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

NGI Assure - Guide for applicants

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 1 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.

We are looking for projects that have research and development as primary objective and that commit to generate open knowledge and open source building blocks relevant to developers, operators and users across all kinds of public and private application domains that have standardization potential.

We will select the most innovative and useful projects through a series of competitive open calls. Projects will also receive technical and business support.

You can apply with proposals between 5 000 and 50 000 Euro. Once you have successfully completed a project you may apply for additional funding.

The Open Call opens on the 1st of April 2021 at 12:00 AM CEST (Brussels time) and will close on the 1st of June 2021 at 12:00 PM CET (Brussels time). Applicants can submit a proposal through one of the following websites: https://ngi-assure-opencall.fundingbox.com or https://nlnet.nl/propose. New calls will open until the available budget (5 624 000 Euro) is fully allocated.

Who can apply?

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.

What types of activities can be funded?

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:

  • 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 (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.

How to apply?

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 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 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.

How will we evaluate your proposal?

Evaluation Criteria

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:

First stage evaluation

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.

What’s next? Memorandum of Understanding Signature

Before the NGI Assure program starts, we will ask you to prepare and sign the Memorandum of Understanding. To do so, we will ask you to provide the necessary documents regarding your formal status (for the details please check our Frequently Asked Questions Document). After verifying that everything is in order, the final list of pre-selected projects will be validated by the NGI Assure consortium. The Memorandum of Understanding contains a detailed project plan with concrete, effort-specific milestones each linked to a part of the donation 3 sum. The granularity of milestones is determined by the project team itself. The Memorandum of Understanding also contains all direct beneficiaries, and conditions for the payment of donations.

Payment Arrangements

The exact amount of financial support offered is based on the projected costs and estimated value of the proposed project. The final amount is established in the memorandum of understanding between NLnet and the grantee.

When a (set of) task(s) is completed, the project team can request a lump sum payment by providing a pointer to the achieved results. Tasks from the project plan can be completed in non-linear order. Only when the quality is satisfactory and the agreed results are met, will the payment of the respective part of the donation be approved by the NGI Assure consortium.

The agreed donation is paid as a lump sum against specific Tasks/ Deliverables/ Milestones included in the Memorandum of Understanding. Agreed amounts will be paid after successful completion of the specific Tasks/ Deliverables/ Milestones. The criteria for calculating the exact amount of the financial support and the specific milestones will be indicated in the Memorandum of Understanding based on actual third-party needs and the best value for money indicator included in the individual budget.

Any project larger than 50 000 Euro may be subject to a full independent security audit at the end, by an independent party allocated by or agreed with NGI Assure. Payment of parts of the project grant may be made conditional to the outcome of such an audit, and subsequent adequate handling of issues identified.

The maximum amount to be granted per recipient over the lifetime of NGI Assure is 200 000 Euro.

Final provisions

Any matters not covered by this Guide will be governed by Dutch law and rules related to the H2020 and EU grants.

Signature of the Memorandum of Understanding is an initial condition to establish any obligations among applicants and any consortium partners.

Did not find what you were looking for? You may want to check our Frequently Asked Questions


Footnotes

1 Apps and services that are innovative but without a research component are not covered by this model.

2 For the purpose of this Memorandum of Understanding a donation is a lump sum paid against the completion of specific deliverables or the achievement of milestones.


Logo NGI Assure: letterlogo shaped like a tag

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 957073.