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Call: AI to fight disinformation

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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
AI to fight disinformation
Description of call
"AI to fight disinformation"

Expected Outcome:

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

  • Advanced AI solutions against advanced disinformation techniques for media professionals.
  • Advanced AI solutions against disinformation for citizens.

Scope:

The Media Action Plan is developed around three areas: recovery, transformation, and enabling and empowerment. Research and innovation is key to the area of the transformation. Innovative digital solutions play an important role in ensuring a pluralistic access to trustworthy and meaningful information and quality content.

The consumption of news media has substantially increased during the COVID19 crisis, with people seeking out relevant and factual information in a time of uncertainty. Unfortunately, online services have also been used by malicious actors to spread dangerous disinformation campaigns, with sometimes fatal consequences. Similarly the need for reliable and consistent social media interactions as well as for access to audiovisual content, gaming and other interactive activities has increased during COVID-19.

Notably, media and digital literacy is one of the key pillars in fight against disinformation, as also identified e.g. in the Communication: “Tackling disinformation - the European Approach”. With the modern social media being more and more AI based, and contemporary disinformation mechanisms increasingly sophisticated, advanced means are required to ensure a trustworthy environment. AI technologies applied to tools and services tailored to the media ecosystem will help the access to and creation and distribution of trustworthy information and facilitate countering sophisticated manifestations of disinformation.

The outcomes from this topic will offer exploitation and take-up opportunities for the Digital Europe and Creative Europe Programmes.

Research and innovation proposals are expected to respond to one of the following:

  1. Advanced AI based solutions for securing a trustworthy online environment. Disinformation techniques are already today strongly AI based. Therefore, scientific researchers and media practitioners need to be equipped with quantitative and semi-supervised tools based on AI, and network science driven tools of least same level of sophistication, capable of detecting different forms of deep-fakes and tampered content and to understand how and where such type of content spreads online. The development of such tools require the involvement of a scientific community at the intersection between AI and computer science, mathematics, social network sciences, social sciences and other relevant scientific fields, closely collaborating with journalists and media practitioners, and equipped with the necessary computing power to analyse rich content (e.g. videos and images) and to automate the management, processing and analysis of the flow of information within online systems.
  2. Advanced AI based solutions targeted to citizens for securing a trustworthy online environment. The solutions should foster citizens’ ability to identify, verify and combat disinformation through AI innovation. Solutions provided would include the analysis and tracing of various forms of content, correlation/comparison of various sources of information, exploitation of contextual information. Efficient and intuitive mechanisms to convey the information regarding quality/veracity of information should be addressed, as appropriate. Transparency and human oversight would be key, with a view of empowering citizens.

Proposals should include, as appropriate, the development of tools and processes for design, testing and validation, deployment and uptake, auditing, certification (where appropriate), software engineering methodologies, as well as approaches to modularity and interoperability. Relevance to real-world applications should be demonstrated. Various approaches to AI for detection, elaboration of confidence levels, contradiction trade-offs, pattern identification in a field of heterogeneous sources and media formats, and also for decision support need to be considered. Involvement of multidisciplinary teams and transdisciplinary research will be essential. The consortia are strongly encouraged to team up with European companies, which are part of the media ecosystem, including SMEs, and also with non-media industrial and technological expertise.

Proposals should clearly identify the expected outcome it will focus on (i.e. targeting media professionals or citizens).

Proposals should also coordinate and ensure complementarity with the ongoing media and social media R&I, related to projects in the field (e.g. AI4Media, Fandango) and take into consideration the expectations of the Media Action Plan and the European Democracy Action Plan, and collaborate with the European Digital Media Observatory. The media data space (developed under Digital Europe) infrastructures and communities might provide an opportunity to pilot new tools produced by the selected proposals. Proposals should foresee activities to collaborate with projects stemming from the topics HORIZON-CL3-2021-FCT-01-03: Disinformation and fake news are combated and trust in the digital world is raised.

All proposals are expected to embed mechanisms to assess and demonstrate progress (with qualitative and quantitative KPIs, demonstrators, benchmarking and progress monitoring), and share communicable results with the European R&D community, through the AI-on-demand platform, a public community resource, to maximise re-use of results and efficiency of funding.

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

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, Consumer Protection, Art & Culture, Cultural Heritage, History, Media
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, Federal State / Region / City / Municipality / Local Authority, Lobby Group / Professional Association / Trade Union, National Government
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.
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 6.50 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 13.00 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.
To ensure a balanced portfolio covering different types of advanced AI solutions against disinformation, grants will be awarded not only in order of ranking but at least also to the highest ranked proposal addressing each of the two expected outcomes (1. Advanced AI solutions against advanced disinformation techniques for media professionals, and 2. Advanced AI solutions against disinformation for citizens), 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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