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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. Artificial Intelligence for extended social interaction. This sub-topic explores the combination of new Artificial Intelligence and immersive interaction technologies to enhance the social dimension in future virtual social spaces. It aims to lay the basis for a new flavour of social media in which Europe can mark a difference. In 10-15 years from now, Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality (eXtended Reality, XR) will be as ubiquitous as Smart Phones are today, leading to new kinds of social media in which, on the one hand, interaction with others will become more natural while, on the other hand, entirely new experiences and ways of sharing become possible. The sub-topic addresses the redefinition of a person’s social interaction space in light of increasing virtualisation, unprecedented social scale information load and ubiquitous intelligence, leading to currently acute issues of trust, the nature of social relationships (beyond ‘friends’ and ‘followers’), believe formation, crowd- and organisation dynamics, the permeation of private and public spheres, or social exclusion and divides, among others. New human-centric and responsible Artificial Intelligence technologies can address these by bringing more social intelligence in the interaction environment and greater user-, contextual- and social awareness, and also through a tighter coupling with sensori/motor- and cognitive processes using, for instance, multimodal XR setups, or minimally invasive interfaces like spatial audio, smart skins, haptics, robotic devices and wearables. Projects will also investigate whether and how the perceptual- and sociocultural parameters implicit in natural, context-rich social interaction carry over to such virtual or hybrid settings. Influence on self-perception, well-being (addiction), acceptance, learning and brain-development/adaptation should also be considered, especially in scenarios of extensive and always-on use. Ethics, age- and gender differences, safety and health should be taken into account.

b. Breakthrough zero-emissions energy storage and conversion technologies for carbon-neutrality. Provisioning clean and sustainable energy is one of the major challenges for Europe to meet its climate ambition. This sub-topic aims at multidisciplinary research (starting from TRL 1-3) for breakthroughs in energy storage and conversion that is clean, compact and ultimately low-cost, aimed at decentralised and/or mobile or portable uses in specific application contexts, for instance, in industry as substitutes to fossil fuels or raw materials for chemistry, in the transport sector (road, air, water and either for motive or auxiliary needs), for portable uses, in sustainable housing, remote places or in emergency situations. Novel concepts and breakthrough techniques with zero emissions of greenhouse gasses and a minimal use of rare or toxic materials have to be explored. Research areas could include storage and conversion of clean energy (e.g. solar, wind, geothermal), solar fuels and solar chemicals, possibly based on recycled and atmospheric CO2 or other. Research on electro-chemical batteries is not addressing this sub-topic. Where relevant, circular design and/or high degree of recyclability must be addressed. Clear and ambitious performance targets and milestones to achieve them shall be provided.

c. Digital twins for the life-sciences. The sub-topic aims at the close integration and real-time interaction of computational models of biological structures and systems (from biochemical pathways to cells, tissues, organs and individuals), with non-destructive analysis, advanced imaging and sensing techniques for such biological systems, mechanisms and processes. It extends concepts and technologies of digital twins beyond their industrial versions, which are typically supporting the life-cycle of engineered products, into the domain of the life sciences. The core challenge is to derive and update the digital twin from longitudinal and individual data, and using information from the cutting-edge non-destructive analysis, imaging, sensing and monitoring of its biological counterpart, using advanced Artificial Intelligence techniques and taking the achievements of systems biology, mechanobiology, metabolomics and systems medicine into account. This can be done in vivo at whole-body (e.g. using wearable and implantable sensors) or organ level; or in vitro (e.g. for interacting cells and organoids, 3D cell co-cultures, organ/body-on-chip). A further challenge is to include dynamics at multiple spatio-temporal scales (e.g. for deriving predictive values or simulating adaptation processes, or by evolving the twin itself into a better model through evolutionary or adaptive AI techniques), through new principles of molecular mapping, imaging, sensing and data analysis or Artificial Intelligence that take the time-dimension into account. Biological dynamics can be observed in the non-manipulated state (normal, diseased) or under manipulation (altered, perturbed, diseased) by chemical, biological or physical interventions such as gene-editing, pharmaceuticals, viruses, acoustic waves, electromagnetic fields, light, forces, or altered temperature. This will offer unprecedented insights into the molecular, cellular and extra-cellular dynamics underlying human disorders such as developmental, metabolic, cardiovascular, neurological, oncological or rare pathologies, where personalised precision medicines and advanced diagnostic and therapeutic approaches but also prevention measures (lifestyle, nutrition, environmental factors) are needed to make healthcare more effective, more convenient, cheaper and uniquely tailored to each patient. Work on ethical implications should be included.

d. Measuring the unmeasurable –– Sub-nanoscale science for Nanometrology. This sub-topic seeks to find and test new approaches for nano- and sub-nano metrology. Proposals should target new techniques, for example, physics-, biochemistry- and chemistry-based methods incorporating nano- and picometre-length scales in the spatial domain with femto- and atto-seconds in the temporal domain. The proposal must address research from a novel measurement concept up to a technique and/or method including prototype measuring devices/setups and procedures, and sound metrological aspects like quantification of uncertainty or traceability. Proposals should seek to approach theoretical limits in challenging domains (physical, chemical, biological) while minimising any potential damage or change to the object being measured. Full three-dimensional characterisation (tomography) or the application of metrological procedures to transient phenomena on a sub-nanosecond time-scale could push the limits in metrology. Research on refining existing techniques is excluded. Proposals will address emerging issues of nano-metrology in spatial and temporal dimensions, including for example morphology, composition, reactivity, energy, dynamics or relevant optical, electronic, chemical and biochemical properties. Challenges in measurement that could be used as test cases are, e.g. understanding and controlling changing morphology impacting chemical properties in nano-photonic devices or battery electrodes; integrating metrology with sub-nanoprinting, nano-engineering or self-characterisation techniques; the measurements of heat transfer across interfaces down to the atomic size level; or the characterisation of the dynamics of molecular interactions in or with biological systems for health or smart materials. The use of advanced modelling, statistical methods, big data and machine learning methods is welcome where appropriate.

Projects should establish a solid baseline of knowledge and skills and assemble the interdisciplinary communities around them, including from the social sciences and humanities. They should further foster the emergence of a broader innovation ecosystem and create a fertile ground for co-design of the new technological paradigm and its future take-up (e.g. wider stakeholder/public engagement, informal education, policy debate), in line with the discussion on Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) in the introduction of the FET part of the work programme.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of EUR 4 to 4.50 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 project 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.