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Topic outline

  • Brief information on the Funding Opportunity

    Program: Horizon Europe Framework Programme (HORIZON)  |  Call ID: HORIZON-CL4-2023-HUMAN-01-CNECT
    Geographical coverage: EU

    Available contribution M€: The Commission considers that proposals requesting a typical contribution from the EU up to EUR 4 million would allow this specific area to be addressed appropriate.

    Budget M€: 4 M€

    Deadlines: 29 March 2023 17:00:00 Brussels time

    Type of Action: HORIZON-CSA HORIZON Coordination and Support Actions

    Type of MGA: HORIZON Action Grant Budget-Based [HORIZON-AG]

    For more information on meanings of TRL, Type of Project and General Rules, please refer to the General Annexes of the Work Programme:  Link to the General Annexes of the Work Programme

  • Partners Profiles

  • Partner Search

  • Expected Outcomes

    Projects are expected to contribute to the following outcomes:

    • Demonstrate and reinforce Europe’s research excellence in AI by driving substantial scientific progress in the following major scientific & technological AI areas: optimisation, explainability, robustness, natural language understanding and interaction, and collaborative intelligence
    • Develop prestigious AI open innovation challenges that will mobilise wide participation of top scientists from academia, industry including start-ups and as well as young teams and rising stars from all over EU and Associated countries.
    • Substantially increase interest from industry in AI (incl. SMEs and start-ups), in particular from key socio-economic sectors for Europe. Therefore contributing to uptake of research results by industry

  • Scope

    AI is a general-purpose technology that is expected to substantially contribute to all sectors and applications. AI technologies have demonstrated great value and potential in areas as diverse as healthcare, supply chain logistics, space-based imagery analysis, cybersecurity. However, there are challenges that AI technologies are facing. When it comes to deployment of AI technologies, reliable performance is required. Despite its huge potential and its ability to cut down on tasks and costs, AI faces trust issues with humans. At the same time, the failure modes of AI technologies are poorly understood.

    Open innovation challenges can foster broad and robust progress on generic AI research challenges. The resulting scientific progress resulting such challenges will contribute to the robustness of AI systems in general, enabling a multitude of different applications across many sectors.

    Proposals are expected to organize open innovation challenges aiming to bring the best research teams across variety of public and private organisations that try to tackle and crack major S&T challenges in AI by benchmarking different solutions. The open innovation challenges will be bootstrapped by engaging EU funded projects to participate. Newcomers, rising stars and the wider AI community should be able to join the challenges, giving them the opportunity to benchmark against prestigious teams. The best performing team(s) should be awarded with either with monitory prizes[1], which industry can co-sponsor, and/or non-monetary prizes, e.g. co-authorship of a paper in a prestigious scientific journal, internship in prestigious labs or companies.

    [1] Large industry as well as project beneficiaries from CL4-2023-HUMAN-01-01, CL4-2024-HUMAN-01-01, CL4-2024-HUMAN-01-02 and CL4-2024-HUMAN-01-03 will not be eligible for monetary prizes

  • Proposals should address the delivery of open innovation challenges with the aim to

    • Attract outstanding talent and the best research teams to tackle key scientific and technological AI challenges, of relevance to industry.
    • Drive substantial and broad scientific progress in key AI areas with the aim to reinforce the research excellence in Europe.
    • Prepare at least three open innovation challenges addressing challenges in collaboration with the projects funded under the following topics: CL4-2023-HUMAN-01-01, CL4-2023-HUMAN-01-3, CL4-2024-HUMAN-01-01 and CL4-2024-HUMAN-01-02 focusing on optimisation, explainability, robustness, natural language understanding and interaction, and collaborative intelligence[2] respectively. The projects funded through these calls should participate in the respective open innovation challenges, and can receive rewards, but will not be eligible to receive prize money as they are already funded.
    • Enable strong cooperation and co-creation between academia and industry and establish a continuous interaction
    • Attract industry and business interest in demonstrating advanced performances meeting the needs of user industry, in view of fostering deployment and business opportunities in Europe.
    • Define a process that fosters the uptake of developed algorithms/solutions across Europe

    [2] This concerns topics CL4-2023-HUMAN-01-01, CL4-2024-HUMAN-01-01, CL4-2024-HUMAN-01-02 and CL4-2024-HUMAN-01-03

  • Proposals are expected to

    • Provide a sound methodology for the design of AI challenges as open innovation challenges and/or benchmarks, including the definition of challenges to be addressed[3], representative of common needs for a vast adoption in a broad set of industrial and public sectors[4]; as well as the definition of evaluation method and criteria. This involves mobilisation of prestigious scientists and industries (incl. start-ups and SMEs) to select the data/problems that will drive substantial scientific progress and be help reinforcing the reputation of Europe, contributing to build the European AI lighthouse. This task will involve financial support to parties, in line with the conditions set out in part K of the General Annexes..
    • Provide a convincing approach to attract the best[4] teams from academia and industry, incl. start-ups and SMEs, students, rising stars and newcomers, to participate in the open innovation challenges and benchmark their different solutions to tackle the AI challenges.
    • Address all aspects of running open innovation challenges and best exploit them to maximise the visibility of AI to the wider audience.
    • Mobilise external partners (incl. from industry) in sponsoring and setting up the open innovation challenges and engage sponsors to contribute/offer money prizes or other attractive rewards to the top performing teams (e.g. co-authorship of papers in prestigious journals, internships in prestigious labs or companies etc.). Reward and competition schemes should provide equal access for everyone to participate and encourage diversity among the participating teams.
    • Collaborate with the AI on Demand Platform, the AI, Data and Robotics Partnership, the Networks of AI excellence centres[6], projects funded under CL4-2023-HUMAN-01-01, CL4-2023-HUMAN-01-03, CL4-2024-HUMAN-01-01 and CL4-2024-HUMAN-01-02, as well as other relevant initiatives.

    All proposals are expected to embed mechanisms to assess and demonstrate progress (with qualitative and quantitative KPIs, benchmarking and progress monitoring), and share results with the European R&D community, through the AI-on-demand platform, public community resources, to maximise re-use of results, either by developers, or for uptake, and optimise efficiency of funding; enhancing the European AI, Data and Robotics ecosystem through the sharing of results and best practice.

    Furthermore it is expected that the participating teams will make their algorithms and methods available and re-usable (e.g. through the AI on Demand Platform) to ensure scientific and technological progress.

    Financial support to third parties: A minimum of 50% of the EU funding requested by the proposal should be allocated to the purpose of financial support to third parties.

    [3] Proposals should also allow citizens to contribute to the definition of challenges

    [4] Encouraging and promoting diversity among AI researchers incl. gender and race, socio-cultural background, etc.

    [5] Encouraging and promoting diversity among AI researchers incl. gender and race, socio-cultural background, etc.

    [6] Projects funded under the following calls/topics: H2020-ICT48, HORIZON-CL4-2021-HUMAN-01-03HORIZON-CL4-2022-HUMAN-02-02)

  • Specific Topic Conditions

    Activities covered under FSTP are expected to start at TRL 2-3 and achieve TRL 4-5 by the end of the project – see General Annex B.
  • Destination

    A human-centred and ethical development of digital and industrial technologies (2023/24)

    This destination will directly support the following Key Strategic Orientations (KSOs), 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.

    The priorities in this domain are aligned with the objectives of the Digital Decade to build secure and sustainable digital infrastructures and to support the digital transformation of businesses and public services. It will directly support individual innovators (researchers, developers, high-tech SMEs and start-ups, etc.) engaged in developing the technologies for a trustworthy and human-centric digital environment, building on a more resilient, and decentralised internet architecture and enabling new social and business models respecting European values.

    In particular, the Digital Decade and its compass set a target 80% of citizens using a digital ID solution by 2030. In order to achieve this target, Europe needs to build an Internet of Trust empowering end-users with more control over their data and their digital identity. The Internet of Trust will also mobilise innovators towards more sustainable and secure internet infrastructures, supporting the Digital Decade objective of setting up 10000 climate neutral highly secured edge nodes. Finally the R&I priorities in this domain will fully support the international dimension of the digital decade by promoting the EU human-centred approach with key international partners.

    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, creating opportunities for inclusive technological and social development, but also carrying the risk of increased inequalities. 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. All communities have the right to benefit from these new digital and green developments, leading to a more inclusive society, increased trust and a better adoption of new products and services. 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 all 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.

    • Digital Humanism and human compatible technologies

    The Digital Decade policy programme (“The Path to the Digital Decade”), sets a European approach for its digital transformation based on values and technological leadership.

    In parallel, there is still a lack of systematic approaches to ensure a constructive role of culture in technology development in the spirit of methods to integrate non-technology innovation and social innovation.

    Efforts will be pursued to help ensuring people are at the centre of the digital transformation, in line with our values and principles.

    • European standards for industrial competitiveness

    The Communication ‘Updating the 2020 Industrial strategy: towards a stronger Single Market for Europe’s recovery’ made clear that global leadership in technologies goes hand-in-hand with leadership in standard-setting and ensuring interoperability across the EU industrial ecosystems. EU industry needs European and international standards that underpin its twin digital and green transition. A minimal set of standards will also enable the creation of a soft layer for data sharing and exchange amongst EU industrial ecosystems and underpinning data spaces. Establishing global leadership in key priority standards such as cyber-security is also a critical matter for the competitiveness and resilience of EU industries. Global convergence on the same international standards helps reduce adaptation costs and strengthens EU and global value chains. Thus the topic of standards is an essential cross-cutting issue when it comes to the twin transition of the industrial ecosystems and making European industry more resilient.

    Several digital decade targets for 2030 are addressed like tech up-take facilitated by interoperability standards, climate neutral highly secure edge notes and ethical principles for human-centred algorithms through international endorsed standards.

    Standardisation can be an important factor for valorising EU R&I projects, allowing new technologies to enter into a more mature phase, favouring their applicability on a larger scale and hence promoting their uptake.

    Bringing the research and innovation community early on into the standards-making process is key to identify the issues and priorities, share views on future developments and stakeholder needs, and to provide recommendations to the European Commission and European standardisation organisations for future standardisation needs. Putting standards into science is very important to anticipate and prepare the standards-development process in future areas.

    • International cooperation

    The proposed international coordination and support actions are aligned with the Commission’s international priorities. They will help build strong international digital partnerships, and promote a human-centred digital agenda. International cooperation will further a level playing field and reciprocity while delivering new solutions to digital challenges. The proposed actions will be involved in trade and industrial policy aspects by promoting European technologies in key international markets. They will also support digital dialogues with partner countries.

    Cooperation will be prioritised with Japan, the Republic of Korea, and Singapore as part of our digital partnerships with countries in the Indo-Pacific region. The resulting project will foster links with relevant research institutions on R&I activities in the field of digital. It will also support the newly announced Trade and Technology Council with India.

    Cooperation with countries in sub-Saharan Africa will stimulate R&I cooperation with the EU and promote EU values for a human-centric digital transformation. Cooperation between Africa and EU will expand on the existing outcomes of Africa-EU cooperation especially in the field of Innovation Hubs cooperation[[See in particular ICT 58 Call :]], sustainability of African digital ecosystems, reinforcement of the African private sector and contribution to Africa’s economic growth (including SDG attainment). It will also contribute to the overarching objectives of our continental partnership in full alignment with the principles of the Global Gateway.

    Cooperation with Latin America will aim at exploiting the potential of the newly established BELLA network and implement the outcomes of EU-LAC dialogues in the context of digitalisation and R&I.

    Additionally, international collaboration is encouraged or targeted in several thematic areas may also be addressed within the respective Joint Undertakings (Smart Networks and Services, EuroHPC, and Key Digital Technologies).

    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 (including gender and intersectional aspects), as well as sustainability;
    • Sustainable, high-quality jobs by targeting skills mismatches, the need to empower workers, including those at risk of social exclusion, and ethical considerations relating to technological progress[[2019 CIGI-Ipsos Global Survey on Internet Security and Trust]].

    Innovation Actions — Legal entities established in China are not eligible to participate in Innovation Actions in any capacity. Please refer to the Annex B of the General Annexes of this Work Programme for further details.

  • Topic conditions and documents

    General conditions

    1. Admissibility conditions: described in Annex A and Annex E of the Horizon Europe Work Programme General Annexes

    Proposal page limits and layout: described in Part B of the Application Form available in the Submission System

    2. Eligible countries: described in Annex B of the Work Programme General Annexes

    A number of non-EU/non-Associated Countries that are not automatically eligible for funding have made specific provisions for making funding available for their participants in Horizon Europe projects. See the information in the Horizon Europe Programme Guide.

    3. Other eligibility conditions: described in Annex B of the Work Programme General Annexes

    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).

    4. Financial and operational capacity and exclusion: described in Annex C of the Work Programme General Annexes

    5. Evaluation and award:

    • Award criteria, scoring and thresholds are described in Annex D of the Work Programme General Annexes

    • Submission and evaluation processes are described in Annex F of the Work Programme General Annexes and the Online Manual

    • Indicative timeline for evaluation and grant agreement: described in Annex F of the Work Programme General Annexes

    6. Legal and financial set-up of the grants: described in Annex G of the Work Programme General Annexes

    Beneficiaries may provide financial support to third parties (FSTP).

    The support to third parties can only be provided in the form of prizes.

    The maximum amount to be granted to each third party is EUR 500.000 to address open innovation challenges on key important S&T challenges and drive general progress on important tasks through a common challenge/benchmark problem.

    FSTP should be eligible to third parties from academia and SMEs in Member States or Associated Countries, but exclude third parties that receive funding under ongoing projects of the following topics[[ Such teams will participate in the innovation challenges, and can receive rewards, but will not be eligible to receive prize money as they are already funded.]]: CL4-2023-HUMAN-01-01, CL4-2023-HUMAN-01-03 CL4-2024-HUMAN-01-01, CL4-2024-HUMAN-01-02.

    Specific conditions

    7. Specific conditions: described in the [specific topic of the Work Programme]


    Call documents:

    Standard application form — call-specific application form is available in the Submission System

    Standard application form (HE CSA)

    Standard evaluation form — will be used with the necessary adaptations

    Standard evaluation form (HE CSA)


    HE General MGA v1.0

    Additional documents:

    HE Main Work Programme 2023–2024 – 1. General Introduction

    HE Main Work Programme 2023–2024 – 7. Digital, Industry and Space

    HE Main Work Programme 2023–2024 – 13. General Annexes

    HE Programme Guide

    HE Framework Programme and Rules for Participation Regulation 2021/695

    HE Specific Programme Decision 2021/764

    EU Financial Regulation

    Rules for Legal Entity Validation, LEAR Appointment and Financial Capacity Assessment

    EU Grants AGA — Annotated Model Grant Agreement

    Funding & Tenders Portal Online Manual

    Funding & Tenders Portal Terms and Conditions

    Funding & Tenders Portal Privacy Statement

    Information on financial support to third parties (HE)

  • ALICE Brokerage in-person event Horizon Europe calls 2023-2024, Feb 28, 2023