innovate without a research component are not covered by this topic. A scientific understanding of collective intelligence methodologies will be important to innovate beyond the current state of the art in search and recommendation systems and contribute to a better governance of social networks.

This topic contributes to the Media Action Plan (MAP), which aims to support the digital transformation of, and collaboration within, the social media industry.

Financial support to third parties

The consortium should provide the programme logic for the third-party projects, ensure the coherence and coordination of these projects, and provide the necessary technical support, as well as coaching and mentoring, in order to ensure that the collection of third party projects contributes to a significant advancement and impact in the research and innovation domain, including in terms of standardisation. These tasks cannot be implemented using the budget earmarked for the financial support to third parties.

The Commission considers that proposals with an overall duration of typically 36 months would allow these outcomes to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other durations. For ensuring focused effort, third parties will be funded through projects typically in the EUR 50 000 to 150 000 range per project, with indicative duration of 9 to 12 months.

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, Consumer Protection, Disaster Prevention, Resiliance, Risk Management, Health, Social Affairs, Sports, Equal Rights, Human Rights, People with Disabilities, Social Inclusion
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 around EUR 8.50 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 17.00 million.
Typ of ActionResearch and Innovation Actions (RIA)
Funding rate100%

Beneficiaries may provide financial support to third parties. The support to third parties can only be provided in the form of grants. As the main objective of the action is to support large number of third parties through open calls, the maximum amount to be granted to each third party is EUR 500 000 to allow cases were a given legal entity (e.g. large research, academic or industrial organisations) may receive several grants (e.g. from different calls).

To ensure a balanced portfolio covering a broad range of research areas and approaches, grants will be awarded to applications not only in order of ranking but at least also to the highest ranking proposal in the first research area, addressing advanced methods of search, and to the highest ranking proposal in the second research area, addressing search infrastructures, provided that the applications attain all thresholds.

Submission Proposals must be submitted electronically via the Funding & Tenders Portal Electronic Submission System. Paper submissions are NOTpossible.

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