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ONTOCHAIN - Trusted, traceable and transparent ontological knowledge on blockchain, is a European project funded by the European Commission under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme (Call topic ICT-54) and it is part of the European Commission’s Next Generation Internet (NGI) initiative. ONTOCHAIN was launched in September 2020 to empower Internet innovators with a novel software ecosystem for trusted, traceable and transparent ontological blockchain-based knowledge management through 3 Open Calls and a budget to be distributed of 4,2M€.


What is NGI?

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.


What kind of projects are you looking for?

The ONTOCHAIN Open Calls aim at projects developing scalable blockchain, decentralized reputation systems and semantic web technologies, in order to achieve trustworthy content handling and information exchange as well as trustworthy service exchange in the next generation Internet/social networks for vital sectors of the European economy.


What is the value for me in participating to ONTOCHAIN?

ONTOCHAIN will offer you equity free funding, coaching on technical and business aspects, access to top infrastructure as well as visibility and promotion through innovators, industry and investors.


How ONTOCHAIN works?

ONTOCHAIN aims to empower Internet innovators with a novel software ecosystem for trusted, traceable and transparent ontological blockchain-based knowledge management through 3 Open Calls as follow:

  • Call 1- Research 2020-2021

The objective of this call is to establish the ONTOCHAIN framework as human centric decentralised & trustworthy solution based on available technologies.

  • Call 2- Protocol suite and software ecosystem foundations 2021-2022

The objective of Call 2 is to build the ONTOCHAIN concept for the creation of a trustworthy information exchange process & a more transactional content handling. This call will enable to deliver the ONTOCHAIN Framework prototypes.

  • Call 3- Application and experimentation 2022-2023

The objective of Call 3 is to exploit the ONTOCHAIN solution formulated in Call 2 for real life use cases.

Through these 3 Open Call, the selected projects should have potential to entail a substantial advance in the state of the art, delivering new software solutions and services to the ONTOCHAIN software ecosystem with potential to improve the Internet infrastructure and/or reach the market in the short run.


What are the ONTOCHAIN program timelines?

ONTOCHAIN is a 3 years funded project. The indicative timelines are as follow:

  • Call 1, Research: Announcement: November 16th 2020, Closure: January 15th 2021, Duration: 7 months, from March 1st 2021. Action breaking down in 3 phases: Research proposal (2 Months), Research award (4 Months), Challenges for conferences (1 Months).
  • Call 2, Protocol suite and software ecosystem foundations : 2021-2022, up to 10 months. Action breaking down in two types of projects: Small projects (5 months) and Large projects (10 months).
  • Call 3, Application and experimentation : 2022-2023, 10 months. Action breaking down in 2 phases : Prototype (4 Months), Solution (6 Months).


Where does the funding come from?

Funding is given by the ONTOCHAIN consortium under a Sub-Grantee Agreement signed by the selected applicants and the ONTOCHAIN consortium. The funds are given by the European Commission (Horizon 2020 Framework Programme), which uses ONTOCHAIN as intermediary.


How does the funding mechanism work?

The aid provided is relying on a cascade-funding scheme involving H2020 funds. The scheme is based on a Grant Agreement signed by the European Commission and the ONTOCHAIN Consortium partners. The Consortium partners as such receive the H2020 funds which are then transferred to the winners of the ONTOCHAIN open calls based on the rules and regulations explained in the Guide for Applicant available at our website. This means that funds that will be received by the call winners are H2020 funds.



Who is eligible?

What is a cascade funding?

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.


Can a legal entity or a natural person benefit of other funding for the same project on top of the one received with ONTOCHAIN?

The funds of the project come from the H2020 Programme. This means its regulation will apply to the funds. If you get additional public funding from other entities it will be your responsibility to assure the compatibleness of the different sources of funding whether you are a legal entity or a natural person.


Can a legal entity or natural person based in UK apply to ONTOCHAIN?

Under the Withdrawal Agreement, the UK will continue to participate in programmes funded under the current 2014-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) till their closure. This means that UK participants are eligible for funding under the ONTOCHAIN 2nd open call.


What are the countries eligible for funding under the ONTOCHAIN Action?

Only Applicants legally established/resident in any of the following 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;
  • H2020 associated countries (those which signed an agreement with the Union as identified in Article 7 of the Horizon 2020 Regulation): according to the updated list published by the EC;
  • The UK applicants are eligible under the conditions set by the EC for H2020 participation at the time of the deadline of the call.


Who is eligible for the three open calls?
  • Team of natural persons established in any eligible countries. This does not consider the country of origin but the residence permit.
  • Legal entity(ies) established in an eligible country  such as universities, research centres, NGOs, foundations, micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (see definition of SME according to the Commission Recommendation 2003/361/EC)
  • Any combination of the above.

In addition, the following condition apply:

  • The organisations or individuals applying should have not have convictions for fraudulent behaviour, other financial irregularities, unethical or illegal business practices.
  • participating organisations should not have been declared bankrupt or have initiated bankruptcy procedures.
  • Guide for applicant for more detail.



How to participate?

How do I apply?

The F6S platform is the entry point for all proposals at Submissions received by any other channel will be automatically discarded.

Remember to read the Guide for Applicant to get all the information you need to apply successfully.


Can I submit several projects to one specific call?

The calls are competitive and applicants should focus on one specific topic, therefore only one proposal per applicant may be submitted to one call, whether this is a legal entity or a natural person. In the event of multiple submissions, only the last one received (timestamp of the F6S system) will enter into the evaluation process.  Any other submitted proposals involving the same applicant will be declared non-eligible and will not be evaluated in any case.


Can I apply with a Small Project?

All proposals should be submitted for Large Projects with respective objectives and work plan. However, all proposals should also clearly list the functionality that is going to be provided by each one of them, if they get selected as short projects.


Can I apply for the three calls?

Yes you can, but note that the maximum funding one beneficiary can receive from the whole ONTOCHAIN project is limited to €200,000. 


What is the deadline to apply for the first call?

The first call closed on January 15th 2021.


What is the deadline to apply for the second call?

Submission to the ONTOCHAIN Open Call 2 will open on the 15th July 2021 (12:00 PM CEST) and close on the 15th September 2021 (17:00 CEST).


What are the funding criteria?

Each eligible proposal will be evaluated by a set of two experts. The evaluation criteria are:

  • Excellence and innovation (40% weighting)
  • Expected impact and value for money (30% weighting)
  • Project Implementation (30% weighting)


What information is required for the application?

The documents that will be submitted are:

  • Application form: administrative questions to be completed directly in the F6S platform. In addition, some general questions for statistic purpose and tick boxes to be clicked by the third parties confirming they have read the conditions and agree with the conditions defined in this document. In addition, the Annex IV: Additional Applicant(s) Template needs 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.
  • Proposal description: document in PDF format containing the description of the project.


Will ONTOCHAIN mandates to build on specific protocols?

Different open source solutions already exist for the design and integration of the different layers of the ONTOCHAIN architecture. Developpers, if willing and needing so, can also rely on the blockchain platform provided by iExec which already integrates low level layers of an analogue architecture, i.e. application protocols, core protocols and distributed ledger. It supports public, private and federated blockchain solutions and  connects cloud resource sellers with cloud resource buyers, encouraging an ecosystem of decentralized and autonomous, privacy-preserving application, which allows to support a decentralized marketplace of applications, data and resources through decentralized cloud computing in Ethereum. In any case, the ONTOCHAIN project plans to (re)design, extend and otherwise integrate existing platforms and solutions, so that they can become integral and interoperable parts of the ONTOCHAIN software ecosystem. The applicants are encouraged to use standards and widely used protocols to allow graceful integration with existing software. With regard to this, a community approach is necessary in order to be able to advance DLT research and innovation and properly integrate open data and semantics with current and future Blockchains.


Can I submit a proposal considering a mainnet of my choice?

While ONTOCHAIN is open to solutions that can be supported by a number of blockchains, our current L1 blockchain choice is Ethereum. Solutions employing Ethereum L2 and higher layer technologies on top are anticipated to be part of the ONTOCHAIN framework. Solutions implemented into different blockchains should be able to interoperate with the rest of the ecosystem through proper bridges. Having said the above, while different mainnets can theoretically be chosen, we strongly encourage applicants to consider Ethereum for their solution prototypes.


When will I hear back for my application?

After applications close, applications will be reviewed for about 1 month and a half by a set of two experts. 


How the evaluation process works?

How will my application be evaluated?

The evaluation of the proposals is carried out by the ONTOCHAIN Consortium with the assistance of independent experts. ONTOCHAIN Consortium staff ensures that 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)


Who are the evaluators?

The evaluation of proposals is carried out by the ONTOCHAIN Consortium with the assistance of independent evaluators. The independent evaluators are experts with various expertise related to the ONTOCHAIN project. They 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.



Granted projects

What is the maximum funding amount applicants to ONTOCHAIN Open Call 2 can receive if they have already been funded in ONTOCHAIN

The maximum funding one beneficiary can receive from the whole ONTOCHAIN project is limited to € 200 000.

Two cases have thus to be distinguished:

  • Case 1: Open Call 1 beneficiaries that succeed only to Open Call 1 phase 1 & 3
  • Case 2: Open Call 1 beneficiaries that succeed to the three phases (1, 2 & 3)

In Case 1, there is no limitation and beneficiaries can be accepted for either a large or a small project in Open Call 2.
In Case 2, beneficiaries can be selected only for small projects in Open Call 2 and receive funding according to the type of beneficiary they are.

How and when will I get paid?

Whatever the duration of the project (small or large), payments will be done in 3 instalments based on concrete results. A detailed evaluation process will be presented in the Open Call 2 guide for implementation for the related periods.

  • Pre-financing:
    • After KPIs definition, and attendance to a welcome event where teams, partners and coaches will know each other (attendance mandatory), a pre-financing of 30% of the total amount of phase 1 will be released.
    • Small Projects: M1 | Large Projects: M1
  • Interim payment:
    • Based on concrete results. 
    • A 100% completion of the KPIs unlock the total of the 2nd payment which is 30% of the total amount of phase 1. A lower completion of the tasks will launch the proportional payment. If the KPIs are met by less than a 50% the payment will be retained until the end of the Phase 1. If less than a 25%, the teams will be automatically disqualified from the process.
    • Small Projects: M3 | Large Projects: M5
  • Final payment:
    • Following the same logic as before, teams will be paid according to their overall completion of KPIs (remaining 40%) at the end of phase 1. Only in the case of an underperformance below 25%, the team will be automatically disqualified, and no further payment released.
    • Small Projects: M5 | Large Projects: M10

Overall, failing to meet any of the research conditions and milestones aforementioned may result to an early discontinuation of the project and the corresponding disruption of the funding


Will the funding count as de minimis aid?

According to the minimis regulation (EC No 1998/2006), ONTOCHAIN is not a State Aid and therefore the funding does not count as minimis grant.



Do I have to keep track of my expenses for justifying the costs?

Payments will be done based on concrete results and not administrative justifications. 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.



Is subcontracting allowed?

Subcontracting is not encouraged. The general rule applicable to the ONTOCHAIN 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, paying an external developer not in the company, paying a research centre or foundation to execute technical tasks, etc. Employees of a company are never considered subcontractors but part of the company itself. Example(not restricted to) of subcontracting activities that could be appropriate if needed are legal services or design services.

In addition, the subcontracting amount should not represent a relevant amount of the total budget and should be justified on the submitted proposal.


Is it allowed for the beneficiary to change team members during the project?

If you participate as a team of individuals, you have to stick to that team. Only new members can be added to improve the team but not to change the initial team. If you are participating as an entity, you are free to add new employees from the firm to the team.