The Next Generation Internet initiative aims at developing a more human-centric Internet supporting values of openness, decentralisation, inclusiveness and protection of privacy and giving the control back to the end-users, in particular of their data. It should provide more transparent and accessible services, more intelligence, greater involvement and participation, leading towards an Internet that is a true engine of growth and social progress.
Blockchain and distributed ledger technologies (DLT) have the potential to enable more decentralised, trusted, user-centric digital services, and stimulate new business models benefiting society and the economy as stressed by the European Parliament resolution on the topic. These technologies will create opportunities to enhance services and processes in both the public and private sectors, notably providing better control of data by citizens and organisations, reducing fraud, improving recordkeeping, access, transparency and auditability, within and across borders. As a key component of the Next Generation Internet initiative, the specific challenge is to foster research and innovation at technology, infrastructure and application levels to position Europe at the forefront of the blockchain revolution.
This topic contributes to the European Commission strategy on blockchain. The first milestones of this strategy were the launch of the European Blockchain Observatory and Forum, which aims to accelerate blockchain innovation and the development of the blockchain ecosystem within the EU, and the European Blockchain Partnership, signed by 26 Member States and Norway, to cooperate in the establishment of a European Blockchain Services Infrastructure.
The Research and Innovation Actions mentioned below are complemented by a blockchain pre-commercial procurement action, which is presented under the “Other actions” part of the Work Programme.
Research and Innovation Actions (RIA) will be called for in the following three sub-topics. Proposals should address only one of these sub-topics.
i. Advancing research on Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technologies
Conducting research, proofs of concepts, piloting, testing and benchmarks to improve and further develop advanced blockchain technologies, for example regarding energy efficiency and sustainability, consensus protocols, a priori usage control, scalability and throughput, security, privacy, robustness, interoperability, cryptography, smart contracts, governance, compliance to regulatory frameworks. This action should contribute to standardisation activities.
ii. Fostering trust in internet information exchange and content with blockchain
Develop decentralised blockchain-based solutions that can be scaled in a sustainable manner, combined with the use of trustworthy electronic identification, authentication and verified pseudonyms, to preserve the integrity and reliability of information and content, including the underlying sources, on the internet. Two use cases: a) develop and implement new transparent and accountable reputation-based models to increase trustworthiness of the information exchange on the internet and social networks and b) provide solutions for transparency, trustworthy transactional content handling, on the internet and social networks.
iii. Bringing forward the emergence of collective intelligence on the internet
Develop approaches for scientific understanding and technology-based stimulation of collective intelligence on social media and the internet to foster trustworthy knowledge and information sharing, and to enhance social inclusion. Two use cases: a) develop new community-based service models on social networks that exploit collective intelligence to provide enhanced community services, and increase the availability of trustworthy content and b) in the context of collective intelligence develop and implement new concepts for connecting people and smart objects/agents/AI on social media. Approaches for both use cases must be rooted in scientific analysis of collective behaviour (taking into account gender difference, where relevant) and network mechanisms, harness decentralised technologies such as P2P or blockchain for governance and support a dependable collective memory.
Each RIA in the three sub-topics above, through an agile and flexible process, will support third party projects from outstanding academic research groups, hi-tech startups, SMEs and other multidisciplinary actors, so that multiple third parties will be funded in parallel contributing to the research and innovation area. The RIA will provide the programme logic and vision for the third-party projects, ensure the coherence and coordination of these projects, provide the necessary technical support, as well as coaching and mentoring, in order that the collection of third party projects contributes towards a significant advancement and impact in the research domain. The focus will be on applied research that is linked to relevant use cases and that can be further developed into viable solutions. Apps and services that innovate without a research component are not covered by this model.
Beneficiaries shall make explicit the intervention logic for their specific sub-topic, their capacity to attract relevant top talents, to deliver a solid value-adding services package to the third-party projects, as well as their expertise and capacity in managing the full life-cycle of the open calls transparently. They should explore synergies with other research and innovation actions, supported at regional, national or European level, to increase the overall impact.
RIAs should encourage open source software and open hardware design, open access to data, standardisation activities, access to testing and operational infrastructure as well as an IPR regime ensuring lasting impact and reusability of results.
For grants awarded under this topic for Research and Innovation actions beneficiaries may provide support to third parties as described in part K of the General Annexes of the Work Programme. The support to third parties can only be provided in the form of grants. The respective options of Article 15.1 and Article 15.3 of the Model Grant Agreement will be applied.
The Commission considers that proposals with an overall duration of 24 to 36 months and requesting a contribution from the EU of EUR 8 million for sub-topic i); and EUR 6 million for each sub-topic ii) and iii) would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other durations or amounts. As the primary purpose of the action is to support and mobilise internet innovators, a minimum of 70% of the total requested EU contribution should be allocated to financial support to the third parties. For ensuring focused effort, third parties will be funded through projects typically in the EUR 50 000 to 200 000 range per project, with indicative duration of 12 months.
In line with Article 23 (7) of the Rules for Participation, the amounts referred to in Article 204-205 of the Financial Regulation may be exceeded in order to achieve the objective of the action up to a maximum funding per third party of EUR 500 000.
Proposals should provide appropriate metrics for the claimed impacts.
- Shape a more human-centric evolution of the Internet.
- For sub-topic i): Reinforcing the European Blockchain ecosystem and excellence in research.
- For sub-topic ii): Scalable blockchain based solutions for ensuring trustworthy content and information exchange
- For sub-topic iii): Service models for community services building on collective intelligence and novel approaches for connecting people and smart objects/agents to stimulate use of collective intelligence
- Promoting interoperability and strengthening the role of Europe in international standardisation.
- Create a European blockchain ecosystem integrating research and innovation communities.
- Generate new business opportunities and new Internet companies with maximum growth and impact chances.
 In the context of this topic and in the remaining part of the text, the term blockchain refers both to “blockchain and distributed ledger technologies”
 European Parliament resolution P8_TA-PROV(2018)0373 "Distributed Ledger Technologies and blockchains: building trust with disintermediation
Application Deadline: 16 January 2020 17:00:00 Brussels time
Source: European Commission