In 2019, Germany and France undertook in the "Treaty of Aachen" to improve their cooperation in the field of research and digital transformation, including artificial intelligence (AI) and breakthrough innovations. On this basis, a joint call for the funding of innovative AI projects was launched on 3 February 2021, coordinated by the French Bpifrance (Banque Publique d'Investissement) and the DLR project management organisation. "France and Germany want to be a driving force for artificial intelligence in Europe," affirmed German Economics Minister Peter Altmaier in this connection. The total funding budget is EUR 10 million in Germany and EUR 10 million in France.
Bridge between research and industry
The call for funding is aimed in particular at Franco-German research and innovation projects on AI technologies for risk prevention and crisis management. The project must be submitted by a binational consortium of a maximum of five partners, comprising at least one eligible partner for each of the two participating agencies (DLR and Bpifrance). One Leading Principal Investigator (LPI) each from Germany and France will be appointed in this connection.
Through the cooperations, new projects are to build a bridge between research and industry. The aim of these AI projects is to automatically identify crises at an earlier stage and to minimise negative effects by means of suitable solution strategies. The overall budget, i.e. all costs or expenditure incurred by a consortium, but not the amount of funding applied for, must be at least EUR 4 million.
Focus: crisis management and prevention
The call for funding is targeted in particular at the three areas of healthcare, business and sustainability.
In the healthcare sector, for example, projects can be submitted in which AI uses clinical trials with real-world data to track the spread of a virus. Also conceivable are projects that use AI for digital models when simulating quarantine scenarios and the effects of drugs or diseases on patients. For example, studies on the early detection of Alzheimer's using AI have been in progress for several years, but have not yet been completed. AI is also now going to be used in connection with the detection of Covid-19 infections. Comparable research could be subsidised through this call for funding.
Innovation projects from the business sector are also invited to apply. Eligible, for example, are projects in which applied AI preserves economic sovereignty in the event of a crisis, enabling value chains and logistics to be maintained or processes accelerated. The fact that Europe is not sufficiently secure in this area was clearly demonstrated during the corona crisis - for example, through the shortage of hygiene and disinfection products, masks and toilet paper last year. Hence, projects that use AI to assess the consequences of a lockdown, for example, are also invited to apply.
Projects can also address cross-sectional topics.
Project proposals must be submitted in English by 12 noon on 29 April 2021. They will then be evaluated by a panel of experts. The evaluation criteria include:
- degree of innovation and added value of the project,
- consistency with the scope of the programme and the fields of innovation envisaged,
- strategic character for France and Germany,
- quality of the consortium,
- relevance of the planned arrangements for the project management,
- relevant number of suitable partners,
- market and application potential, and
- environmental conditions.
It is anticipated that applicants will be notified of the outcome of the evaluation as of 23 July 2021. In case of a positive decision, the complete project application must be received by 22 October 2021. Whether the application is approved is expected to be decided between November 2021 and February 2022.
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