NGI Zero Discovery Frequently Asked and or Anticipated Questions

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Main page | Guide for Applicants | Organisations involved | Eligibility | FAQ

Are you going to spend the whole budget on small projects?

Yes. You can initially only apply with proposals between 5.000 en 50.000 euro. You can follow up with other project proposals, up to 200.000 euro over the lifetime of the programme. Ofcourse that 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. But 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 Zero programmes are 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.

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.

What happens if there are not enough good projects submitted?

From our long experience we know there are a lot of people with awesome ideas that need funding, and the funding is there to enable them to actually carry out this work in the public benefit. 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.

NGI0 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. Besides money we invest a lot of (real) time in helping the projects we work with, in terms of improving accessibility, security, documentation, localisation/internationalisation, responsible disclosure, community building etc. Work there is never done, and 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 without giving it a second thought.

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 NGI0 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, we spend a lot of effort in working with 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.

What services do you offer to projects besides money?

One of our key objectives for NGI0 is to set a new global standard for supporting R&D projects. We've set up a best-of-breed "greenhouse environment" (analogous to what an "accelerator" does for for-profit initiatives) for the projects and teams that are funded within NGI. Researchers and developers are mere humans, and the grasp of all relevant best practises they bring along initially is by definition limited.

No matter how brilliant a researcher is: the demands on technology that should actually run at scale on the modern internet today are huge, and continuously changing. Having a crazy idea that might just work to fix the broken internet, does not automatically mean that you know how to make your solution accessible to blind people, how to set up continuous integration and reproducible builds, how to orchestrate a responsible disclosure procedure, how to make sure that your application can be used with different languages and be properly localised to be compatible with different cultures, how to engineer secure software and what state of the art attack vectors you'd better deal with, how to engage with standards setting organisations, how to nurture and grow a developer community, how to write end user documentation, which software license best fits the goals of the project, how to deal with software patent trolling, how to support diversity with regards to gender and social identity, what considerations to take into account for software to be packaged by distributions, etcetera.

Adding these requirements post-development is many times more expensive, and in some cases can be impossible. We aim to complement the knowledge and skill set of the project proposers with leading domain experts in the respective fields. We can't do all the work for you, but we can provide guidance and mentoring to tackle each of these topics.

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 take a life of their own, while others may involve setting up some sort of business around them. Additional business development services will be provided to the funded projects in order to support the sustainability and access to potential users. The services will 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. Business development services will be provided free of charge by TETRA, which is an independent project funded by the European Commission.

What about accessibility? Is this mandatory?

The Next Generation Internet is meant to be inclusive. This is why we put significant attention to the results of the NGI Zero 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 are willing to invest in this as well. Experts from our team will help you understand what that means to your project, and will mentor you how you can comply with the technical requirements. All NGI projects will be audited by a certified expert organisation, the Accessibility Foundation.

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 "Search and Discovery", please do check out NGI Zero PET, which is similar to this call but addresses research and innovation in the area of Privacy and Trust Enhancing Technologies.

Also, you can check the website of the NGI initiative for open calls by other organisations.

My question is not here?

Well, if you've read all this and still have a burning question: let us know. We are happy to help!