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NGI0 Commons Fund will award 21.6 million euro in grants for the development of open digital technologies

PRESS RELEASE
For immediate release: January 9, 2024

(Amsterdam/Brussels) Today the NGI Zero coalition, led by NLnet Foundation, unveils the NGI0 Commons Fund. Between now and 2027 the new public fund will award well over 21 million euro in small and medium R&D grants to free and open source technology projects. This makes the fund the single largest investment made by the European Commission’s Next Generation Internet initiative since it became operational in 2019.

The benefits of technology for society

The fund supports exclusively independent software engineers and researchers who develop digital commons – building blocks which can be used, studied, shared and modified by everyone. The NGI0 Commons Fund is a strategic impulse for Europe’s digital independence, as much as it is an investment into our European economy, says Michiel Leenaars, director of strategy at NLnet and program leader of the new fund. People are looking for fairer alternatives to existing proprietary digital services. Yet it is still unclear how to go about it. Fostering digital commons through these investments will render technologies more accessible and the internet less dependent on proprietary services with unclear legal conditions. And, a more resilient internet is a clear benefit for society.

Agile R&D granting process

Unique to the NGI0 Commons Fund is that it recognizes the importance of grassroots efforts as drivers for change. This is why the fund enables a large number of carefully curated small grants (between 5 000 and 50 000 euro), effectively at a human scale. If an investment of that size was good enough to bootstrap the development of the entire World Wide Web itself at the time, we believe it makes sense today to see what else we can bring into the world when there is no pressure from venture capital – but only talent that puts the public good at the center, says Leenaars. The programme is open to both individuals and organisations of any type – but the project outcomes must be publicly available under a free and open license. For projects with high potential, a scale-up programme is available.

The scope of the open calls is broad, meaning that those working on technology commons across the entire technological spectrum can apply: from libre silicon chips to privacy-friendly augmented reality & AI, from alternative mobile operating systems to open office suites, and from end-to-end encrypted messaging applications to community-curated open data repositories.

Making the internet human centric is part of the core mission of the Next Generation Internet initiative”, states Fabrizia Benini, Head of unit within the European Commission responsible for the NGI initiative. The European Commission is making a strategic investment into free and non-proprietary open software and hardware as well open standards, open data policies and publicly accessible science. These new building blocks of digital commons will make the internet more trustworthy, helping to overcome the dependency issues Europe is facing today.

First call opens February 1, 2024

The first open call is scheduled for next month, to be followed by new opportunities every two months until the budget is fully allocated. Besides financial support grantees can count on a range of support services to improve the quality, maturity and deployability of their efforts. Practical services like security, accessibility audits and packaging help to improve the quality and promote adoption of the projects, while services like mentoring and diversity management aim to strengthen the communities behind them.

END OF PRESS RELEASE

About NGI Zero

NGI Zero is a dynamic coalition of not-for-profit organisations that together fund and support the development of technology commons as building blocks for the Next Generation Internet initiative in various ways. Since 2019, NGI Zero has been reshaping public funding of technology with one of the most ambitious and productive funding programmes of its kind — providing bottom-up grants to create digital commons with a pipeline of tailored support to help mature the technologies in question. So far well over five hundred projects have been funded, ranging from formally verified VPN tunnels, open app stores, privacy-preserving analytics to decentralised social media – and many more.

The team behind NGI Zero Commons Fund includes the following European partners: NLnet Foundation (NL) (program lead), OW2 (FR), Free Software Foundation Europe (DE), OpenForum Europe (BE), Association Professionnelle Européenne du Logiciel Libre (BE), NixOS Foundation (NL), Tolerant Networks (IE), Radically Open Security (NL), HAN University of Applied Sciences (NL), Association for Progressive Communications (ES), Center for the Cultivation of Technology (DE) and Commons Caretakers BV (NL). Additional funding for the Swiss partners (Free Silicon Foundation and Internet Society Switzerland chapter) is made available by the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI). An overview of earlier and ongoing programmes such as NGI0 Entrust and NGI0 Core can be found on https://nlnet.nl/NGI0.

About the Next Generation Internet initiative

The Next Generation Internet (NGI) was initiated by the European Commission, with the overall mission to re-imagine and re-engineer the internet for the third millennium and beyond to shape a value-centric, human and inclusive society for all. The programme is supported by the European Commission's DG CNECT.

About NLnet Foundation

NLnet supports organisations and people who contribute to an open internet for all. NLnet funds projects that help fix the internet through open hardware, open software, open standards, open science and open data. After its historical contribution to the early internet in Europe in the 1980's, NLnet has been financially supporting the open internet since 1997.

Logo’s and image material in vector formats: https://nlnet.nl/logo".
Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NLnet.

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Contact: Tessel Renzenbrink, Communication Officer, tessel[at]nlnet.nl