Skip to main content
European Commission logo print header

Programme Category


Article available in the following languages:


FET Proactive: emerging themes and communities


Proposals should address research and innovation activities, aimed at jointly exploring directions and options to establish a solid baseline of knowledge and skills, and to foster the emergence of a broader innovation ecosystem for a new technology as well as a fertile ground for its future take-up (e.g. through public engagement processes when relevant, or through formal and informal education). Proposals should address a single of the specific subtopics within one of the following areas:

Area 1: Future technologies for societal change

  1. Being human in a technological world: critical interdisciplinary explorations of potentially game-changing impacts of future technologies on humanity, in plausible as well as in extreme scenarios. This can include individual, gender, organisational, economic, cultural and societal impacts, for instance from changes to self- or social perception, to our narratives, or to human development (e.g. cognitive, physical) or evolution. Visions being addressed should be radically forward looking and relatively unexplored, such as hyperconnectivity, human augmentation, hybridisation of nature, life extension, extra-sensorial perception or real/virtual blending. The work should provide fresh perspectives that challenge current thinking, include ethical and social aspects, reflecting on the purposes, impacts and motivations for the research and innovation activity, the associated uncertainties, areas of ignorance, assumptions, questions and dilemmas; and by this crystalize through active stakeholder engagement concrete options for shaping a worthwhile and responsible future.
  2. New science for a globalised world : tools and methods (mathematical, technological, social/organisational,…) for the collaborative study, projection and engineering of large scale open socio-technological and –ecological systems characterised by complexity and inherent uncertainty due to, among others, partial knowledge, ignorance and conflicting world-views by different actors. These tools and methods should include the study of informal opinion groups emerging on the Internet at a global level, and focusing on global topics such as Global Systems Science as a new integrative science approach, the emergence of global solutions as patchworks of local ones, non-rationality, the impact of open-data, the dynamics of social and cultural divides, of peace and conflict, and various incentives, drivers and enablers of change and innovation, including the arts.

Area 2: Biotech for better life

  1. Intra- and inter-cell bio-technologies: new technologies to enable the study and engineering of processes within and between biological cells, and their exploitation for purposes such as sensing, signalling, imaging, regulating, curing or for mimicking or re-engineering the intra- and inter-cell physics and dynamics. This can include the use of natural cells, optimised, therapeutic and compound, synthetic ones or combinations of these, as well as cell-free techniques. Where needed, multiscale mathematical modelling and computational simulation can be included. Proposals under this subtopic should also explore the paradigm-changing potential of these technologies, for instance in the bio-medical field.
  2. Bio-electronic medicines and therapies: using adaptive nerve or brain stimulation for precise regulatory control of organs or other biological processes inside the human body, in order to restore or maintain healthy conditions. This includes technologies for bio-electronic medicines, drug-free therapies, adaptive drug release, closed-loop BNCI, more invasive stimulation, or development of neurotransmitter sensor/actuator systems, all within a setting of personalised and adaptive medicine and the tight integration of diagnostic and therapeutic capabilities (theranostics). A Responsible Research and Innovation approach, including aspects of ethics, as well as social science and humanities should be taken into account.
  3. Cognitive neuro-technologies: integrated interdisciplinary approaches combining theory and novel technology-based experiments for understanding the circuits and pathways of higher-level cognitive functions (such as navigation, goal-oriented behaviour, motivation and reward, memory, knowledge and belief formation, reasoning and decision making, emotion, interaction, communication), the related principles of neural coding and operation within and between brain regions and the role of the physical and social/cultural environment in bringing them about. Proposals should focus on non-validated, leading-edge methodologies and technologies specifically relevant to cognitive neuroscience. Target applications could include, for example, adaptive human interfaces, specific brain interfaces and neuro-prosthetics to restore or support cognitive functions or to address unmet therapeutic needs.

Area 3: Disruptive information technologies

  1. New computing paradigms and their technologies: new foundations for computing, including bio-, nature- and socio-inspired ones that can encompass also aspects of communication, interaction, mimickry or differentiation (adaptation, learning, evolution), as well as non-technological aspects like organisational or physical/virtual architectural ones, and tailored to future and emerging challenges and requirements in highly interdisciplinary settings and for new kinds of mathematical and computational approaches in science.
  2. Quantum engineering: reproducible, economical and scaleable approaches, architectures and techniques for designing and realising devices and systems that exploit quantum phenomena, such as superposition and entanglement, for achieving new or radically improved functionalities (for instance in sensing, precision measurement, transduction, secure communication, control, simulation and computation) and demonstrated in the context and boundary conditions of a specific application area (for example in the biological, medical, materials, process, energy or standards domain).
  3. Hybrid opto-electro-mechanical devices at the nano-scale: new working principles and their first-time validation in nano-, molecular- or atomic-scale devices based on the interaction and mutual control of multiple physical degrees of freedom to achieve new or radically improved functionalities and application scenarios under plausible operating conditions. The interacting degrees of freedom are those involved in e.g. nano-optics, nano-scale electromagnetism, nano-mechanics and phonons and fluctuations.

Area 4: New technologies for energy and functional materials

  1. Ecosystem engineering:[[This topic is aligned with the Commission communication SWD(2014) 211 'Towards a circular economy: a zero waste programme for Europe' and its annex, which describes specific contributions expected from FET.]] new models, materials, processes, devices and systems going beyond a single dimension for extreme energy and resource efficiency and recovery, and footprint management into circular ecosystems (energy, raw materials, waste, water,…). New approaches and technologies for extremely efficient energy generation (e.g. artificial photosynthesis or microfluidic conversion), transfer, conversion, high-density storage and consumption. The targeted improvements with respect to the state of the art are to be stated in quantitative terms. Genuine cross-fertilisation and deep synergies between the broadest range of advanced sciences and cutting-edge engineering disciplines for emerging ecological technologies seeking holistic paradigms, striving to reduce or eliminate the environmental impact, and the replacement of toxic/pollutant substances by ecofriendly materials should be considered. First time validation and assessment of these results in the context of integrated synergetic circular economy solutions or other quasi self-sufficient environments.
  2. Complex bottom-up construction: new technologies and methods for self-organisation, assembly and adaptation of materials and physical devices/systems with complex functionality (including for instance energy storage, conversion or recovery), complex composition and/or spanning a range of scales (nano, meso) and with superior properties on each of them. Energy and resource/material availability, ecofriendlyness and efficiency are to be taken into account). Where needed, multiscale mathematical modelling and computational simulation of materials and related production or self-organisation processes can be included.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 4 and 10 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. When appropriate, this allows for proposals to provide financial support to third parties in line with the conditions set out in Part K of the General Annexes, for example to access specific expertise, to enhance impacts or to award an inducement prize following a contest organised by the beneficiaries.

The Commission further considers that proposals with a duration up to 5 years would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals of different duration.

The funding budget per area is with a maximum of EUR 20 million for each of the areas 1 and 4, and a maximum of EUR 30 million for each of the areas 2 and 3.

To mature a number of novel areas and themes by working towards structuring emerging communities and supporting the design and development of transformative research themes. The main benefits of this structuring yet explorative approach are emerging novel areas that are not yet ready for inclusion in industry research roadmaps, and building up and structuring of new interdisciplinary research communities around them. It makes the step from collaborations between a small number of researchers, to larger collaborations addressing various aspects of a novel research theme to jointly explore possibilities for, and long-term implications of future technologies that matter.

  • Establish a solid baseline of knowledge and skills for a future technology in the theme addressed.
  • Goal oriented community structuring and true interdisciplinary collaboration.
  • Emergence of an innovation ecosystem around a future technology in the theme addressed from outreach to and partnership with high potential actors in research and innovation, and from wider stakeholder/public engagement.