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Next Generation Internet Explorers Program

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - NGI Explorers (Next Generation Internet Explorers Program)

Berichtszeitraum: 2019-01-01 bis 2020-06-30

1. What is the NGI Explorers' mission?
The Next Generation Internet (NGI) Explorers Program'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 in their teams and supporting them in their endeavors. The Explorers will get immersed in a 3 or 6-month deep dive into the United States to accelerate their projects and cultivate an American mindset. This will be 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 backbone 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 encourages 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 excellence science in finding solutions.
3. What are the overall objectives?
The main goal of the NGI Explorers Program 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 project activities concentrated on setting up the NGI Explorers Fellowship Program; performing two Open Calls, contracting in total 32 high-profile ICT Explorers; expanding our US and EU ecosystem; branding and disseminating the project; promoting OC#1 Explorers and managing their expeditions in the US. Some deviations have been experienced with regard to M14 -18 due to the impact of the global COVID-19 outbreak.

The first months were dedicated to building a core operational Program, which included:
• Setup actions for the Program: preliminary call orientations, the definition of Focus Areas, participation options, and eligibility criteria.
• Engagement strategy for the US Nodes: building a solid US Node network to foster EU-US collaboration.
• Outline of main topics and preferences for the Open Call: profiling the multiple participation options; gathering feedback hosting preferences, resources and availability; and structuring the different collaboration alternatives.
As a result of the work the Programme set up the following: (1) Focus Areas: Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, Big Data, Internet of Things, 5G, Cybersecurity, Cloud/Edge computing, Interactive Technology, Future hyper-connectivity, and Human-centric internet, (2) Participation options: A.) Open ideas (Applicants submit a proposal around their ideas, products/services);B.) Challenge (US Nodes define a challenge); C.) Paired Team (Applicants submit a proposal along with a specific US partnering organization).

The project launched and closed two Open Calls (May 2019 and Jan 2020), with 46 (OC#1) and 32 (OC#2) finalised applications. The evaluation process engaged 27+ evaluators (business and technical profiles) selected from two performed Open Calls for interest for Evaluators run at F6S platform. In total, the two Open Calls required 142 remote evaluations and 52 interviews to finally select 32 Explorers (14 in OC#1 and 18 in OC#2).
The OC#1 batch participated in Bootcamp held between 19-21 November 2019 in Warsaw, Poland. The OC#1 Expeditions were scheduled between Jan – Jul 2020. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, 7 out of 14 the planned Expeditions could be finally performed, and the rest have been rescheduled to the OC#2 batch.

Between Round #1 and #2, NGI Explorers completed in total a partnership agreement with 27 unique organizations to become US Nodes and host the selected European fellows. In total, the project secured 60+ open fellowship positions in the US. It allowed us to match the Explorers with their US Node 1st preference choice (out of 3) in 100% cases in OC#1 and 92% in OC#2."
The project has stimulated knowledge exchange through contracting 32 EU-US collaborative 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, and infrastructure.

The Programme engaged with the 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 solving pressing global problems in industry and the world. The following state-of-the art laboratories declared hosting role for the awarded EU Explorers:
o The SCU IoT Research Lab
o The Laboratory for Advanced System Software
o The Network Science, Wireless, and Security Lab
o The Dependable Networking and Computing Lab
o The Advanced Networking Lab
o The Stevens Institute for Artificial Intelligence
o The Security and Optimization for Networked Globe Lab
The solid academic US offers are complemented by the entrepreneurial collaborative, competitive edge that breeds a solution-oriented mindset where industry partners benefit from collaborating with Explorers’ creative minds exploring the limitless possibilities in the NGI environment. Within that network the Program collaborates with:
o The Providence Group, which helps organizations navigate the complexity of cybersecurity and privacy risk.
o Dew Mobility, a California State corporation with partners like Microsoft, Samsung, Nokia, Orange with 4 business units: IoT, AI, Machine Learning and cybersecurity applications.
o URBAN.SYSTEMS helps scale interoperable components through partnerships with providers of products that interoperate through open software and public interfaces.

Concerning the policy collaboration, the project managed to collaborate with The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) - part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and Portland-based urban.systems for smart cities - a trusted “incubator” for local, state and federal governments in how to upgrade smart technology to support the needs, desires and expectations of their citizens. Two of our EU Explorers are contracted for their Technology Expeditions in these US Nodes, with the projects: (1) Bridge Monitoring with Predictive Intelligence using MATEREO– The next generation of bridge monitoring systems; (2) enhance cities’ innovation capacity by endowing to the inhabitants the capacity to auto-evaluate and measuring the city development using holistic KPIs as metrics. The latter has signed an agreement to continue the collaboration with NIST.