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A Collaborative platform for EU-US NGI experiments

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - NGIAtlantic.eu (A Collaborative platform for EU-US NGI experiments)

Reporting period: 2020-01-01 to 2021-03-31

The Next-Generation Internet (NGI) represents a key element among scientists and innovators in both the EU and United States of America (US). The EU-funded Horizon 2020 NGI Atlantic.eu project has created the organisational and financial structure that facilitates the cascade funding of EU-based researchers working on NGI experiments, alongside with counterparts in the US funded by the US-based funding agencies.

The project developed and manages an online platform for the use of targeted researchers and innovators’ communities to encourage and support the cascade funding of trans-Atlantic (EU - US) research projects and experiments. It is engaged in the mobilising of the users’ communities of both the EU and US to successfully promote trans-Atlantic collaboration on building a human-centric internet based on values such as trust, privacy, and inclusiveness, in-line with the principles of the NGI initiative of the European Union.

The overall objectives of the project are:
• Attract and enable start-ups and innovators from EU and US to collaborate on experimental platforms through Open call -based cascade funded projects related to the NGI topics.
• Establish an EU-US Twinning Lab and provision of necessary support services.
• Setting up a transatlantic experimental platform “playground” that will reinforce collaboration and increase synergies between the EU’s Next Generation Internet initiative and the US’s Internet programmes and facilitate the development interoperable solutions and joint demonstrators.
• To ensure maximum impact and sustainability of the transatlantic NGI activities.
In the first period to Month 15, the project has developed and implemented an Open Calls platform (http://grants.ngiatlantic.eu/) operating as the core engine of the project architecture to provide an agile, dynamic cascade funded programme. The platform is used for a continuous open call for the external pool of evaluators (EPE), the individual open calls, and the platform for evaluation of the submitted applications. The platform also is coupled with the overall project site, which houses the operational functions of the project activities.

The project has initiated the fostering of an EU-US NGI experiments ecosystem, drawing upon the existing platforms in EU and US for bridging the communities to carry out NGI experiments, and the project has provided a Twinning Lab (https://ngiatlantic.eu/twinning-lab) for a support system for twinning the teams to work productively together in development of applications for submission to the Open calls.

For the first year of the project in 2020, there was no specific funding available for US participants taking part in the open calls, which caused many questions from the applicants on this topic, and some challenges in garnering interest from the US communities. There had been a previous programme entitled the US National Science Foundation (NSF) ICE-T program – US-EU Internet Core & Edge Technologies (ICE-T), which started in the previous year before NGIatlantic.eu and, hence, was not aligned particularly with the project’s open calls. However, the project reached out to many of these ICE-T project participants in the US to see if they had interest in becoming involved in NGIatlantic.eu open calls, and some of them were interested and indeed participated in the project’s Twinning Lab and subsequent applications.

During 2020, the EC kept in regular contact with the NSF about a more specific programme with NGIatlantic.eu and this came to fruition on 16 February 2021 with the launch of a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) Supplemental fund for existing NSF grant holders, NSF US-EU DCL 21-048 – a new dedicated supplemental fund for existing US NSF grantees to team up with NGIatlantic.eu partners if they are in successful NGIatlantic.eu applications. The project team and the European Commission officers had weekly virtual meetings with the NSF early in 2021 to ensure the DCL would be launched and become available for the project’s Open call 3 in time, and according to our follow up meetings with the NSF, the DCL will be available for the remaining duration of the NGIatlantic.eu project in 2022, and possibly carried forward into Horizon Europe.

The project has attracted and enabled innovators from EU and US to twin together to apply for applications into its first three open calls. The first call attracted 21 EU- US teams, the second open call attracted 23 applicants, and the third open call attracted 33 applications. This included 43 innovators in the first call, 57 innovators in the second call, and 81 innovators in the third open call. In terms of interested organisations signing up to the platform in relation to the open calls and EPE calls, this number reaches over 500 applicants to the OC and the EPE calls. The first open call is funding 6 projects and the second open call is funding 5 projects. The third open call is in the final stages of project ranking and selection at the time of writing.

In addition, the project has focused closely on working closely with the entire NGI initiative ecosystem with a view to achievement of major impacts on widening the community of innovators interested in EU – US collaboration, raising visibility to the entire community and beyond, and focusing on best practices in relation to exploitation and sustainability models as core principles.
To ensure maximum impact and sustainability of the transatlantic NGI activities funded by NGIatlantic.eu the project stresses that the submitted applications are evaluated on the following criterion:
+ Added value to NGI challenges and policies, including benefits to societal and economy implications;
+ Impact of work on EU and US interests and the EU-US experiments in question;
+ Expertise of the applicant in the respective priority areas; and
+ Expertise of the applicant in NGI, e.g. previous contributions to NGI developments, participation in other groups working on future internet / next generation internet developments.

The first criteria focus is on the soundness of the proposal and foreseen impact on European strategy (this criteria is weighted at 30%), which focuses on the quality and effectiveness of the proposed work plan, including extent to which the resources assigned to the work plan are in line with their objectives and deliverables and the extent to which the outputs of the project would contribute to each of the expected impacts mentioned in the work programme under the EU-US collaboration on NGI topic. The criterion also addresses the potential for durable collaboration and potential for long term sustainable cooperation among the partners, making sure is not merely a one-off collaboration they are requesting funds for.

In addition, when the projects coordinators sign a contract with the NGIatlantic.eu project coordinator, they are obliged to submit three deliverables over the lifetime of their projects. These deliverables have individualised templates and are designed to gather the information as the project evolves to ensure they are on track to achieve maximum impact and sustainability.

The required deliverables are submitted as follows: D1 (Detailed Experiment Description and Implementation (Execution) Plan due at end of Month 1; D2 (Report on Experiment Implementation and Execution) due at the mid-term of project; and D3 (Experiment Results and Final Report) due at the end of the project.
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