Aim of this fund

We believe that the internet can be a force for positive change in the world. But we are not doing enough to tap into the great, ever-expanding potential of connected technologies. From the internet’s underlying infrastructure to the gatekeepers that decide what content we read and see, power over the internet is increasingly centralised. A small number of players, representing a fraction of the world’s population and diversity, are incentivised to protect their position through behaviour that has a long-term negative impact on social trust and cohesion, competition and innovation. This means that fewer and fewer people are able to reap the full benefits of the digital economy. Fewer still believe that it works in their interest. We want to change that.

While there is consensus that a serious and coordinated response is needed to remedy the internet’s many problems, we still lack the tools to take effective action. Some of the challenges we see require top-down interventions on the global or national level. But to make the Next Generation Internet a success we will also need more bottom-up efforts, action at the local level and the mobilisation of the whole innovation ecosystem.

One of the key goals of the NGI Forward project is therefore to provide a platform for policymakers, innovators and civil society to join forces and collaborate on key digital issues through collective action, knowledge-sharing and joint investment in new solutions.

This fund intends to contribute to doing exactly that.

What we are looking for

We are looking to fund a minimum of four trials that put into practice our vision for a more inclusive, resilient, democratic, sustainable and trustworthy future internet by experimenting with concrete solutions on a local level, and ensuring that insights from these trials can be shared or scaled among the NGI community.

Policymakers have more levers at their disposal to spur innovation in the internet space than often thought, and can play a powerful role in shaping new markets for ethical tools. We particularly believe that local experimentation and ecosystem building are vital if we want to make alternative models for the internet actually tangible and gain traction. But finding the funding and space to undertake this type of trial is not always easy - especially if outcomes are uncertain. Through the NGI Policy-in-Practice fund, we both want to provide the means to organisations to undertake a number of these trials, but also make the case for local trials more generally.

We are open to creative ideas. Not sure if your idea qualifies? Here are some fictional examples of the type of ideas we might fund:

  • A city hall working with app developers to deploy a tool to help with local information sharing, coordinating community volunteering and general resilience in the face of a crisis like COVID-19.
  • A collaboration between two cities that want to collectively procure an open-source solution to democratise mobility data in their respective communities.
  • A start-up working together with a local government, trialling how online identity systems might be used to make sharing public health data more trustworthy and privacy-sensitive.
  • A digital rights group and a neighbourhood council working with local citizens to co-design community rules and consent models for a new, to-be-deployed smart city system.

What we offer

  • Funding: Funding up to €25,000 (total funding available €100,000).
  • Networking: Dissemination of results among the wider NGI community, specifically our policy network and an opportunity to present your findings during one of the annual NGI Policy Summits.
  • Support: While successful applicants are expected to conduct their work independently, Nesta will offer support and guidance on effective project design, pathways to impact and communication of final results.

A note on COVID-19

The internet has proven to be an invaluable resource for many communities, including the most vulnerable, during COVID-19. Therefore NGI Forward feels an even greater responsibility to progress its efforts to build a more inclusive and trustworthy internet that works for everyone. In light of this, Nesta and NGI Forward have decided to go ahead with launching this fund as previously planned. Though trials do not need to solve a problem related to COVID-19 directly, ideas that actively engage with the new reality each of us is operating in will be looked on favourably.

Selection criteria

Though there are no hard and fast rules of what constitutes a good application - we are interested in experimental approaches after all - we do specifically look for proposals that demonstrate:

  • Alignment with the NGI mission: The application sets out how the proposed project helps to answer a question or trial an approach that contributes to building a more inclusive, democratic, resilient, trustworthy and sustainable future internet.
  • Novelty: The project seeks to answer an underexplored question, trials an experimental solution, or tests specific new use cases for a tool or intervention.
  • Potential for impact: Applications provide a clear explanation of how the outcomes of the proposed work could generate a tangible impact beyond the project itself.
  • Scalability and transferability: Applications demonstrate that the project can generate meaningful insights that are either scalable, replicable or otherwise relevant to contexts outside the project itself (particularly for other local governments and policymakers).
  • Flexibility: Experimental approaches mean that failure is a possibility. A good application outlines how the project can still generate useful insights, even if outcomes are different from the ones intended.

Practical project design

On a more practical level, we ask applications to clarify the following:

  • Scope: Proposals should make a convincing and realistic case for what is possible within the proposed timeline and budget. Though €25,000 is no small sum, we do not anticipate the budget would provide sufficient scope for substantial R&D activities (instead, we recommend trialling already existing tools) or deployment on a very large scale. Similarly, while evaluation should always be part of projects of this type, we do not expect academically rigorous experimental set-ups or evaluation frameworks.
    Match funding is not needed nor an award criterion, but can be a good way for projects to achieve greater scale and more ambitious goals in the long term. Applicants who intend to make their project part of a larger or co-funded piece of work should note this in their application.
  • Duration: All projects need to be completed by August 2021. There is flexibility in start dates and project duration. Applications should outline their preferred timeline in their application, and note any external deadlines and dependencies that cannot be moved.
  • Outputs: Explain in detail the exact outputs the project will generate (a report, a series of blogs, a prototype, a toolkit, series of workshops, etc.), and how these outputs will help disseminate learnings.

Who can apply

  • Eligibility: Any organisation based in the European Union or in eligible third countries can apply. Individuals are also eligible to apply, but only as part of a consortium and cannot be the project lead.
  • Consortia: Applications from individual organisations are welcome, but preference goes to small consortia of 2 to 3 partners. We are particularly keen on collaborations between government (such as cities or regional bodies) and non-government actors (such as civil society groups or SMEs).
  • Experience: While we welcome consortia that involve newer or less experienced partners, the proposal overall needs to provide evidence the intended project team has the necessary resources and skills to carry out the proposed work.

How to apply

Deadline: The deadline for applications is 3 July 2020. We reserve the right to consider applications on a rolling basis, as match-funded projects in particular may need to launch before our anticipated June start date (as do experiments that are responding to current urgent dynamics). If this is the case, please note this in your application.

We do not anticipate all funding will be given out before the deadline, and will update this page with a current tally of funded projects to ensure full transparency for prospective applicants. As of 21 July 2020, we have funded one project. More details on this project will be shared alongside the final funding decisions.

Application form: Applicants are asked to fill in the application form. Please direct any questions to [email protected].

What happens after you apply

Review: Applications will be reviewed by an expert panel within Nesta, consisting of members of the NGI team and experts working on experimentation and practical trials across the organisation. You will hear from us by mid-July.

Indicative timetable

Our provisional timetable is detailed below. This is intended as guidance only.

  • March 26 2020: Launch of the fund – we are open for applications.
  • July 3 2020: Deadline for applications.
  • July 10 2020: Shortlisted applicants will be notified and invited to a remote interview.
  • July 2020: Anticipated start date for the first round of experiments.*
  • September 2020: Presentation of initial results during the NGI Policy Summit – projects that finish later are invited to join the second edition of the summit in 2021.

* We are flexible with start dates, and will agree on project timelines and milestones collaboratively. Please note that all projects need to be finalised by August 2021.

Terms and conditions

By sending us your proposal, you are agreeing to confirm you have read and understood our privacy policy.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at [email protected].

Terms and conditions

Nesta is making a call for applications to our NGI Policy-in-Practice Fund (the “Fund”). Please read these terms and conditions, our Privacy Policy and all information on the Fund carefully before submitting an application.  The Fund is operated by Nesta and is funded by the European Union as part of the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. The purpose of the Fund is to support innovative projects which contribute to building a more inclusive, democratic, resilient, trustworthy and sustainable future internet.

By submitting an application, you accept these terms and conditions and agree to comply with them. If you are submitting an entry on behalf of one or more organisations or a team, you undertake to Nesta that you have the authority to bind each of them and that you will be responsible for ensuring that they comply.

1. Who can submit?

Anyone who falls within the conditions of eligibility set out in the “Who can apply” section of (the “Eligibility Criteria”) can submit an application.

2. What happens after you apply?

2.1 We will assess any applications received by the deadline set out in the Eligibility Criteria and which satisfy the selection criteria set out in the Eligibility Criteria. As outlined in the Eligibility Criteria, applicants will be shortlisted and chosen by a selection panel and Nesta. We currently intend to inform successful applicants of our decision by the 31/08/2020.

2.2 Our decision about eligibility, about selection of applicants for the Fund, and about the amount and type of support to be provided (if any), shall be final. We may publish general feedback on applications to the Fund, but will not provide detailed individual feedback or enter into correspondence with individual applicants.

2.3 Participation in workshops and interviews, research and evaluation is a condition of participation in the Fund. Any financial or other support Funded by Nesta will be subject to the satisfaction of all relevant legal and regulatory requirements, signature of appropriate legal documentation and completion of appropriate milestones. Any funds received must be through a legally incorporated organisation. We may only fund applications which meet our charitable objects and provide public benefit. We may impose conditions and restrictions on any private benefit or profit that may be derived from our Fund. Financial support provided by Nesta may not cover all the costs of your project and VAT is not payable on funds.

2.4 You and your partners must bear any costs relating to the submission of your application and participation in The Fund. You must take independent legal advice if you are concerned about these terms and conditions or your participation in the Fund. Unless otherwise stated, each applicant may make only one application to the Fund.

2.5 If we decide to award you a grant, payment will be subject to your agreement to our Fund standard grant award terms, which will incorporate applicable terms from the European Commission’s model grant agreement, available here for reference:

2.6 We reserve the right to refuse to accept any applications; to suspend or withdraw the Fund at any time; to vary the form and substance of the Fund or extend the deadlines; to reduce or increase the number of applicants selected for each phase of selection or the amount of support available under the Fund; and/or to reject any proposal or withdraw a place on the Fund if you are in breach of these terms and conditions, fail to participate fully in the Fund or in the event of an actual or potential conflict of interest. If any selected applicant subsequently withdraws or is withdrawn from the Fund, we may select a replacement applicant, but will not be obliged to do so.

2.7 We reserve the right to vary the Fund or these terms and conditions at any time and at our sole discretion.  Variations will take effect from the date they are posted on our website so you must check this page regularly to see the current version. If you provide us with a contact email address, we will aim to notify you of any changes.

2.8 If you are unable to complete the application process due to a disability, please let us know so that we can consider whether reasonable adjustments can be made.

3. Your promises to us

By submitting an application for the Fund, you confirm on behalf of yourself and your partners that:

● all information and materials provided to Nesta by you or your partners are true, accurate and complete and you will notify us immediately of any changes to information or materials provided;

● you have provided us with all information which might reasonably be thought to be relevant or necessary for us to consider your application;

● you and your partners have, or will obtain as required, all authorisations, registrations, licences, consents and permissions necessary to submit your application, carry out your proposal and comply with these terms and conditions;

● in participating in the Fund, you and your partners will act lawfully, ethically and in good faith and will comply fully with equality and anti-bribery legislation and with any other applicable laws, regulations, guidelines and codes of practice, and will comply with our reasonable requirements, including in relation to health and safety and security, while attending interviews and workshops as part of the Fund; and

● neither you nor any of your partners has any actual or potential conflict of interest with Nesta (including with our trustees, officers or employees) in making your application or complying with these terms and conditions and you will immediately inform us if you become aware of any such conflict of interest.

4. Use of Information

We will use any personal information provided by you or your partners, including contact details

for your staff and your partners’ staff for the purpose of:

● assessing and evaluating your application;

● to process your application for the Fund;

● to administer the Fund; and

● to carry out evaluation and research.

4.1 We may share this information with any third parties helping us to run or evaluate the Fund, subject to appropriate obligations of confidentiality and data protection. Some of these organisations may process your information in countries outside of the UK or European Economic Area (EEA) where data protection laws are not the same as in the UK and/or the EEA. Please see our Privacy Policy for more information about how personal information may be used.

4.2 We may carry out publicity and promotion for the Fund and publish our research and evaluation in relation to the Fund. You agree that you and your partners will participate in publicity for the Fund and consent on behalf of you and your partners to the use of the names of your organisations, a summary of your proposal, and photographs/recordings of your participation in the Fund, in promotion and publications relating to the Fund in any media and online.

4.3 Any publicity which you or your partners wish to carry out in relation to the Fund must acknowledge Nesta and the European Union funding and be approved by us in advance.

5. Limitation of Liability

5.1 To the extent permitted by applicable law, we will not be liable to you, your partners or anyone else in respect of any direct or indirect loss, or liability, costs claims taxes, charges or expenses, economic loss or loss of opportunity arising in connection with your application to, and your participation in, the Fund, and/or any reliance by you on any statement made or advice given by us, our partners or contractors. If you submit any materials or items as part of your application, you are doing so at your own risk. We give no undertakings to keep safely, maintain or return any materials or items. We do not make any warranty about the accuracy or completeness of the information provided by Nesta in connection with the Fund. Any dispute between you and/or your partners and/or any other applicant must be resolved between you and independently of Nesta.

5.2 Without prejudice to Clause 5.1, our maximum liability to you or anyone else under these terms and conditions and the Fund (including the Fund application process) (if any) will be limited to £500. Nothing in these terms and conditions shall exclude or limit our liability for death or personal injury caused by negligence or fraudulent misrepresentation made by us.

6. Governing Law and Jurisdiction

These terms and conditions shall be governed by and interpreted in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and both parties hereby submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the English courts.