NGI Assure, co-funded from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Grant Agreement No 957073, foresees as an eligible activity the provision of financial support to third parties, as a means to achieve the objectives of the “Next Generation Internet” initiative – and thus to contribute to a resilient, trustworthy and sustainably open internet.
The internet lies at the heart of our modern economies and societies, but it was not designed to be used in the way we use it now. Additional innovations are needed, in particular to make usage of remote resources on the internet more trustworthy and secure. The goal of NGI Assure is to support projects that design and engineer reusable building blocks for the Next Generation Internet as part of a complete, strong chain of assurances for all stakeholders regarding the source and integrity of identities, identifiers, data, cyberphysical systems, service components and processes. Furthermore contributions can be made to address underlying real-world challenges in deploying and validating such building blocks, such as energy efficiency and sustainability, scalability and throughput, security, privacy/confidentiality, plausible deniability, robustness and crypto-agility, side-channel resistance, interoperability, governance and compliance to regulatory frameworks – where needed to turn the above into reproducible and trustworthy end-to-end solutions that can withstand the hostile battle grounds of the modern internet.
NGI Assure is looking for building blocks that contribute to providing such assurances include (but are not limited to) quantum-proof cryptography, public key infrastructure, (augmented) authenticated key exchange, ratchet mechanisms (such as the Noise protocol) that securely chain key material, distributed hash tables and DAGs to make P2P interaction more secure, conflict-free replicated data types, mixnets and onion routing mechanisms, consensus protocols, distributed ledgers and (post) blockchain technologies that create redundant data sets managed independently by mutually distrustful parties, a priori usage control, symbolic and formal proofs, and tamperproof open hardware implementations of core cryptographic primitives. The work needs to become available under free and open source licenses.
We are looking for deep tech components; the outcomes of NGI Assure shall contribute towards identifying and solving current issues, but do not need to provide a complete solution by themselves (although they may). NGI Assure strengthens the means we have for collaboration among all humans, replacing assumptions and potentially unjustified trust with uncompromising safeguards and verifiability where possible.
The following types of activities qualify for financial support, provided they are cost effective and have a clear link to the topics directly relevant to NGI Assure mentioned above – providing – and the objectives set out in the call:
● scientific research
● design and development of open source software and open hardware
● validation or constructive inquiry into existing or novel technical solutions
● software engineering aimed at adapting to new usage areas or improving software quality
● formal security proofs, security audits, setup and design of software testing and continuous integration
● documentation for researchers, developers and end users
● standardisation activities, including membership fees of standards bodies
● understanding user requirements and improving usability/inclusive design
● necessary measures in support of (broad)er deployability, e.g. packaging
● participation in technical, developer and community events like hackathons, IETF, W3C, RIPE meetings, FOSDEM, etc. (admission fee, travel and subsistence costs)
● other activities that are relevant to adhering to robust software development and deployment practices
● project management
● out-of-pocket costs for infrastructure essential to achieving the above
Project proposals should be in line with the NGI vision (https://NGI.eu/vision) and the topic of trustworthiness and technical assurances. They should have research and development as their primary objective, and should be complete and concise (no longer than two pages for the main application). Proposals should have a clear European dimension.
Anyone that can bring a relevant contribution to the topics of NGI Assure can apply, whether you are a natural person or an organisation of any type that wants to improve and further develop Distributed Ledger Technologies, advanced blockchain technologies and related enabling technologies. You can remain anonymous during the evaluation, if you so desire.
Minors that have not yet reached the age of legal consent in their country of origin on the date of the deadline may also apply; consent from a legal representative such as a parent does not have to be provided prior to initial submission, except consent for processing of applicant personal data. Minors must apply using the NLnet website only (https://nlnet.nl/propose).
Note that a European dimension to the project, that means to bring benefits for the European society) is a requirement. Given equally strong proposals, applicants from Europe are given priority.
Project proposals should be in line with the NGI Vision and the topic of trustworthiness and technical assurances. They should have research and development as their primary objective, and should be complete and concise(2).
The following types of activities, provided they are cost-effective and have a clear link to the topics and objectives directly relevant to NGI Assure, qualify for financial support:
Design and development of open source software and open hardware.
Validation or constructive inquiry into existing or novel technical solutions.
Software engineering aimed at adapting to new usage areas or improving software quality.
Formal security proofs, security audits, setup and design of software testing and continuous integration.
Documentation for researchers, developers and end users.
Standardisation activities, including membership fees of standards bodies.
Understanding user requirements and improving usability/inclusive design.
Necessary measures in support of (broader) deployability (e.g. packaging).
Participation in technical, developer and community events like hackathons, IETF; W3C, RIPE meetings, FOSDEM, etc. (admission fee, travel and subsistence costs).
Other activities that are relevant to adhering to robust software development and deployment practices.
Project management linked to the project execution.
Out-of-pocket costs for infrastructure essential to achieving the above.
When applying to an NGI Assure Open Call, please note that:
You need to submit your proposal through either https://ngi-assure-opencall.fundingbox.com or https://nlnet.nl/propose prior to the established deadline. Upon receipt of each proposal, the system will send you a confirmation of your submission.
Minors should apply via https://nlnet.nl/propose only.
Your application will be treated equally regardless of which website you use to submit it. You do not need to apply to both websites.
If you resubmit your proposal to accommodate for changes (of course before the deadline), the proposal that is submitted last will be evaluated.
It will not be possible to modify your application after submission. If you make a mistake you will need to submit a new application before the deadline with the same project name and contacts to replace the previous one.
You can submit multiple different proposals in parallel, but in case you have multiple applications above the threshold, only the best ranked project will be selected for funding.
Proposals must be written in English.
We will take into consideration the existence of potential conflict of interest among you and one or more consortium partners. Consortium partners, their affiliated entities, employees and permanent collaborators cannot take part in the NGI Assure program. All cases of potential conflict of interest will be assessed case by case.
We do not accept entities that are under liquidation or are an enterprise under difficulty according to the Commission Regulation No 651/2014, art. 2.18, or that are excluded from the possibility of obtaining EU funding under the provisions of both national and EU law, or by a decision of both national or EU authority.
All results must be published under a free and open source license.
The projects are judged on their technical merits, strategic relevance to the Next Generation Internet and overall value for money.
The selection process will have 2 stages:
After submitting your proposal via one of our online forms, a first verification will be done to assess whether your project satisfies the minimal criteria to participate in the programme.
We will proceed with a first eligibility check according to the criteria described in the previous sections.
Two experts will then assess your proposal based on the following criteria:
30% Technical excellence/Feasibility.
40% Relevance/Impact/Strategic potential.
30% Cost effectiveness/Value for money.
The total weighted score of projects has to be above 5 (out of 7) to pass to the next stage.
The eligible applicants will be invited to participate in the 2nd stage. The projects which are not taken into the second round will be informed that their project is not selected.
SECOND STAGE EVALUATION
The 2nd stage evaluation interactively continues the evaluation from the first round with the subset of the projects that were allowed to move on.
The 2nd stage is used to select strategic projects which not only satisfy the minimal criteria, but also have potentially a lasting impact on society. Projects are to be selected based on their potential contribution to the Next Generation Internet and its key drivers for change.
In the second stage, the reviewers are able to ask additional clarifying questions and make (minor) suggestions to improve the quality and impact of the project.
This typically involves questions such as:
What is the difference in approach to existing projects U, V and W?
How will you approach complicating factor X?
Can you back up or validate claim Y?
Have you considered collaborating with complementary effort Z or using standard A?
The rate you have applied for task B is very high compared to the perceived value of that task. Can you explain, or would you like to reconsider?
Can you clarify how you intend to make the outcome of the project (self)sustainable?
How does upstream project D feel about your application?
In addition, the review team will do independent verification of facts, methods and claims. If necessary, they verify relevant information through their expert network. This is done without revealing personally identifiable information, unless there is explicit consent from the submitter. The second stage typically lasts three weeks. If a project is unable to prepare all the answers to the questions and/or a modified proposal within the allocated time frame, the project may be moved to the next call. Note that the proposed project budget may change during this phase due to e.g. added or deleted project milestones.
After the interactive part of the second stage is completed, new ratings are calculated based on the revised plan. The result is a ranking of projects that reflects the overall expected value and the relative impact in the context of the NGI initiative, starting with the project with the highest weighted rating and going down to the lowest weighted score. The cut-off point is a weighted score of 5/7, unless there is not enough remaining budget left to fund all projects that have received this ranking – in which case the ranking is followed until there is no more available budget. The projects that fall below the cut are (similar to the first round) informed that their project is not selected, so that they may try to find funding elsewhere as soon as possible – or continue with their current funding.
INDEPENDENT REVIEW COMMITTEE
An Independent Review Committee checks the final selection of projects. The review committee consists of independent experts from the internet and open source field, academia and the public sector. The committee receives no remuneration for its work, and its members have no other economic interests with NGI and/or links to the NGI Assure consortium. Each project is individually reviewed for eligibility by at least three members of the review committee.
The outcome of the selection process is randomly divided among the members of the Review Committee. At least three members independently validate that all the projects that are nominated are indeed eligible for funding, budgets are frugal, and that there are no other concerns. This creates a transparency trail with regards to eligibility and cost effectiveness of the proposed solutions, while retaining confidentiality of the preceding procedure. If a project fails to meet the criteria of the independent review committee, the concerns are sent to the proposer and the project may either be rejected or pushed back to the next available call.
The independent Review Committee will decide on a provisional list of the pre-selected projects. The exact number of proposals approved will be decided based on the overall quality of the proposals.
Great that you made it here. We hope you like the programme as much as we do. We are looking forward to your great ideas! You might find some helpful suggestions and answers to questions you might currently have in the Guide for Applicants or the answers to questions we have prepared for you. This will help you to make the most out of your application, and since it will help you understand the mechanism quite likely will save you both time and effort.Contact us for more info