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TrustChain – Fostering a Human-centred, Trustworthy and Sustainable Internet is a 3-year project funded by the European Commission under the Horizon Europe Research and Innovation programme (GA 101093274), which aims to create a portfolio of Next Generation Internet protocols and an ecosystem of decentralised software solutions that reach the highest standards of humanity such as those chartered by the United Nations including the respect of human rights, ethics, sustainability, energy efficiency, our care for the environment and our respect for the World’s cultural history.
The Next Generation Internet (NGI) initiative, launched by the European Commission in the autumn of 2016, aims to shape the future internet as an interoperable platform ecosystem that embodies the values that Europe holds : openness, inclusivity, transparency, privacy, cooperation, and protection of data. The NGI will drive this technological revolution and ensure the progressive adoption of advanced concepts and methodologies spanning the domains of artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, interactive technologies and more, while contributing to making the future internet more human-centric.
TrustChain will tackle several challenges pertaining to trustworthy and reliable digital identity, to resilient, secure and reliable data pathways, to economics and trading of data, to energy efficiency for data storage, transport and sharing, to seamless services and data flows through 5 Open Call as follows:
- Open Call 1: Decentralised Digital Identity;
- Open Call 2: User privacy and data governance;
- Open Call 3: Economics and Democracy;
- Open Call 4: Multi chains support for NGI protocols; and,
- Open Call 5: Green scalable and sustainable DLTs.
Through these 5 Open Call, (up to) 75 selected projects would have the potential to entail a substantial advance in the state-of-the-art, delivering new software solutions and services to the TrustChain ecosystem with potential to improve the Internet infrastructure and/or reach the market in the short run.
TrustChain offers equity-free funding (up to €117k per sub-grantee), access to mentoring and coaching for scaling up and business aspects, access to a wide network of blockchain experts and researchers and wider NGI community, access to top infrastructure, presence in top EU events related with blockchain, matchmaking services, as well as visibility and promotion through the TrustChain community and beyond.
TrustChain is a 3-year funded project. The indicative timelines for the active Open Calls are as follow:
- Open Call #2: User Privacy and Data Governance (active)
Call announcement: 20 July 2023
Call closure and submission deadline: 20 September 2023 at 17:00 CEST
Evaluation period: Up to three months after call closure
Signature of sub-grant agreement: Up to one month after the announcement of the final list of selected projects
Projects: From January 2024 to September 2024 (9 months)
- Open Call 1: Decentralised Digital Identity (Closed)
Call announcement: 08 February 2023
Call closure and submission deadline: 10 April 2023 at 17:00 CEST
Evaluation period: Until end of May 2023
Signature of sub-grant agreement: First week of June 2023
Projects: From June 2023 to February 2024 (9 months)
TrustChain Open Call #2 welcomes applications that will clearly define, upgrade/extend the state-of-the-art, and develop the following types of solutions:
- Enhanced Consent profiles to implement transparent and user-friendly consent mechanisms that clearly explain how user data will be collected, used, and shared. A mechanism to provide users the ability to form informed consent and easily manage their privacy preferences in data sharing models.
- Data Minimization and Purpose Limitation techniques built in the web framework so that only necessary data is collected for legitimate purposes. Data owners should have means to share only data necessary to access a particular service.
- Secure data exchange and privacy-aware data processing must be the cornerstone of the new data economy. Privacy of training data, machine-learning models and model parameters should be aimed for. 
- Developing new privacy preserving data flow techniques in line with international data sharing agreements (e.g., EU Data Spaces) so that the user has choice to tune data parameters for trading/sharing of data.
- Develop new mechanisms in line with the international data flows standards so that the data can move freely within the EU and across international borders including USA, Japan and China.
- Data identification, data provenance, data tracking mechanisms should be built so that the data that is exchanged can be tracked. Handling of the data according to the user consent provided in a data exchange should be verifiable.
- Data certification/verification methods should be developed to verify the trustworthiness of the data.
- Modern privacy enhancing technologies, such as local differential privacy and other interactive privacy techniques, taking also into account online publicly available datasets that can be linked to the original data.
- Data obfuscation, perturbation and anonymization techniques or their combination that properly address the trade-off between privacy-preservation and data utility.
The above examples are only indicative, and applicants can propose solutions that integrate one or more of them. Applicants can also submit a proposal under a different example scenario, as long as it serves the overall TrustChain vision and objectives while also fitting within the scope of human centric decentralised trustworthy Next Generation Internet. protocols. Proposed solutions should utilize existing concepts and technologies already developed for data value sharing and preserving user-privacy and fit within TrustChain’s vision and objectives. The solutions should be provided as open-source software desirably at TRL 7, tested and evaluated by an adequate pool of potential end-users that should be identified and mentioned in the application, as well as supported by a self-sustaining business model for exploiting the developed system at the end of the project. Each proposed solution will have to use the latest technologies for full-stack development that are compatible with the current standards.
Applicants are invited to submit their proposals on any topic that serves the overall TrustChain Open Call #2 vision and objectives. Their proposed solution should consider as minimal requirement to:
- Use standard technology for full stack development,
- Be open source,
- Extend the state-of-the-art in the domain of user privacy, and/or solve existing real-world problems with data governance and provide new highly usable software solutions.
TrustChain Open Call #1 welcomes applications that will clearly define, upgrade/extend the state-of-the-art, and develop the following types of solutions:
- Decentralised user-centric identity management framework for supporting an automated privacy preserving, legal and regulatory compliant infrastructure (e.g., GDPR) potentially in alignment with emerging European regulations and standards (i.e. eIDAS).
- Protocols for trustworthiness assessment of entities by means of verifiable credentials and decentralised reputation systems.
- Smart oracles assessing the trustworthiness of data associated with digital identities.
- Inclusive digital identity platforms focusing on marginalised communities (e.g., refugees, elderly, vulnerable).
- Social identity for delegation and recovery that drives community-based trust establishment (i.e., social guardians).
- Systems considering both public and private administration roles in issuing and managing decentralised identifiers.
- Decentralised identity systems supporting Decentralised Authority Organizations (DAOs)
- Use-case driven identity management system deployment (e.g., banking, publishing, healthcare, education etc).
The above examples are only indicative, and applicants can propose solutions that integrate one or more of them. Applicants can also submit a proposal under a different example scenario, as long as it serves the overall TrustChain vision and objectives and fits within the scope of human centric decentralised trustworthy digital identity. It should utilise existing concepts and technologies already developed for SSI and fit within TrustChain’s vision and objectives.
Applicants are invited to submit their proposals on any topic that serves the overall TrustChain Open Call #1 vision and objectives. Their proposed solution should consider as minimal requirement to:
- Use standard technology for full stack development;
- Be open source;
- Extends the state-of-the-art in the domain of digital identities, and/or solves existing real-world problems with digital identities and provides new highly usable software solutions.
Projects supported by TrustChain Open Calls have a duration of 9 months.
Cascade Funding, also known as Financial Support to Third Parties (FSTP), is a mechanism of the European Commission to distribute public funds in order to create new companies, increase their scalability, SMEs and / or mid-cap companies, in the adoption or development of digital innovation. The main objective of this financing method is to simplify administrative procedures with SMEs, thus allowing some projects financed by the EU to issue, in turn, open calls to obtain more funding.
Funding is given by the TrustChain project under a Sub-Grant Agreement signed by selected applicants and the TrustChain consortium. Funds are from the European Commission (Horizon Europe Framework Programme), which uses TrustChain as intermediary.
The funding mechanism relies on a cascade-funding scheme involving Horizon Europe funds. The scheme is based on a Grant Agreement signed by the European Commission and the TrustChain consortium partners. The Consortium partners receive the HE funds which are then transferred to the winners of the TrustChain Open Calls based on the rules and regulations explained in the Guide for Applicants (Open Call #2). It means that funds received by call winners are Horizon Europe funds.
Open Call - Eligibility
Applicants can apply as individuals or linked to a legal entity. Hence, the participation is possible in several ways:
- Team of natural person(s): Team of individuals, all established in any eligible country. This does not consider the country of origin but the residence permit.
- Legal entity(ies): One or more entities (consortium) established in an eligible country. It can be universities, research centres, NGOs, foundations, micro, small and medium sized enterprises (see definition of SME according to the Commission Recommendation 2003/361/EC), large enterprises working on Internet or/and other related technologies are eligible.
- Any combination of the above.
In addition, the following conditions apply:
- Participating organisations should not have been declared bankrupt or have initiated bankruptcy procedures.
- Organisations or individuals (team of natural persons) applying should not have convictions for fraudulent behaviour, other financial irregularities, and
unethical or illegal business practices.
Check the Guide for Applicants (Open Call #2) for more details.
Only applicants legally established/resident in any of the following countries (hereafter collectively identified as the “Eligible Countries”) are eligible:
- The Member States (MS) of the European Union (EU), including their outermost regions.
- The Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT) linked to the Member States;
- Horizon Europe associated countries, as described in the Reference Documents and the List of Participating Countries in Horizon Europe according to the latest list published by the European Commission.
Third parties’ funds under TrustChain Open Calls come from the Horizon Programme. This means the Horizon Programme regulation will apply to these funds as well. If you get additional public funding from other entities it will be your responsibility to assure the compatibility of the different sources of funding whether you are a legal entity or a natural person.
Open Call - Participation
Open Calls are competitive and applicants should focus on one specific topic, so TrustChain consortium recommends you to submit one application per call, whether you are a legal entity and/ or a team of natural persons. In the event of multiple submissions, only the last one received (timestamp of the F6S system) will be considered for the evaluation process. Any other submitted proposals involving the same applicant will be declared non-eligible and will not be evaluated in any case.
Yes, you can. However, note that the maximum funding eligible per third party within the TrustChain project is limited to €200,000.
Open Call #2 closes on 20 September 2023 at 17:00 (CEST).
Each eligible application will be evaluated by a set of two independent experts, following three main criteria:
- Excellence and innovation (40% weighting);
- Expected impact and value for money (30% weighting);
- Project implementation (30% weighting).
Applications to Open Call #2 must submit the following documents:
- Application form: administrative questions to be completed directly in the F6S platform. In addition, some general questions for statistical purposes and tick boxes to be clicked by third parties confirming they have read and agree with the conditions defined in this document.
- Proposal description: document in PDF format containing the description of the project.
In addition, the Annex E: Additional Applicant(s) Template has to be uploaded in case that more than 3 applicants participate as individuals (natural persons) or/and more than 3 applicants participate as organisations (legal entities) filled with the information about the applicant(s) that do not fit in the application form.
The Evaluation & Selection phase is expected to take place until 3 months after the call closure (Open Call #2 deadline: 20 September 2023 at 17:00 CEST).
Open Call - Evaluation Process
The evaluation of the applications is carried out by the TrustChain consortium with the assistance of independent experts. TrustChain consortium members ensure the process is fair and in line with the principles contained in the European Commission’s rules on Proposal submission and evaluation. Experts perform evaluations on a personal basis, not as representatives of their employer, their country or any other entity. Each proposal is evaluated by a set of two experts according to the following criteria:
- Excellence and innovation (40% weighting)
- Expected impact and value for money (30% weighting)
- Project Implementation (30% weighting)
The evaluation of applications is carried out by the TrustChain consortium with the assistance of independent evaluators. The independent evaluators are experts with various expertise related to the TrustChain project. Experts are required to be independent, impartial and objective, and to behave throughout the evaluation process in a professional manner. They sign an expert contract, including a declaration of confidentiality and absence of conflict of interest, before beginning their work.
Payments will be done in 4 instalments based on concrete results (one pre-financing, two interim payments and one final payment). The 2K € extra funding will be provided in case the project outcome results in a peer reviewed journal publication with a minimum impact factor of 2.5.
A detailed evaluation process is described in the Guide for Applicants (Open Call #2).
- Beginning of the implementation and pre-financing:
During the first weeks of project implementation, each team will define together with their coaches/ mentors a set of clear and objective KPIs to be achieved and linked with the funding. These KPIs are different for each team and are related to the solution to be implemented. They will help measure the progress, if any, but also the commitment and involvement of the third party innovators (i.e., attending periodic call meetings with the coaches, meeting the deadlines for reporting, etc.). After this KPIs definition, a pre-financing of 30% will be released.
- First midterm review linked to the delivery of deliverable D2 and 2nd payment:
At the first midterm of project implementation, the coaches will assess the KPI’s percentage of execution of the project based on the evaluation of deliverable D2. A 100% completion of the KPIs for the related period will unlock the total of the 2nd payment which is 20% of the total amount. A lower completion of tasks will launch the proportional payment. If the KPIs for the related period are met by less than 50%, the payment will be retained until KPIs for the period are assessed as completely reached. If less than 25%, the third party innovators will be automatically disqualified from the process.
- Second midterm review linked to the delivery of deliverable D3 and 3rd payment:
At the second midterm of the project implementation, the coaches will assess the KPI’s percentage of execution of the project based on the evaluation of the deliverable D3. A 100% completion of the KPIs for the related period will unlock the total of the 2nd payment which is 30% of the total amount. A lower completion of the tasks will launch the proportional payment. If the KPIs for the related period are met by less than 50%, the payment will be retained until KPIs for the period are assessed as completely reached. If less than 25%, the third party innovators will be automatically disqualified from the process.
- Final review and last payment:
At the end of the project implementation, third parties will be paid according to their overall completion of KPIs materialised by the deliverable D4.
A final event will be used to evaluate third parties on a face-to-face pitch contest. The third parties will present their implemented solution, and their business plan in the context of TrustChain.
A panel of evaluators consisting of the TrustChain Consortium and Advisory Board members, will assess the third party innovators to release the final payment (remaining 20%). Only in the case of an underperformance below of a 25% the team will be disqualified, and no further payment released.
According to the minimis regulation (EC No 1998/2006), TrustChain is not a State Aid and therefore the funding does not count as minimis grant.
Payments will be done based on concrete results, and not in financial execution. However, your costs and funding breakdown will be required to ensure that the funding is used for the right purpose, as well as for traceability and accountability.
Subcontracting is not encouraged. The general rule applicable to the TrustChain project is that beneficiaries must have the appropriate resources to implement the full set of tasks needed within the project. This means it is not allowed to subcontract key parts of the project.
Examples (not restricted to) of subcontracting not desired are, as follows:
- paying an external developer not in the company to develop technical tasks;
- paying a research centre or foundation to execute technical tasks;
- among others.
Note: Employees of a company are never considered subcontractors but as part of the company resources.
Examples (not restricted to) of subcontracting activities that could be appropriate if needed are legal services and/ or design services.
The subcontracting amount should not represent a relevant amount of the total budget and should be justified on the submitted proposal.
If you participate as a team of individuals, you have to stick to the initial team members. Only new members can be added to improve the overall team, but not to change it.
If you are participating as an entity, you are free to add new employees from the firm to the team.