Horizon Europe General Rules

Horizon Europe published some preliminary work programmes, most of them related to COVID. They, like all other future work programmes, can be found on the Funding & Tenders Portal. Furthermore, the first version of general rules “WP13” were published that follow the rules of Horizon 2020 – with some “small print” changes:

Gender Equality takes a specific, important role in Horizon Europe. Public institutions, Higher Education as well as research institutions must show a “gender equality plan” as eligibility criterion. Furthermore, when evaluated proposals have a tied score, they may be prioritized according to H2020 rules: 1. coverage of all (sub)topics, 2. higher score in sub-criteria excellence and impact (impact first for Innovation Actions). But at the third place for prioritization, there is gender equality among the staff of the beneficiaries, as described in the application. This raises some questions to the author: Does it mean real and true gender equality (50:50) that would propel a tied scored proposal higher, or should it be read as “gender bias”: the more women, the better? And what about the not yet documented cases of transgender staff? As often, such well meant rules raise a lot more questions than they solve…

Another new issue refers to the redress procedure, if an applicant is unhappy with the evaluation of the proposal: “Only the procedural aspects of an evaluation may be the subject of a request for an evaluation review. The evaluation of the merits of a proposal will not be the subject of an evaluation review”. So, no more fear that a wrong formulation of the Evaluation Summary Report (ESR) can lead to unwelcome complaints.

The first version of the Model Grant Agreement shows also an interesting new aspect: The financing institution (in most cases, probably the European Commission) can carry out an “impact evaluation” during but also after the project, depending on the Grant Agreement, to check how far impact promises were implemented in reality.

Last but not least: Application forms (Part B) are limited to 45 pages, 30 pages for CSAs. Only the new “Programme Co-fund action” is allowed 70 pages. So train yourself in clear & concise drafting before the first Calls are published!

EIC Work Programme available

As one of the first Horizon Europe programmes, the EIC – European Innovation Council’s Work Programme is now available. The European Innovation Council (EIC) is a key novelty of Horizon Europe and represents the most ambitious innovation initiative that Europe has taken, with a budget of €10 billion for the period 2021-2027. The EIC has a mission to identify, develop and scale-up breakthrough technologies and disruptive innovations. It will support startups, SMEs and research teams developing high-risk, high-impact breakthrough innovation, with a particular focus on scaling up game-changing solutions that contribute to the objectives of the European Green Deal and the Recovery Plan for Europe.

The tripartite programme – EIC pathfinder, EIC transition and EIC accelerator – has open calls and challenge-driven calls. “Pathfinder” is geared mainly at consortia in R&D&I, covering TRL 1-4 with 3-4 MEUR single project budget financed at 100%. The transition type of project is geared at single applicants or small (2) consortia, with a budget of 2.5 MEUR and dealing with TRL 4-5/6. Finally, “Accelerator” projects are market near (TRL 5/6 – 8), for single start-ups, SMEs or individuals that plan to create a start-up, with blended financing. Focus is on Green Deal, medical innovations, all with a gender balance in mind.

Horizon Europe et al.

On 29 September, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, twitted happily that “habemos consensus”: The Council agreed on the Horizon Europe Regulation text and budget.

It increased the overall budget in comparison to its July suggestion. In current prices, it is €90.9 billion, of which €85.5 billion will come from the 2021 – 2027 long term budget. The rest is from the new pandemic recovery fund, a temporary scheme running from 2021 – 2024 to fund top-down projects that tackle the pandemic and the economic crisis.

One issue is worth noting: While all parts of Horizon Europe were cut, one sub-programme enjoyed an increase of 200MEUR: The Marie Curie action. One argument in favour of the increase seems rather precarious in times of COVID: “With the additional budget, MSCA could fund more than 1,000 stays abroad for EU researchers”. But this is not all. The suggestion to finance these 200 MEUR in taking bits and pieces from all other sub-programmes, an option Commissioner for research, Mariya Gabriel would have favoured, ministers decided to take it from the – new – EIC, the European Innovation Council. So much for fostering innovation…

But it’s not all done yet. The European Parliament, insatiable when it concerns budget distribution, will still have a word to say. Main Committee is ITRE, the Parliamentary Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. It is also in charge of all other programmes, with some other associated Committees. Our MEPs will have to work hard to finish all before the end of the year so that they can start in time on 1 January 2021.

Here are two other funding programmes relevant for the digital economy that will have to pass through the European Parliament before the end of the year:

Digital Europe, that will deal with the EU’s  Digital Agenda, comprising topics like: Supercomputing, Artificial Intelligence, cyber security, digital skills and the digital transformation in the public sector.

CEF2 – the successor of the Connecting Europe Facility, the large infrastructure programme with a special “digital envelope”. The new proposal foresees funding percentages between 30% (“works”) to 50% (“studies”) which makes it not realistic for the private sector, in particular SMEs.

The Crown – Corona – Jewels

Corona is everywhere. What was once commonly known as drunk from the bottle with a wedge of lemon (i.e. the Mexican beer) mutated to a household name filled with horror. News – fake, real, it does not matter – do not help as the only fact is “scio nescire”, in other words, we know that we know nothing (or at least nothing 100% concrete) about the virus. To change this, the EU allocated research funds with the focus on COVID-19: To help reach the objectives of the Coronavirus Global Response, €1 billion will be mobilised under the EU’s flagship programme for research and innovation, Horizon 2020. The website “Coronavirus research & innovation” provides in depth information on the activities.

Already in January, the European Commission launched an emergency call for proposal to combat the virus. 18 projects have been selected, in four main areas: Preparedness & Response, Diagnostics, Treatment, Vaccines. Let’s hope that they contain the “crown jewels” that will eventually produce effective weapons against the virus.

 

2020 – the Year of Platformization?

Since Amazon showed us, the Europeans, what a platform means, platforms are springing up like mushrooms after rain. Latest hype are platforms that offer SaaA (Software-as-a-Service) accessible through APIs (application Programming Interfaces). Developers become sellers and users alike, users can plug in and all pay a small fee for transactions (that is the principle in a nutshell). It looks like an overall democratization of software, for the benefits of SMEs (who have easier access to technology, no need for extra hardware and affordable or OS software). While platforms developed by companies (that know their customers + developers) are pretty much targeted (e.g. SDL Github ), the European Commission within its Horizon 2020 programme had an ambition to create some “one-stop-shop” platforms covering different technologies.  But do they really work? It is too early to judge their practical value, but money available for sub-projects make them potentially interesting for SMEs and start-ups:

XR4ALL logo
By 2020, in Europe, the total production value of the XR (virtual/augmented/extended reality) industry should reach €15-34 billion, and the number of direct and indirect jobs 225,000-480,000. However, the European XR scene is relatively less known, quite fragmented, and faced with strong outside competition, especially from Asia and the USA. Therefore, this initiative may be crucial. Calls for sub-projects have two more cut-off dates: 30 April 2020 and 31 July 2020.

ELG logo

ELG will be offering powerful multilingual, cross-lingual and monolingual technologies, thus contributing to the emergence of a truly connected, language-crossing Multilingual Digital Single Market. The first call for sub-projects in the area of language technologies will be published in March 2020.

AI4EU logo

The “first European Artificial Intelligence On-Demand Platform and Ecosystem” is not yet very far. But like all others, it promotes collaboration and community building through open calls for sub-projects: Prototype projects: a Call will be published in Q1 2020, for researchers and entrepreneurs, up to 30.000 EUR. Tech transfer programme for scale-ups: Call will be published  Q3 2020; up to EUR 180.000

EU Funding Opportunities & Stakeholder Consultation

IMG_8382

Horizon 2020 is in its final stage – but there is still sufficient budget to give it a try. All calls are available at “Funding & Tenders” website of the EC. Deadlines for most open ICT calls are either 16 January 2020 or 22 April 2020.

Augmented/Virtual reality Call for mini-projects:
The XR4ALL  project launched its call for mini-projects in the area of interactive technologies, i.e. AR/VR. There are 4 cut-off dates, the first on 31/10/2019
More info: XR4ALL Call page

Digital Europe, the upcoming programme that focuses on building the strategic digital capacities of the EU and on facilitating the wide deployment of digital technologies, to be used by Europe’s citizens and businesses, opened a stakeholders consultation online. If you wish to shape the programme, participate in the consultation until 25 October 2019!

News, Disinformation & Language Intelligence

How Language Intelligence Helps Combat Disinformation and Supports Reliable News Journalism

Language in its written, spoken and visual form is the key medium of news content. The tools and technologies that have been developed to create and manage this content can therefore be called collectively “language intelligence (LI)”, a term that may be applied in a more general context and which is not confined to the media alone. The application of LI provides a critical mechanism across the digital world, where speed, data
volume, trust, cost and quality of knowledge all need to be carefully handled and balanced to deliver reliable products to networked customers on a global scale.

This report (“Orientation Paper”) attempts to characterize the various roles that language intelligence plays in the News value chain by asking the following three questions and providing answers to them:

•    Are there reliable automatic decision procedures for identifying the truth/falsity of news and similar content in general or in specific cases? Problem solution technologies.
•    Which available LI technologies can help news producers most to accelerate processes while lowering risk and complexity? Technologies along the News value chain.
•    What kinds of language solutions are needed and likely to emerge? The way forward.

At a workshop on 29-30 November 2018 in Vienna, Austria, co-organised by LT-Innovate, EUROSINT and SAIL LABS, various use cases that addressed the fake news problem were presented, and discussions into how Language Intelligence can extend its applicability within the news and intelligence industries in their effort to track down fake information were held.

This report is the result of the workshop, with contributions from all speakers and co-organisers. Editors-in-chief: Andrew Joscelyne, LT-Innovate; Margaretha Mazura, EMFS. Supported by the Vienna Business Agency.

Interested to join the debate? Come to the 8th LT Industry Summit  in Brussels, 24/25 June 2019, and discuss the topic in our session on: “Language Intelligence: Informing and re-tooling the media”. For more information, contact us!

DOWNLOAD THE REPORT

The Sound of Intelligence

This year’s Language Technology Summit, the 8th since 2012, is all about intelligence: human, artificial, language, and augmented (my preferred way of spelling AI).  In two days, the programme features the best of language technology (with the LTI awards at the end), vertical sectors (automotive, banking), looks into other interactive technologies like AR/VR – augmented and virtual reality, and showcases latest language intelligence developments for business needs.

The Summit is Europe’s major event showcasing the latest developments in multilingual ambient intelligence: speech interaction, deep meaning processing and multilingual communication & cognition. It is the ideal meeting point between technology providers, users & integrators, business leaders, leading-edge developers & researchers, investors & analysts. It is a unique place to learn, exchange, network, forge new partnerships, find new clients and get tuned to the multilingual intelligent future.

Join us on 24/25 June 2019 in Brussels !
Check out the programme & speakers: LT Industry Summit
Registration
Any Questions? Contact us!

Paradise Lost – the proposed EU Copyright Directive

Once upon a time, when we were dreaming of frontier-less information sources, we suddenly saw our dreams come true: The Internet emerged and with it, virtually border-less opportunities. It was paradise for creative souls but those who know their bible must have known: it will not last long.

The latest of proposed restrictions deals with the hotly contested Copyright Directive, or more precise, Art. 11 and 13 thereof. Art. 11 limits references to published news articles to single words or very short extractsotherwise a license will be required. First of all, it is not at all clear how short “very short extracts” are. Interpretation of these three words may vary considerably. But what is more, there may be a danger that “snippet” services as run by many associations as a service to their members (by their nature often not-for-profit) will have to be discontinued: It is impossible to get licenses (paying or not) from all news services that one may or may not refer to.

 Art. 13, though, is worse. Because it is definitely a restriction of free expression. It declares that commercial sites and apps where users can post material must make “best efforts” to pre-emptively buy licenses for anything that users may possibly upload – that is: all copyrighted content in the world.[Source: Blog of Julia Reda, MEP that is a MUST to read and to act upon!]

Example: You see the picture that I used for this blog entry. Who knows whether I am the copyright holder? Worse: How can I prove that I am the copyright holder? Even worse: Who cares for me, tiny little star in the Internet universe, to ask me for a license?

Consequence: There is a high potential that my uploads are blocked by a filter, just in case…much better to have problems with me (if I complain at all) than with the regulatory authority! [To reassure the reader: I am the copyright owner of both, object and photo, and the original artist is more than 70 years dead].

Therefore: Set a sign, join the 4+ million signatures and contact your MEP. Because it is not too late! All MEPs have to vote in the plenary (March or April, BEFORE elections). Maybe they get it right, eventually.