The European Commission (EC) adopted on 22 October 2018 a financing decision for the Pilot Project 'European Ecosystem of Distributed Ledger Technologies for Social and Public Good '. This Pilot Project promoted by the European Parliament aims to stimulate research and experimentation in the development and use of Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLTs) for the Social and Public Good.
DLTs, the most known being Blockchain, are now deemed as immutable, encrypted and timestamped databases in which data can be recorded, validated and replicated across a decentralised network of nodes. These technologies could enable parties who are geographically distant, or have no particular trust in each other, to record, verify and share digital or digitised assets on a peer-to-peer basis with fewer to no intermediaries. Moreover, when combined with specific automation features, they could also support the execution of complex operational procedures and agreements with little to no human intervention. Taking this and more into account, DLTs are among a set of technologies expected to have deep social, technological, economic, environmental, legal and policy impacts over the next 10-15 years, from potential changes in commercial and financial models towards decentralised exchanges of assets and values, to the possibility of more inclusive, convivial, ethical, transparent or accountable digital societies.
There is now a continuously growing interest, from research and businesses, to national governments or supranational organisations, in reflecting about and experimenting with DLTs. The purpose of this Call for Proposals (CfP) is to further stimulate the piloting of decentralised DLT-based social innovations and applications capable of addressing and tackling existent or foreseeable challenges in social and public sectors, and ultimately drive positive change.
The activities previewed in the call for proposals will support cutting-edge solutions proposed by developers, entrepreneurs, start-ups and companies in the DLT space, but also foster their development through a unique Accelerator exploiting synergies with governmental, public, third sector and other civil society organisations. The main goal of this Accelerator is to support DLT solutions from the beginning in ways that link them with specific social needs and interested organisations in order to potentially implement and scale such solutions at a later stage.
The activities of this call will build upon, and support where relevant, previous and ongoing initiatives of the EC and the European Parliament (EP), such as the European Innovation Council (EIC) Horizon Prize for Blockchains for Social Good, the project #BlockchainEU: Blockchain for Industrial Transformations, EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum, and other EU led or funded initiatives in the DLT space.
Pilot project within the meaning of Article 58(2)(a) of Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2018/1046 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union, amending Regulations (EU) No 1296/2013, (EU) No 1301/2013, (EU) No 1303/2013, (EU) No 1304/2013, (EU) No 1309/2013, (EU) No 1316/2013, (EU) No 223/2014, (EU) No 283/2014, and Decision No 541/2014/EU and repealing Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 (OJ L 193, 30.7.2018, p. 1).
The annual work programme was adopted under Commission Decision C/2018/6834 of 22/10/2018.
2. OBJECTIVES – ACTIVITIES – PRIORITIES
This call for proposals aims at selecting a beneficiary/a consortium to support the European Commission (EC) in the co-creation of a European ecosystem of entities working on DLTs for the Social and Public Good, following the EC decision on the Pilot Project 'European Ecosystem of Distributed Ledger Technologies for Social and Public Good ' promoted by the European Parliament (EP).
The co-creation of such ecosystem will run through several stages, including an Accelerator programme where the goal is to provide development and funding opportunities for DLT applications that given their social and public targets do not fit easily within commercially driven schemes.
An open challenge will be conducted at a first stage to identify and select up to 10 projects pursuing DLT applications for social or public sectors, which will then be supported by the Accelerator.
Projects participating in the Accelerator will be connected during its duration with governmental, public, third sector and other civil society organisations that can inform the development of their applications and/or use cases and potentially adopt the proposed solutions. Examples of applications and/or use cases may include, but will not be in any way limited to:
• demonstrating the origin of raw materials or products and supporting fair trade and the fair monetization of labour;
• allowing for a greater visibility of public spending and a greater transparency of administrative and production processes;
• participation in democratic decision-making by enabling accountability, rewarding of participation and/or anonymity;
• enabling the development of decentralized social networks or clouds, or of decentralized platforms for the collaborative economy;
• contributing to financial inclusion, e.g. through the emission and administration of national or local digital currencies;
• decentralised digital identity management in public systems such as voting platforms or land and property records;
• decentralised decision-making processes in complex or crisis contexts as in disaster relief;
• distribution, management and use of commons or public benefits;
• certification and authentication of credentials in areas such as education or professional training, across borders.
In the end of the Accelerator programme, the selected projects will submit their proof-of- concept applications and/or use cases for final evaluation. A set of best projects will be announced at a final event and rewarded with additional funding.
The Accelerator will leverage on the experiences and lessons from the 'Blockchains for Social Good' EIC Prize1, both in terms of target areas and methodology. Subject to the actual start date of their grant, the beneficiary/consortium is expected to closely interact with the EC in the organisation of the final public event of this Prize, which would support the launch of this Accelerator.
Co-creation frameworks will steer the whole Pilot Project 'European Ecosystem of Distributed Ledger Technologies for Social and Public Good' and the selected proposal to this call for proposals should reflect that as much as possible. Applicants are expected to submit creative and specific ideas to meet and carry out the following objectives, within an overall duration of 15 months:
Objective 1) Co-design and launch of the Accelerator
The beneficiary/consortium should co-design an Accelerator structure, its launch strategy and launch events, as well as the intensive programme for the selected projects. Such a programme may include matchmaking events and seminars between the selected projects and mentors and researchers; bootcamps where the selected projects exchange practices and/or meet public, third sector and other social organisations; short visit periods where these organisations host DLT innovators from the projects to discuss opportunities and brainstorm next steps; technical development sprints of the applications and/or potential pilots; methodological trainings; co-creation of policy, economic, social, technological, legal, ethical or environmental guidelines for specific topics; etc. Indicatively, such a programme may last 3 to 6 months.
In co-designing the Accelerator, the beneficiary/consortium should collaborate with the leading initiatives in the field, notably the research for policy project '#DLT4Good'2 managed by the EC Joint Research Centre (JRC) in collaboration with DG CNECT of the
EU, and its expert Advisory Board. Moreover, the Accelerator's co-design should also consider inputs and feedback from ongoing or past initiatives in the fields of Blockchains for Social and Public Good, as for example the EU-funded projects DECODE3 and LEDGER4, as well as the above mentioned 'Blockchains for Social Good' EIC Prize.
The beneficiary/consortium should establish and/or facilitate contacts and partnerships with both DLT innovators and individual and collective actors in governmental, public, third sector and other civil society organisations, to participate in the co-creation of the Accelerator, as well as for mapping efforts and identifying potential participants and/or beneficiaries of the Accelerator.
The Accelerator structure, as well as the criteria for selection of projects in Objectives 2 and 5, should be detailed in an interim report to be delivered upon completion of Objective 1. The contents of this report will be discussed with Commission services before execution of next Objectives, for possible inputs and improvements.
Objective 2) Open call for applications to the Accelerator
The beneficiary/consortium should launch, disseminate and manage an open call for expressions of interest in participating in the Accelerator. This open call will target mainly, but not exclusively, developers, commercial or social entrepreneurs, start-ups and companies, researchers, and/or public or third sector organisations and other civil society groups, including NGOs and local communities, developing or working on DLTs.
The beneficiary/consortium, with potential support of external experts, ranging from technical to social or human disciplines (e.g. members of the Advisory Board mentioned under Objective 1), will evaluate such applications under a set of criteria in line with those defined for the evaluation of the 'Blockchains for Social Good' EIC Prize5.
Objective 3) Implementation, management and monitoring of the intensive programme
Following the open call results the beneficiary/consortium will select up to 10 projects. Such projects will receive an initial funding, will be enrolled in the intensive programme defined in Objective 1, and will be mentored by external experts (e.g. members of the Advisory Board mentioned under Objective 1).
It is expected that the total amount of the initial funding for up to 10 selected projects would be in the range of 10-20% of the total contract value.
The beneficiary/consortium is expected to support participants of the Accelerator throughout the entirety of its intensive programme, in face-to-face bilateral / multilateral meetings and / or workshops, or via remote online collaboration tools / platforms, which may or not include members of the EC and external experts (e.g. members of the Advisory Board mentioned under Objective 1).
Furthermore, a monitoring framework for each selected project and its mentoring scheme is also required, in order to enable measurement of progress, impact and risks, through robust empirical assessment methodologies.
3 https://www.decodeproject.eu/ 4 https://ledgerproject.eu/
Objective 4) Evaluation of projects for the final award
After the intensive programme, the selected projects will submit their application for a final award, meant to reward the progress, to facilitate the uptake and to increase visibility of the top 3 to 5 projects. These applications will be evaluated by a multidisciplinary jury composed by external experts (e.g. members of the Advisory Board mentioned under Objective 1), according to a set of relevant criteria defined by the Contractor in concertation with the EC and external experts (e.g. members of the Advisory Board mentioned under Objective 1).
It is expected that the total amount of the final awards to the top 3 to 5 projects would be in the range of 5-10% of the total contract value.
Along with the monitoring framework proposed in Objective 3, the beneficiary/consortium will also ensure due and timely communication between all parties and collect feedback from the Accelerator participants through surveys and/or interviews in order to assemble best practices, lessons learned and areas for overall future improvements.
Objective 5) Organisation of final event
Solutions developed within the Accelerator will be showcased in a Final Event held in Brussels, open to the general public and expected to gather from 100 to 200 participants. This event should prompt a wide outreach of the Accelerator's outcomes for knowledge sharing and exchange of best practices, while stimulating feedback and additional possibilities of engagement from relevant stakeholders and organisations.
The beneficiary/consortium will be responsible for all logistic and support activities of this Final Event, such as selection and possible renting of venue, invitation procedures, design of interactive sessions, social programme, etc. The event should use innovative and interactive formats for sessions and/or workshops, and should bring together scientific researchers in technological, human, social and economic disciplines, developers and hackers, legal and public policy experts, small, medium and large entrepreneurs, governmental and other public institutions at city, regional, national and supranational levels, and multiple non-governmental and or civil society organisations.
The event should include presentations of all projects participating in the Accelerator, with the 3 to 5 top projects receiving an award to be publicly announced at the event.
Objective 6) Communication and impact assessment
The beneficiary/consortium will propose a communication and dissemination plan for all stages of the Accelerator, with attention to language, disciplinary and cultural diversity. This should ensure the largest engagement of individual and collective actors of the ecosystem of DLTs for Social and Public Good and maximise its impact and outcomes beyond this ecosystem. On top, the plan should be combined with strategies already put in place by the EC on the same topic, striving to improve outreach and expand interest about the topic of Blockchains for Social and Public Good in diverse communities and groups around Europe and worldwide, including the general public. In particular, the beneficiary/consortium should set apart no more than 5% of the total budget to organise a launch event. Subject to the actual start date of their grant, this could be the final public event of the Blockchains for Social Good Prize; in any case the beneficiary/consortium is expected to support the travel expenses of participants (in a justified number of cases).
As a reference, tasks should include, but are not limited to:creation of visual identity, dedicated webpage, social media accounts and other collaborative tools (in concertation with the EC); participation in relevant media events, together with targeting and establishing media partnerships (in compliance with applicable EC rules); regular media monitoring and reports on the Accelerator and other relevant initiatives in the EU or worldwide Blockchain spaces; design and production of regular communication materials and multimedia outputs (such as podcasts with experts and/or participants in the Accelerator, or short video documentaries on its multiple stages and activities); etc.
The beneficiary/consortium should also propose an impact assessment plan for the whole Accelerator within this Objective. This plan will require a final report on progress and achievement of goals of the Accelerator, distilling its best practices for future iterations.
To fulfil the objectives defined above, the applicant(s) should properly budget all the necessary tasks, such as: logistics and management of the Accelerator, mentoring support to participants, external experts, organisation of the final event, and/or other meetings or workshops; communication activities and materials; and sub-contracting and financial support of other parties potentially involved in the Accelerator; etc. Moreover, the applicant(s) should also set aside budget for reimbursable expenditures to third parties (refunding travel and accommodation costs to participants, external experts or speakers, and/or other meetings or workshops, together with expenses from venues and catering, communication materials such print-outs, photos, video and live-streaming, etc).
The indicative schedule for the different steps and stages of the selection procedure are as follows:
(a) Publication of the call
(b) Deadline for submitting applications
(c) Evaluation period
(d) Information to applicants
(e) Signature of grant agreement
The duration of the project shall be maximum 15 months.
4. BUDGET AVAILABLE
The total budget earmarked for the co-financing of the project under this call for proposals is estimated at 700.000 EUR (seven hundred thousand euros).
The EU co-financing is limited to a maximum co-funding rate of 95% of the total eligible costs.
It is foreseen to allocate a maximum amount of 350.000 EUR for financial support to third parties (cf. section 11.8.d).
The Commission expects to fund 1 proposal.
The Commission reserves the right not to distribute all the funds available.
5. ADMISSIBILITY REQUIREMENTS
In order to be admissible, applications must be:
sent no later than the deadline for submitting applications referred to in section 3;
submitted in writing (see section 14), using the application form available at https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/news-redirect/645864
and in electronic form (pdf format); and
drafted in one of the EU official languages.
Failure to comply with those requirements will lead to rejection of the application.
6. ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA
6.1. Eligible applicants
The call is open to:
A single entity (with or without affiliated entities, as defined below)
A ‘sole’ applicant (several legal entities forming together one legal entity or 'sole beneficiary')
A grouping of entities (consortia) – with the entities forming this consortia having or not entities affiliated to them.
Proposals may be submitted by any of the following entities, or combinations of:
non-profit organisation (private or public);
public authorities (national, regional, local);
Natural persons are not eligible.
For British applicants: Please be aware that eligibility criteria must be complied with for the entire duration of the grant. If the United Kingdom withdraws from the EU during the grant period without concluding an agreement with the EU ensuring in particular that British applicants continue to be eligible, you will cease to receive EU funding (while continuing, where possible, to participate) or be required to leave the project on the basis of Article II.17.3 of the grant agreement.
Legal entities having a legal or capital link with applicants, which is neither limited to the action nor established for the sole purpose of its implementation, may take part in the action as affiliated entities, and may declare eligible costs as specified in section 11.2.
For that purpose, applicants shall identify such affiliated entities in the application form.
An application may be submitted by one applicant (the “sole” applicant), whether established specifically or not for the action, provided that:
it is formed of several legal entities complying with the eligibility, non-exclusion and selection criteria set out in this call for proposals, and implementing together the proposed action;
For the purpose of declaring eligible costs as specified under section 11.2, the entities composing the “sole” applicant shall be treated as affiliated entities in accordance with Article 187 of the Financial Regulation6.
Country of establishment
Only applications from legal entities established in the following countries are eligible:
EU Member States;
Proposals from applicants in candidate or associated countries may be selected provided that, on the date of award, agreements have entered into force setting out the arrangements for the participation of those countries in the programme.
In order to assess the applicants' eligibility, the following supporting documents are requested:
private entity: extract from the official journal, copy of articles of association, extract of trade or association register, certificate of liability to VAT (if, as in certain countries, the trade register number and VAT number are identical, only one of these documents is required);
public entity: copy of the resolution, decision or other official document establishing the public-law entity ;
entities without legal personality: documents providing evidence that their representative(s) have the capacity to undertake legal obligations on their behalf.
6.2. Eligible activities
The following types of activities are eligible under this call for proposals:
conferences, seminars (such as bootcamps, matchmaking events);
short visit periods;
training and mentoring activities;
evaluation and monitoring of projects;
awareness and dissemination actions (including website hosting and editing);
impact assessment activities;
actions aiming at the creation and improvement of networks, exchanges of good practices;
studies, analyses, mapping projects;
financial support to third parties (see point 11.8. d)).
the maximum duration of the project is 15 months.
Applications for projects scheduled to run for a longer period than that specified in this call for proposals will not be accepted.
7. EXCLUSION CRITERIA
The authorising officer shall exclude an applicant from participating in call for proposals procedures where:
(a) the applicant is bankrupt, subject to insolvency or winding-up procedures, its assets are being administered by a liquidator or by a court, it is in an arrangement with creditors, its business activities are suspended, or it is in any analogous situation arising from a similar procedure provided for under EU or national laws or regulations;
(b) it has been established by a final judgment or a final administrative decision that the applicant is in breach of its obligations relating to the payment of taxes or social security contributions in accordance with the applicable law;
(c) it has been established by a final judgment or a final administrative decision that the applicant is guilty of grave professional misconduct by having violated applicable laws or regulations or ethical standards of the profession to which the applicant belongs, or by having engaged in any wrongful intent or gross negligence, including, in particular, any of the following:
(ii) entering into agreement with other applicants with the aim of distorting competition;
(iii) violating intellectual property rights;
(iv) attempting to influence the decision-making process of the Commission during the award procedure;
(v) attempting to obtain confidential information that may confer upon it undue advantages in the award procedure;
(d) it has been established by a final judgment that the applicant is guilty of any of the following:
(i) fraud, within the meaning of Article 3 of Directive (EU) 2017/1371 of the European Parliament and of the Council and Article 1 of the Convention on the protection of the European Communities' financial interests, drawn up by the Council Act of 26 July 1995;
(ii) corruption, as defined in Article 4(2) of Directive (EU) 2017/1371 or Article 3 of the Convention on the fight against corruption involving officials of the European Communities or officials of Member States of the European Union, drawn up by the Council Act of 26 May 1997, or conduct referred to in Article 2(1) of Council Framework Decision 2003/568/JHA, or corruption as defined in the applicable law;
(iii) conduct related to a criminal organisation, as referred to in Article 2 of Council Framework Decision 2008/841/JHA;
(iv) money laundering or terrorist financing within the meaning of Article 1(3), (4) and (5) of Directive (EU) 2015/849 of the European Parliament and of the Council;
(v) terrorist offences or offences linked to terrorist activities, as defined in Articles 1 and 3 of Council Framework Decision 2002/475/JHA, respectively, or inciting, aiding, abetting or attempting to commit such offences, as referred to in Article 4 of that Decision;
(vi) child labour or other offences concerning trafficking in human beings as referred to in Article 2 of Directive 2011/36/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council;
(e) theapplicanthasshownsignificantdeficienciesincomplyingwithmainobligations in the performance of a contract, a grant agreement or a grant decision financed by the Union's budget, which has led to its early termination or to the application of liquidated damages or other contractual penalties, or which has been discovered following checks, audits or investigations by an authorising officer, OLAF or the Court of Auditors;
(f) it has been established by a final judgment or final administrative decision that the applicant has committed an irregularity within the meaning of Article 1(2) of Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 2988/95;
(g) It has been established by a final judgement or final administrative decision that the applicant has created an entity in a different jurisdiction with the intent to circumvent fiscal, social or any other legal obligations of mandatory application in the jurisdiction of its registered office, central administration or principal place of business;
(h) it has been established by a final judgement or final administrative decision that an entity has been created with the intent referred to in point (g);
(i) for the situations referred to in points (c) to (h) above, the applicant is subject to:
(i) facts established in the context of audits or investigations carried out by European Public Prosecutor's Office after its establishment, the Court of Auditors, the European Anti-Fraud Office or the internal auditor, or any other check, audit or control performed under the responsibility of an authorising officer of an EU institution, of a European office or of an EU agency or body;
(ii) non-final judgments or non-final administrative decisions which may include disciplinary measures taken by the competent supervisory body responsible for the verification of the application of standards of professional ethics;
(iii) facts referred to in decisions of persons or entities being entrusted with EU budget implementation tasks;
(iv) information transmitted by Member States implementing Union funds;
(v) decisions of the Commission relating to the infringement of Union competition law or of a national competent authority relating to the infringement of Union or national competition law; or
(vi) decisions of exclusion by an authorising officer of an EU institution, of a European office or of an EU agency or body.
7.2. Remedial measures
If an applicant declares one of the situations of exclusion listed above (see section 7.1), it must indicate the measures it has taken to remedy the exclusion situation, thus demonstrating its reliability. This may include e.g. technical, organisational and personnel measures to correct the conduct and prevent further occurrence, compensation of damage or payment of fines or of any taxes or social security contributions. The relevant documentary evidence which illustrates the remedial measures taken must be provided in annex to the declaration. This does not apply for situations referred in point (d) of section 7.1.
7.3. Rejection from the call for proposals
The authorising officer shall not award a grant to an applicant who:
(a) is in an exclusion situation established in accordance with section 7.1; or
(b) has misrepresented the information required as a condition for participating in the procedure or has failed to supply that information; or
(c) was previously involved in the preparation of documents used in the award procedure where this entails a breach of the principle of equal treatment, including distortion of competition, that cannot be remedied otherwise.
The same exclusion criteria apply to affiliated entities.
Administrative sanctions (exclusion) may be imposed on applicants, or affiliated entities where applicable, if any of the declarations or information provided as a condition for participating in this procedure prove to be false.
7.4. Supporting documents
Applicants and affiliated entities must provide a declaration on their honour certifying that they are not in one of the situations referred to in Articles 136(1) and 141 FR, by filling in the relevant form attached to the application form accompanying the call for proposals and available at https://ec.europa.eu/digital- single-market/news-redirect/645864.
This obligation may be fulfilled in one of the following ways: for mono-beneficiary grants:
(i) the applicant signs a declaration in its name and on behalf of its affiliated entities; OR
(ii) the applicant and its affiliated entities each sign a separate declaration in their own name.
for multi-beneficiary grants:
(i) the coordinator of a consortium signs a declaration on behalf of all applicants and their affiliated entities; OR
(ii) each applicant in the consortium signs a declaration in its name and on behalf of its affiliated entities; OR
(iii) each applicant in the consortium and the affiliated entities each sign a separate declaration in their own name.
8. SELECTION CRITERIA
8.1. Financial capacity
Applicants must have stable and sufficient sources of funding to maintain their activity throughout the duration of the grant and to participate in its funding. The applicants' financial capacity will be assessed on the basis of the following supporting documents to be submitted with the application:
a) Low value grants (≤ EUR 60 000):
a declaration on their honour.
b) Grants > EUR 60 000:
a declaration on their honour
the profit and loss account as well as the balance sheet for the last two financial years for which the accounts were closed;
for newly created entities: the business plan might replace the above documents;
the table with the financial figures provided for in Annex to the application form, filled in with the relevant statutory accounting figures.
In the event of an application grouping several applicants (consortium), the above thresholds apply to each applicant.
In the case of legal entities forming one applicant (the "sole applicant"), as specified in section 6.1, the above requirements apply to each one of those entities.
On the basis of the documents submitted, if the Responsible Authorising Officer (RAO) of the Commission considers that financial capacity is weak, s/he may:
request further information;
decide not to give pre-financing;
decide to give pre-financing paid in instalments;
decide to give pre-financing covered by a bank guarantee (see section 11.7.2 below);
where applicable, require the joint and several financial liability of all the co- beneficiaries.
If the RAO considered that the financial capacity is insufficient s/he will reject the application.
8.2. Operational capacity
Applicants must have the professional competencies as well as appropriate qualifications necessary to complete the proposed action. The applicants must demonstrate/have proven multidisciplinary knowledge or previous activity in the fields of: blockchains and other distributed ledger technologies, incubation and acceleration of emerging technology- based solutions, digital social innovation, and social impact investment.
In this respect, applicants have to submit a declaration on their honour, and the following supporting documents:
In the event of an application grouping several applicants (consortium), the above requirements shall apply to the combined capacity of all members of the consortium. Combined capacity means that individually, each member of the consortium should comply with the criteria corresponding to its task in the project.
In the case of legal entities forming one applicant (the "sole" applicant), as specified in section 6.1, the above requirements apply to each one of those entities.