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FET Proactive: emerging paradigms and communities


proposals are sought for cutting-edge high-risk / high-reward research and innovation projects that aim to demonstrate a new technological paradigm within the scope of one of the following sub-topics:

a. Human-Centric AI. Artificial intelligence (AI) is gaining more and more footholds in various aspects of our life. However, machine learning algorithms are difficult to understand, opaque and may have implicit biases in their decision making. Explicability has become an essential element if users are to trust, accept and adopt the next generation of intelligent machines on a wider scale. This initiative seeks to advance to the next AI frontier with verifiable, evidence-based features of trustworthiness (i.e. reliable and unbiased alignment of values, goals and beliefs) and transparency (explainable performance), exploring radically new approaches (e.g. inspired from neuro-science, cognition or social science). For instance, explanation could be more tightly intertwined with the decision making process itself so that decisions can be challenged, interpreted, refined and adjusted through mutual exchange, introspection (e.g. self-awareness of biases, reflecting on the internal functioning of the learning system, or on what caused a wrong or unacceptable decision) and active learning of both system and user, for example through dialogue or other forms of multi-modal interaction aimed at establishing mutual trust. New data collection and ownership/governance models that go beyond the dominant off-line and centralised data processing should be investigated, and new avenues, such as for incremental, unsupervised, active, one-shot and ‘small data’ machine learning, should be explored. The projects are expected to contribute to the wider debate on the sociotechnical, organisational and AI-ethical dimensions of such technologies and systems, and link to the ’Commission’s broader AI strategy[[COM(2018) 237 final, 25.4.2018.]].

b. Implantable autonomous devices and materials. Radically new biomedical technologies that will lead to enhanced life quality for people are urgently needed, particularly for mitigating the impact of chronic health conditions that are placing a rapidly growing and ultimately unsustainable burden on healthcare systems. A key goal will be to demonstrate dramatically extended functional lifetimes of implantable devices, for example, through incorporation of smart sensing, self-awareness, adaptation (form and/or function) and self-repair capabilities. Included are mobile micro/nano devices based on biological models that can perform advanced functions e.g. site specific automigration, ability to distinguish tissue types (diseased, normal) and perform highly localised actions (e.g. delivery of therapeutic agents). Entities incorporating (bio)materials that provide instances of totally autonomous biomimetic behaviour and in-situ integration and adaptation are particularly welcome, such as an ability to blend-in with the native biological environment, to independently generate power, synthesise active agents or sense and respond to changes in the local molecular environment. Work on ethical implications should be included.

c. Breakthrough zero-emissions energy generation for full decarbonization. Clean and sustainable energy is one of the major challenges of our time. This sub-topic aims at the multidisciplinary exploration of new directions (starting from TRL 1-3) for power generation that is clean, compact and low-cost, aimed at stand-alone, mobile or portable uses in specific application contexts, for instance, in the transport sector (road, air, sea and either for motive or auxiliary needs), for portable uses, in remote places or in emergency situations. Breakthrough concepts and techniques for energy generation have to be explored for generating heat and/or electricity efficiently with zero emissions and with a minimal use of rare or toxic materials. Research areas could include, for example, long duration high heat sources from hydrogen-metal systems (e.g. using nickel), energy generation in plasma and cavitation systems. These or any other concepts with similar compact, high energy density and low-cost energy generation capabilities should be harnessed to make them usable for specific application contexts. Clear and ambitious performance targets and milestones to achieve them shall be provided.

FET Proactive projects should establish a solid baseline of knowledge and skills and assemble the interdisciplinary communities around them. They should further foster the emergence of a broader innovation ecosystem and create a fertile ground for future take-up of its new technological paradigm (e.g. public engagement, informal education, policy debate).

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of up to EUR 4 million and with a duration of up to 4 years would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts or duration.

This topic allows for the provision of financial support to third parties established in an EU member state or country associated with Horizon 2020 in line with the conditions set out in General Annex K, either to enhance impacts through punctual small scale experimentation and use of project results by third parties, or to award a prize following a contest organised by the beneficiaries.

To explore and consolidate a new technological direction in order to put it firmly on the map as a viable paradigm for future technology. To foster the interdisciplinary communities that are able to drive this forward, extending from the participating consortia to a wider European pool of expertise. To stimulate the emergence of a European innovation eco-system around a new technological paradigm, well beyond the world of research alone.

  • Scientific and technological contributions to the foundation and consolidation of a radically new future technology.
  • Potential for future returns in terms of societal or economic innovation or market creation.
  • Spreading excellence and building leading innovation capacity across Europe by involvement of key actors that can make a difference in the future, for example excellent young, researchers, ambitious high-tech SMEs or first-time participants to FET under Horizon 2020[[First time participation here refers to the individuals involved, not to their institution or organisation.]].
  • Build-up of a goal oriented interdisciplinary community (within and beyond the consortium).
  • 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, with due consideration of aspects such as education, gender differences and long-term societal, ethical and legal implications.