Next Generation Internet (NGI) – What’s in it for you?

A short article explaining the NGI Initiative, its ecosystem and how you can get involved (and can get funded)…

What is the NGI?

No matter whether it is a huge platform (e.g. health care systems) or a rather dedicated application (e.g. traffic light alignment), or something in between. They all have in common that they need to be connected.

This connectivity currently raises a lot of issues: privacy, security of data, lock-in potential (of user data, of business data or even processes) etc… Therefore, the European Commission (EC) is reaching out to the community – researchers, companies and individuals – to co-define the Next Generation Internet that should be user-centric by design: a user needs to control his/her data – e.g. privacy levels, rules for cooperation (codes of conduct, platform usage rules, …) and much more.

A bit more on the European NGI Initiative…

The EC created the Digital Single Market. Regulation is in place, now the internet needs to follow. It started with a vision 2 years ago, and currently the focus lies on building a strong community. At the same time, the first calls for projects are launched, ensuring progress in key topics.

The NGI community is meant to raise feedback, to introduce and connect key players from research institutes, large (multinational) enterprises, start-ups and SMEs, and even individuals (activists, artists, …). And to be completely clear: NGI is not only about technology, it is also about psychology, business models, law, user-research, arts…

Funding possibilities

Depending on who you are, there are two entry points for funding.

A/ On the one hand there are the “classical” Horizon 2020 RIA and IA calls (which require a consortium with partners from at least 3 countries, a typical project duration of 36 months and budgets between 1 and 3 MEUR). Find more info on https://www.ngi.eu/resources/ec-calls/.

  • The main call is ICT24 with 21.5 MEUR for projects on i) Strengthening internet trustworthiness with electronic identities, ii) Service and data portability and  iii) open internet architecture renovation).
  • ICT31 is a call to stimulate collaboration with the US, to ensure a global view on a next generation internet.
  • Also related is ICT30, which has a budget of 7 MEUR and focuses on personalised and inclusive digital learning challenges.
  • In parallel there is the Horizon 2020 prize for blockchain for social goods; make sure to read modalities and criteria, as this prize differs a lot from the standard RIA and IA calls.  

B/ There is also a more approachable possibility for individuals/start-ups/SMEs with ideas: through several open calls NGI wants to pick up the ideas that don’t fit with the classic funding schemes. The focus will be on short-term research, concepts and technologies that can be brought quickly to the market and to the society. The open calls differ in topic, scope and how they are organised; and budgets range from 5 kEUR (for ideas) up to 200 kEUR (for an MVP incubation trajectory).

  • The NGIZero initiative tries to source ideas for building blocks, it has two subcalls: one on Next Generation Search & Discovery and one on Privacy & trust enhancing technologies. Funding ranges between 5 and 50 k€, the first call will be  launched in February 2019 (and new calls are foreseen every 2 months).
  • The NGI Ledger project looks for people to solve problems using decentralised technologies such blockchain, peer to peer or distributed ledger technologies. It is implemented as a MVP builder programme, for projects where privacy by design, openness and citizen data sovereignty are at the core of the proposition. The focus on 5+1 sectors: health, finance, collaborative economy, public services, energy and disruptive projects. Funding ranges from 50 k€ to 200 k€, is lumpsum based on proof-of-work. A first call is expected in February 2019, the second a year later. Don’t mistake this with the Horizon 2020 prize on blockchain!
  • The NGI trust initiative seeks technical innovations in privacy enhancing technologies, considering ethical and legal aspects, and best practices. Goal is bootstrapping trust at the protocol level, to maintain a decentralized Internet Infrastructure, for the establishment of trust, privacy (and security) between endusers and services. A 1st call (opening Feb 2019) seeks to attract a broad mix of projects including early-stage ‘feasibility’ studies. The 2nd call (opens Feb 2020) will aim to build upon those (projects following on from smaller pilot/feasibility projects) but also attract additional players with scalable projects.

The current eco system

The NGI initiative is steered by the EC but the executed by many players. The best starting point for exploring the ecosystem is the central website – https://ngi.eu. From here you’ll be able to discover interesting partners and sources of further information.

  • Information: You will find a FAQ clarifying the main confusions that arose, and a list of upcoming events where you can meet people involved in the NGI community. There is repository of already 170 relevant organisations https://map.ngi.eu (don’t be shy to register yourself). And maybe most important, there is an overview of national contact points, who are happy to provide personal assistance and guide you further.
  • Actions: the main actions are managed by “projects”: hub4ngi (bootstrapping the initiative), speak ngi (citizen-driven open consultation), ngi move (actively building the community) and engineroom (identifying and evaluating the key enabling technologies and topics). If one of those topics is relevant for you, make sure you connect with the project.

More detailed information can be found here