Calls: Send in your ideas. Deadline August 1st, 2021.

Frequently Asked (and/or Anticipated) Questions

What kind of projects are you looking for?

We are looking for technical R&D projects that provide some form of assurance regarding any aspect of the internet and the way we use it today or will use it tomorrow. How do we know whether some person is who she claims to be? How can we tell a specific resource on the internet is genuine? How do we assert provenance and integrity? And how can we make this transparent and privacy friendly?

We prefer concrete and viable outcomes. The technology you propose should be relevant to the long term evolution of the internet and in the interest of actual internet users in the real world. Show us that your idea solves a problem, and what you need to make it happen. And maybe we can...

Note that this is really an open call. If you have an out-of-the-box idea that touches upon the challenge to make the next generation of the internet more trustworthy, reliable and resilient (through the topics described in the call or other means of providing strong assurances to users of the internet), we invite you to submit a proposal.

Do you have examples of granted projects?

NGI Assure is just launched, so there are no granted projects just yet. To give you a feel though of the type of projects we are looking for, we provide an overview of the currently awarded projects within a sister project (NGI Zero PET) online, with background information on all the projects and links to their websites.

Also check out the overview of current projects funded by NLnet.

Can we send you a proposal upfront to check its eligibility?

Unfortunately, you can't. This would move the whole structured procedure to a flood of unstructured and intransparent private dialogues, which would be unfair to other participants (and very inefficient as well). Luckily there is no need for this: the application procedure is very light-weight, and so you can just put in your proposal. If the project is not selected, you can iterate with the proposal as the cycle is quite fast (every two months a new call).

Do I need to work for an university or research institute to apply?

No, you don't. Application is open to all. The thing that counts is a good project proposal.

Or put differently: it does not matter whether you work by yourself, or are associated with a company, cooperative, foundation or any other type of organisation. Just send in your idea, and we'll figure it out.

Do I need to have a legal entity like a company to apply?

No, you don't. You can apply as an individual, or as a formal or informal organisation of any type. Or even a collaboration of the two.

Can I remain anonymous?

You don't need to reveal your real name to us, prior to the project being selected. After that, we need to have this for compliance reasons - but we do not need to make it public. We can use a pseudonym in all outgoing communication, should this be desirable or necessary at your end.

As per the guide for applicants, if you want to stay anonymous please send us your proposal through https://NLnet.nl/propose.

Can young people apply?

Yes, you can. Note that you do not have to reveal your real identity to us prior to the project being selected, so we have no way of even knowing anyway. And we very much welcome upcoming talent to NGI. Young people that have not yet reached the age of legal consent in their country of origin (typically 18 years old) on the date of the deadline may apply without any constraints; consent from a legal guardian such as a parent does not have to be provided prior to initial submission, but will be required to enter any further negotiations. Use of a pseudonym also after that is recommended.

As per the guide for applicants, if you are under 18 please send us your proposal through https://NLnet.nl/propose.

Is there a special programme for under-represented social groups?

Inclusiveness is one of the key starting points of the NGI initiative. Projects are reviewed on a number of criteria, one of which is the strategic dimensions of the project. Creating strong role models for under-represented groups can help expand the relevance and impact of NGI and thus is considered a strategic dimension, and as such is taken into account during the review - alongside other strategic dimensions such as the effect of the project on the technology landscape, standardisation efforts which are under way, human rights aspects, contribution to European and national legislative understanding and societal dialogue, etc. If you represent an unrepresented group, consider yourself invited to pay attention to this in your application. Of course this is not mandatory in any way, if you feel it is too much effort or distracts from the project contents itself.

Can you sponsor our event, which is about X which falls within the scope of the call?

No we cannot, unfortunately, and to our regret. At current we can only financially contribute to events that meaningfully contribute in a direct way to an actual R&D project within NGI Assure. E.g. a hackathon. Please check the information on eligible costs. Of course you can still mention good opportunities in your application, and we encourage you to do so: this will increase our understanding, and perhaps we can think of others that might be interested.

Is this a programme for small projects only?

Yes, that is the intent and design of this type of funding scheme. With your first project, you can only make a proposal between 5.000 en 50.000 euro. If the initial project works out well, you can follow up with other project proposals - even up to 200.000 euro in total over the lifetime of the programme. Ofcourse a follow up only makes sense if the idea turns out to be exceptionally good, and you prove the feasibility of your approach and your ability to execute. 200.000 euro is the absolute hard limit for any applicant for the programme.

I read that all projects should be released under an open source license. I'm developing a proprietary application, and want to open source only a small part. Is that allowed in a proposal?

If the part you want to develop and release as free and open source is relevant and is not itself dependent on your (or other) proprietary technology, sure. We look at what you research and develop inside the project you propose, not to anything else. NGI Assure is open to worthwhile contributions from all types of organisations, including companies that want to keep part of their business model away from free and open source software.

Your proposal will be reviewed on its expected contribution towards the NGI Vision. Technology that can only be used with an individual closed source application will not adequately scale to the global internet, certainly not in the long run. If the fate of a certain technology depends on leadership decisions and the internal economy of a single commercial entity this should probably not be considered 'sustainably open'. Spending public funding for building private monopolies isn't in the public interest.

So in short: you can submit a proposal that fits snugly within a closed commercial environment, as long as that project itself is open source and doesn't depend on that closed environment - which would get in the way of permissionfree innovation and fair opportunities for all.

Am I allowed to offer additional, non-open licenses?

All projects are supposed to be released under a suitable free/libre/open source license. This allows for incremental innovation on top of your results, and as we explained is non-negotiable. We recommend you set up good governance processes for handling rights attached to your work, to make sure you and the users of your research retain agency in the future.

This condition however does not in any way exclude the legitimate holders of copyrights and other associated rights of dealing with your project results under additional licenses, even proprietary ones: there may be legitimate reasons (such as license incompatibility with third party complementary FLOSS efforts) for alternative licenses beyond the license you use for the project.

Can I apply with multiple projects in one single round

Yes, theoretically you probably could - but there are some conditions to that. Note that if you submit multiple proposals in a single round, these typically have to be independent from each other. You cannot bypass the size conditions of the call by submitting a string of proposals that are tightly coupled to each other. If project B and C can only happen if project A is successful, you should probably be well under way finishing project A first before you block money for two more projects.

Each proposal also costs time to write and submit - and we cannot give that time back to you. The limits with regards to the maximum amount you can receive during the lifetime of the fund stay the same - whether or not you contribute to multiple projects.

Should I submit to both portals?

For NGI Assure it is possible to submit through two different platforms: the platform of FundingBox and the website of NLnet. These look and work differently. That might raise the question whether you should submit to both, and if that would increase your chances.

The short answer is: there is really no need for it, and there is no benefit in doing so either. In fact it will just clog the machinery if you do. Your project will be evaluated in the same way regardless of the portal used to submit it. The deadlines are the same. The possibility of submitting through different channels is just for your convenience.

Note that if you are under 18 or want to submit anonymously, you should only submit through NLnet - due to a difference in privacy policy, it is not possible to use the portal of FundingBox.

Can I have my data removed if my application does not go through?

During submission, you can indicated whether or not we are allowed to keep your personal data. We can of course remove your personal data at any time. Project proposals themselfs need to be stripped of personal details prior to submission, as these need to be retained for compliance reasons and auditing purposes.

  • If you send in your application through the FundingBox platform, please check the privacy policy that applies
  • If you send your application through NLnet, please check the privacy policy that applies

I have patents assigned or pending on my idea. Can I meanwhile propose a project involving those patents? Should I disclose this in my application?

Yes, you must certainly disclose this. Patents can hinder other people and organisations from freely working and innovating with the technologies you may be creating, in different and sometimes unpredictable ways. Free and open source software licensing is based on copyright law, and may or may not have provisions with regards to patents. The interaction with patent law can be complex. We would prefer to understand potential patent situations at the application stage, given that we are talking about technologies which are to be created inside publicly funded research and development.

The final selection of projects is competitive, and your application will be reviewed on its expected contribution towards the NGI Vision. If the patents involved do not interfere with that contribution, and the technology you develop becomes available under suitable open source licenses, your project may still be eligible.

I only heard about this call recently, can you postpone the deadline?

We get this question surprisingly regular. We are sympathetic to your need. Unfortunately, the deadline of such a large concerted effort really is a deadline and there is nothing we can do about this. That means when you submit after the deadline, you will submit to the next call. The deadline of which, fortunately, is just a mere two months away since we have a bimonthly cycle. Meanwhile, of course, you can just submit a preliminary proposal — unlike most procedures you should be able to complete a proposal in less than an hour.

I submitted to the wrong fund, now what?

I apparently did not look well enough when I submitted my project, but when looking at the mail copy of the application I got from you, I submitted to the wrong fund. Can you fix this for me?

By far the quickest variant is to resubmit to the right call. Just copy and paste your application details from the confirmation email. At your request, we can just discard the earlier submission. If the call you wanted to submit to is already closed, resubmission would of course not possible without unnecessary delay. In that case, please contact us as soon as possible to arrange for a manual alteration - and please include the assigned number in your mail to ease processing.

What happens if there are not enough good projects submitted?

We believe we can give people a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do their part in fixing the internet. However, we also happen to have rather high quality standards, and intend to stick to them. We are not running a lottery where weak projects can submit in the hope of running away with leftover budget.

NGI Assure is funded with public money, and we have a moral obligation to spend that money frugally and effectively. Our mission is to pave the way for the Next Generation Internet. We will spend our efforts on worthwhile projects alone. We therefore retain the right to allocate less than 5.6 million euro, meaning we will return any unspent part of the underlying grant to the European Commission if need be. But obviously, we would rather spend it on awesome projects, so if you have a good idea by all means propose it to us or point other worthwhile efforts to us if you can.

Can anyone in the whole world submit?

If the project you are are considering would be a significant advance towards the goals and the vision of the Next Generation Internet, we invite you to submit - even if you live outside of Europe. Of course, it remains competitive - but you would expect that from money you get for doing what you love to do.

The grant from the European Commission that allows us to run NGI Assure is funded by European tax payers. It is a knock-out criterion for each project to have a "European dimension". Having people inside the proposed project from Europe or the associated countries is an obvious and logical way to fulfil that requirement. You have a unique and worthwhile idea, but you are from elsewhere? Don't despair: there are other ways too... A significant contribution towards the vision of the Next Generation Internet initiative also qualifies. What is good for the whole open internet also benefits Europe, after all. Or put differently: we are open to talent from far and wide to deliver the ambitions of the NGI. Smaller tasks have been undertaken than delivering a new and better internet, and we need buy in and talent from far and wide to contribute to that global mission.

How sustainable is all this? Does all of it stop when project funding goes away?

We certainly hope not! One of the huge benefits of the design decision that all projects release their results under free/libre/open source licenses, means that we allow for incremental permissionless innovation. We invest in ideas and technology commons, not in individual businesses or particular business models.

Free software allow literally anyone to use whatever they want in whatever way fits their needs. As long as there is someone interested in developing or using the software, they can do so without asking anyone. Obviously, under those rather unique conditions, evolutionary sustainability is much improved over the situation where the 'owner' restricts development and may pull the plug at any time.

Furthermore, within NGI Assure we intend to spend a lot of effort in working with the standardisation community, the technical and operational internet community as well as with other relevant stakeholders - preferably as early in the process of each project. This means not only that they get relevant feedback, but also that they are more likely to adhere to quality standards and operational practises that make it more likely that results are actually deployed.

I want to make a future living out of my project. What are your thoughts on this?

The results of some projects are self-sustainable and gain a life of their own, while others may involve setting up some sort of business or not-for-profit structure around them. Additional business development services will be provided to the funded projects in order to support the sustainability and access to potential users.

In addition, there are some extra services available courtesy of other projects. These services include capacity building on a variety of topics such as entrepreneurial skills, business strategy, technology transfer and funding options. The exact mix of services will be tailored to the projects based on the idea’s development stage and the team's identified needs. These services are provided free of charge by TETRA, which is an independent project funded by the European Commission.

Other services projects have access to include access to test bed infrastructures, large compute resources, and beta-testing campaigns.

Can I ask my users for a subscription fee to sustain my income?

Sure, as long as you also make the results of your project available under a free and open source license for other researchers and developers to work with. Such a license allows people to reuse it for any purpose they see fit. That in turn allows for incremental innovation and reuse. Free and open source software makes what you develop a technology commons, meaning complete strangers will spontaneously care about making what you have created go far and wide - something they would never do for a proprietary product restricted to a single commercial entity ...

Of course most ordinary people don't directly work with code themselves - they tend to leave that to experts like hosting companies and app stores. Very few people might be more qualified than you (as the creator of your technology) to provide services around your 'brain child' - and you might actually do some of your target user base a large favour by providing a hosted service they can pay for. It is therefore perfectly okay to (for instance) provide a hosted version with a monthly subscription fee attached.

Running software is not R&D but a service and comes at a cost in terms of operational expenditure (e.g. electrical power, hardware, etc) and human labour. Part of the user community is interested to outsource that work and pay for convenience and not having to worry. Others want or need to run the software you create themselves, for good reasons such as privacy or confidentiality. Some of the users would contribute back in code, some of which you can use for your customers. And of course others will just download the software and use it. However, every single user is proof that your project provides something worthwhile. You do not have customer lock-in, but as long as you provide enough value (innovation, operational excellence, etc) - people are likely to come to you again and again. You are after all the brains behind the software they depend on. And of course you can apply for follow up funding to continue 'working for the internet', based on the utility of your software and the relevance of your new plans.

Hosted services are not the only way to make a future living. Another type of users may want you to provide paid consultancy to add features they need, or to have you help out set up their own instance. The best model for sustainability depends really on the nature of your project, and will be specific to the problem you are solving and the target group(s) you address with your work. You can in fact make money from what you build in any way, as long as the result of the work funded by us is at least available under a free and open source license. There are many examples of free and open source projects that result in a sustainable income for their creators in very different ways, and also many that don't. This is no different from any other enterprise you may undertake. The grant we provide typically pays your entire income (and those of people you may involve) during the development of the project itself. So consider that you work for the internet, and that is its own reward. If the project is picked up by a wider community, that will give you an excellent position going forward. You could do worse than having a revolutionary internet technology on your resume...

What about accessibility? Is this mandatory?

The Next Generation Internet is meant to be inclusive. We also want the results of NGI Assure projects to be accessible to people with disabilities.

We understand that not everyone is an expert in this area - yet. But taking care of accessibility (or a10y for short) is, as far as we are concerned, the 'new normal'. From our end, we strongly encourage the projects we fund try to make themselves fully accessible - which is not just a moral imperative but actually something that follows from the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). And we are ready to invest in this as well, so work on making your project accessible is an eligible cost.

The topic of this call doesn't really fit, are there other topics I could apply to?

If your research doesn't fit with the topic of "NGI Assure", please do check out NGI Zero Discovery, which is similar to this call but addresses research and innovation in the area of search, discovery and discoverability.

Also, you can check the website of the NGI initiative for open calls by other organisations. Or have a look at the broader network of organisations that fund in the same space.

When I receive donations, what happens?

Your grants take the form of a donation from NLnet Foundation. NLnet is a recognised public benefit organisation according to the Netherlands tax office, a status which translates in full or to some degree to many other parts of the planet - which may or many not include your country of residence and/or work. Taxation in a global context is a pleasantly complex, dynamic and inspiring issue that has intellectually challenged many great minds. It has damaged some of those (and many others too). There are unfortunately significant differences across countries, and even across regions within a single tax system you may find notable variations in treatment.

If you are from Europe, you might benefit from an initiative by the Donors and Foundations Networks in Europe (Dafne) and European Foundation Centre called Legal Environment for Philanthropy in Europe. With the help of a network of local experts, they have crafted a very overview per country of key legal provisions that apply. This should help get you started. Obviously, your local tax authority is the authoritative answer to all matters concerning taxation, and if you are in doubt you are advised to contact them for guidance.

Go to: Legal Environment for Philanthropy in Europe (warning: trackers present, unfortunately.)

My question is not here?

Well, if you've read all this, you might be ready to submit a proposal. If you still have a burning question: let us know. We are happy to help!