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SGA for networking and collaboration services and investments in long-term capacity for Research and Education Networks in Europe

(1.a) This part of the action aims at implementing the first period of the FPA action plan, and in particular related to the action related to (1) high quality connectivity for excellence in Research and Education and (2) state-of-the-art connectivity for the wider European Digital Infrastructure[[ Subject to modifications following the final scope of the FPA action plan.]].

The scope will be further defined once the FPA is in place. The possible activities, in line with the final action plan, may include:

  • Maintenance, operation and upgrade of the production network infrastructure by pursuing a cost-effective approach in advance of demand growth and progressing quality requirements.
  • Pan-European innovative procurement efforts to assure access for researchers and students to state-of-the-art commercial services.
  • Operations of core network services (TRL8) and development of new ones (minimum TRL6) to cater for the new needs of institutions, research centres and end users
  • Support the current (TRL8) and development and prototyping (TRL6+) of added-value services (such as security services) and collaborative tools on top of core connectivity required by scientists, researchers and higher education students.
  • Support researchers by developing new network and added-value services (including those based on lower TRLs) such as super high transfer speeds, quantum network testing, high precision time distribution, and other metrology services for example.
  • Service level metrics, baseline and targets on quality of service for every service (connectivity and collaboration) in production stage.
  • Expansion of the agreements with operators and service providers (public and private) that enable scientists and researchers access to a broader set of data sources (including European Data spaces) and digital tools, and facilitate collaboration with SME’s and industry.
  • Maintain and evolve the current core operations on identity federations and ensuring support of more complex services.
  • Alignment of the AAI systems across various communities and RIs in Europe and assistance in deployment of community AAIs, including synergies with EU policies beyond the scientific and research domains, such as e-IDAS or ERASMUS+.
  • Effective communication and dissemination activities across domains and target audiences across Europe
  • Collaboration activities with other NRENs and RRNEs (National/Regional Research and Education Networks) outside the EU not covered in this or other programmes and that will contribute to the objectives of the action, including capacity development for researchers and scientists.

The aim is to provide faster, resilient, agile and secure connectivity and collaboration services for enabling scientists, researchers and students access to near real-time applications that support evidence-based decision-making in society and worldwide effective collaboration of virtual research communities.

The network infrastructure must offer state-of-the-art services for extracting the full potential and maximise value from the investments in data sources, research infrastructures and computing resources. The network services have to cater for virtual research teams from different domains and affiliations, providing trusted and secure access to heterogeneous digital resources and allowing collaboration with the private sector and SME’s, when necessary. The provision should cover overall connectivity within the ERA, including HPC connectivity.

Expected Outcomes of the activities under part 1.a:

  • pan-European unconstrained and non-discriminatory secure and trusted access to data sources, storage and computing services, allowing scientists to conduct excellent research regardless of their location and the location of data and computing resources;
  • evolved existing services and newly developed services to assure State-of-the art trusted and secure connectivity and collaboration services within Europe across the full spectrum of research and education networks in Europe;
  • high quality, cost-effective, secure and resilient connectivity services providing unconstrained capacity ahead of demand in the backbone network and NREN[[National Research and Education Networks.]] access in multiples of 100Gbps, paving the way for Terabit connectivity;
  • exchange points for users beyond the traditional scientific and research communities within the remit of NRENs mandate, enabling data interoperability with for example SMEs and industry;
  • networking and access facilities to the European open Data Spaces;
  • authentication and authorisation Infrastructure (AAI) services and interoperability mechanisms with other well-accepted authentication systems and e-ID standards (in particular e-IDAS and its future evolution);
  • access for researchers and students to commercial services required for Open Science under European data requirements and at a good value;
  • support to training, dissemination for consolidating and expanding the cooperation and community building and for alignment with EU policy and participation with standardisation bodies.

(1.b) The activities in this part of the SGA should follow the action plan developed under the FPA for Research and Education Networks.

They should cover upfront investments for long-term acquisitions of capacity and associated equipment (excluding operating costs) for covering connectivity within Europe for new research technologies that have requirements beyond existing networking. These activities follow the successful models (e.g. BELLA-S1 & GN4-3N projects) with a dedicated action for covering full costs of equipment and acquisition of links (e.g. through IRU).

Activities within this part should be restricted to the procurement and launch into service of digital links. The selection of these should be fully aligned with the overall connectivity approach, which is developed and operated in part 1.a of the SGA.

Expected Outcomes of the activities under part 1.b:

  • procurement of new long-term network capacity in the most suitable contractual form (e.g. IRU, Indefeasible Rights of Use, for spectrum, dark fibre, etc.). The duration of the IRUs or participation/contract agreement shall minimise the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) of links and provide for a minimum service of 7-10 years;
  • procurement of necessary equipment to operate and exploit the capacity acquired under the action;
  • a resilient topology that contributes in preserving European leadership in Research and education networking and aligns with EU principles on digital autonomy and sovereignty. The action will veil in particular avoiding systemic dependencies from non-associated countries.

Specific conditions:

7-years Framework Partnership Agreement for Research and Education Networks with identified beneficiary and specific grants awarded to identified beneficiary for Research and Innovation Action under the Framework Partnership Agreement.

In this action the integration of the gender dimension (sex and gender analysis) in research and innovation content is not a mandatory requirement.

Purchases of equipment, infrastructure, services or other assets used for the action under activities covering part 1.a should be declared as depreciation costs.

Equipment, infrastructure, services or other assets (such as IRUs) purchased specifically for the activities covered under part 1.b may be declared as full capitalised costs taking into account that their life span may extend after the duration of the action and beyond the FPA coverage.

The standard evaluation criteria, thresholds, weighting for award criteria and the maximum rate of co-financing for this type of action are provided in parts D and G of the General Annexes with the following exceptions for the evaluation criteria:

For the criterion Excellence the following sub-criteria apply:

  • Clarity and pertinence of the project’s objectives, including their relevance to the overarching goals of the FPA. Extent to which the proposed work is ambitious, and goes beyond the state-of-the-art.
  • Soundness of the proposed methodology, including the business model approach on service delivery and provision of innovative services and the related metrics.
  • Effectiveness and agility in developing new services according to the needs of a wide user base across multiple disciplines for excellent science and research.