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

Guide for Applicants

Main page | Guide for Applicants | Eligibility | FAQ

This page provides some guidance for people applying to the User-operated Internet Fund.

For the deadline of the calls please check the main page of the fund.

If you want to know details about the type of activities that qualify for financial support, or who can apply, please check the eligibility information. This page details the entire procedure, the results to be obtained, the competitive criteria for awarding financial support, and the criteria for calculating the exact amount of the financial support.

Criteria for awarding financial support

Projects are judged on their technical merits, strategic relevance to the User-operated Internet and overall value for money. The key objective is to deliver potential break-through contributions to the technology commons that is the open internet including its enabling technologies. All scientific outcomes must be published as open access, and any software and hardware must be published under a recognised open source license in its entirety.

First stage of the assessment

Based on the submitted proposals, projects receive a first check for eligibility in terms of alignment of goals and criteria with the sub-granting call. In this stage hard eligibility (“knock-out”) criteria specific to the sub-granting call are checked. Project proposals are written in English and:

All projects that fail on any of these knock-out criteria, will not be further reviewed and will be marked ineligible. The rest of the projects will be given a score based on the proposal text as submitted. If multiple versions were submitted prior to the deadline, the last complete version will be used.

Projects receive an initial rating on three criteria:

Weight Criterion
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 projects which are not taken into the second round are informed that their project is not selected, so that they may try to find funding elsewhere as soon as possible - or continue without additional funding.


Second stage of the assessment

The second 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 User-operated Internet, which is aligned with the larger vision of the Next Generation Internet. 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. If the revised plan scores lower than the original proposal, the original proposal is rated. The result is a ranking of projects that reflects the overall expected value and the relative impact in the context of the User-operated Internet, 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.

Criteria for calculating the exact amount of the financial support,

The amount to be granted to each third party should be the amount necessary to achieve the key objectives of the action. During the two stage review process, the overall ‘value for money’ and strategic potential of the proposal are part of the review, and thus of the ranking.

We have a rapid succession of project funding opportunities, so we can grow the talent instead of having a 'leap of faith' with a select few projects. Excellent teams that have successfully completed their project, can apply for additional funding again - provided that higher amount is necessary and delivers enough additional value. They are judged along the same criteria as the rest of the people in the grant round they are entering.

Proposals must adhere to the following boundary conditions:

  • a first proposal MAY request a maximum grant allocation between 0 and 50 kEuro. In other words, a proposal larger than 50 kEuro MUST be preceded by one or more smaller projects supported by NLnet, which MUST have been successfully concluded before a new project can be granted: this means that the project deliverables have been made publicly available under recognised open/free licenses, and other conditions may apply (e.g. that any software artefacts delivered were WCAG compliant, and that the outcomes of the independent security audit have been satisfactorily dealt with).
  • Any project larger than 50 kEuro MAY be subject to a full independent security audit at the end, by an independent party allocated by or agreed with NLnet. 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 exact amount of financial support offered is determined by NLnet based on the projected cost and estimated value of the proposed project. Any proposed amount is to be adjusted for costs that are deemed ineligible as well as for the cost of any additional activities recommended by NLnet. The final amount is established in the memorandum of understanding between NLnet and the grantee. If the grantee does not agree with the height of the grant offered, he or she may revoke the proposal prior to signing the MoU at any time.

NLnet as the grant handling organisation is a recognised public benefit organisation, and the goals of the User-operated internet are within its statutory mission. Any grants that will be handed out, to individuals, companies, NGO's or other types of legal entities are donations that may fall under beneficial tax conditions as 'philantropic gifts'.

Example Memorandum of Understanding

Curious what a typical Memorandum of Understanding looks like? Of course every MoU is specific, but do feel free to quickly glance over an example MoU to get an idea of what it looks like.

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