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Next Generation Internet Explorers Program

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - NGI Explorers (Next Generation Internet Explorers Program)

Reporting period: 2020-07-01 to 2022-02-28

1. What is the NGI Explorers' mission?
The Next Generation Internet (NGI) Explorers Programme's mission is to leverage the EU-US researchers and innovators (Explorers) exchange and foster “made in Europe” NGI products and services. The exchange proceeds through the Technology Expeditions hosted by partnering US organizations (US Nodes) committed to the NGI vision, integrating the Explorers into their teams and supporting them in their endeavours. The Explorers got immersed in a 3, 5 and 6-month deep dive into the United States to accelerate their projects and cultivate an American mindset. The Technology Expeditions were a unique opportunity to strengthen and articulate their ideas while building traction among a whole new network of partners and potential customers.
2. Why it is important for society?
Research and innovation are the backbones of the economy. Scientific discoveries drive the development of new products and services, boosting economic growth and job creation. They also foster social development. The NGI Explorers project encouraged short-term transnational, intersectoral and interdisciplinary mobility of research and innovation, by enabling a pool of Internet-related talents affiliated to European organisations (universities, research centres, and companies) to participate in the Programme and to create strategic partnerships with leading ICT institutions in the U.S. The project ultimately contributes to strengthening Europe’s research and innovation capacity in meeting the technology challenges facing society, both today and tomorrow and therefore contributes to the excellence of science in finding solutions.
3. What are the overall objectives?
The main goal of the NGI Explorers Programme is divided into the short and long run. Respectively, we (1) launch the exchange of top Internet researchers and innovators from hi-tech startups, SMEs, research centers or academia into Technology Expeditions to the US, (2) to bridge new opportunities for joint collaboration between Europe and the US, build an ecosystem and exploit synergies.
The Programme sub-contracted in total 139 months of EU-US collaborative work delivered by our NGI Explorers ecosystem composed of 20 Researchers and 29 Innovators accompanied by matched US partners in 49 successful EU-US funded projects. The funded 3rd parties represent high geographical coverage of 19 European countries. Due to the global pandemic conditions, three types of expeditions were executed: in the U.S hybrid when travelling was partially allowed, and remote to overcome the existing barriers for exchange mobility across the ocean.

During the 3 years, the Programme succussed to engage 57 U.S partners formally committing to the three Open Calls. They represent absolute top US departments and world-class research groups, providing our Explorers with an immense opportunity to directly work with interdisciplinary, tech-driven collaborative groups of engineering, business, system and design experts working toward the solving pressing global problems in industry and the world through computer science.

With concern to tangible results, the Programme has stimulated knowledge exchange through the development of collaborative EU-US projects in the following domains Cloud/ Edge Computing, AI, Cybersecurity, IoT, Blockchain and 5G; and verticals: health, smart cities and buildings, network security and connectivity, robotics, smart transport, tourism, manufacturing, e-learning, agriculture, climate change and infrastructure.
Impact of the Programme reported by the Explorers:
• Top class mentoring
• Exposure to industry needs and procedures: feeling the gap in the field & market
• Access to high-quality data
• Technical integration of the products
• Testing technologies on the market
• Learning a new teamwork collaboration between university and start-up ecosystem
• Cross-universities research groups
• High-impact results
• Accelerate engagements with investors and R&D partners for future collaborations
• Innovative approach – “the cross-collaboration between academia and industry can be challenging, however very enriching”
• Sustainable collaboration environment
• Sound Scientific Validation
• Soft skills booster: pitching and presentation skills, crises handling, self-confidence boost.
• Social aspect: unforgettable adventures, friends for life – “one of the most important parts of this Programme”
One of the essential roles of the Programme highlighted by the Explorers turned out to be building a bridge of understanding to seemingly contradictory ecosystems need academic-driven goals on the one hand with a market/business/product/end-user oriented on the other. The US supervisors engaged in the Programme played a vital twofold role in providing cutting-edge expertise and an innovative mindset to expand the idea beyond the research framework.

Results achieved by the contracted Explorers:
• Hybrid Brain, symbiosis of humans and machines, Smart Navigator -a hybrid intelligence-powered next-generation decision system helping the public and private entities make smart
decisions with high-tech accuracy and full privacy
• Cybersecurity and privacy for Clinical Environment (tested Federated Learning approach to enable robotics in the surgery room to receive decisive analytics)
• Designed and deployed a ready for service, AI-driven VR-communication research platform that focuses on enabling the XR Metaverse researchers and businesses to make better data-driven
decisions in designing the Next Generation Internet serious communication layer
• Built first test prototype of a human-AI sense react habitat including sensors board (collecting HRV, GSR, and peripheral skin temperature) and afferent software exporting data into separate
datasets
• Multi-factor self-sovereign identity authentication (MFSSIA) for individuals, organizations, machines such as IoT - or self-aware devices - the case for e-healthcare integrated with the European
M-Sec project
• Blockchain Platform for Carbon-neutralized Agriculture
• Blockchain-based data governance – developed ErasCoin and TriXy Cryptocurrencies with personalization of the platform for each university or partner
• Mobile Application Go Green creating awareness of carbon footprint and engaging sustainable behaviours
• SmartNet project as a novel approach to enable future cognitive and autonomic edge network service orchestration, control and management
• QuarkXR a Cloud Streaming Platform which utilizes 5G and Edge Computing to enable scalable XR solutions – it is the first 5G-tested CloudXR solution in the world that democratize the access to high-end XR applications
• Confidential broker service for data centres allowing computation on encrypted data,
• Dynamic Resource Management in Latency Critical Fog Computing Environments (A Deep Learning-based Framework for Classification and Resource Prediction)

These and many more projects can be found on the project's website, describing each Explorer engaged in the Programme:
Open Call 1 - https://explorers.ngi.eu/meet-the-explorers-oc1
Open Call 2 - https://explorers.ngi.eu/meet-the-explorers-oc2
Open Call 3 - https://explorers.ngi.eu/mission-3
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The NGI Explorers from OC#1 group photo - Immersion Bootcamp in Warsaw, November 2019
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