FET Proactive: emerging paradigms and communities

FET Proactive: emerging paradigms and communities

To explore and consolidate a new technological direction in order to put it firmly on the map as a viable paradigm for future technology. To foster the interdisciplinary communities that are able to drive this forward, extending from the participating consortia to a wider European pool of expertise. To stimulate the emergence of a European innovation eco-system around a new technological paradigm, well beyond the world of research alone.


Proposals are sought for cutting-edge high-risk / high-reward research and innovation projects that aim to demonstrate a new technological paradigm within the scope of one of the following sub-topics:

  • a. Artificial organs, tissues, cells and sub-cellular structures. Merging the growing understanding of genome, proteome, metabolome and cell behaviour with strategies for the engineering and use of biological and hybrid functional constructs is the core of this initiative. Proposals should build on recent advances in integrative biology (including modelling and simulation) and bio-engineering for engineering biological, artificial or hybrid sub-cellular systems (e.g., synapses, organelles, vesicles), highly specific cell assemblies (including microbial) and proper differentiation, tissues, organs or multi-organ systems. Examples of long-term research targets include synthetic cell building, cell assembly, and organ reproduction, replacement, control or repair of vital organ functions (e.g., following ageing, trauma or disease), their use in the development of personalised treatment, drugs or vaccines, and high-throughput organ- and body-on-chip technologies.
  • b. Time. This initiative seeks new technological possibilities inspired by notions of time, not seen as a given and singular background against which things unfold, but rather as a resource that can be experienced and used in different ways. Highly interdisciplinary research could address, for instance, technologies for subjective time awareness (and its neural basis) and distortion (e.g., contextual, emotional, pathological); for studying the role of time in processes like aging, healing, learning or evolution and how this can be influenced (e.g., stimulation) or changed in different 'materialities' (combining insights from biological or computational evolution, for instance); or modeling to understand and better anticipate non-linear temporality in complex systems (such as in economies, societies, climate ...). Technologies in, for instance, extreme electronics/photonics, data-streams analytics, time aware artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, bio-engineering or neuroprosthetics could demonstrate new ways to represent, modulate, duplicate or differently experience and use time, thus altering our relationship with time (at individual and collective but differentiated level – e.g., according to gender or culture) and with impacts on, for instance, quality of life, therapy, learning, productivity, social and environmental awareness or the better understanding and management of natural hazards.
  • c. Living technologies. This initiative seeks to build on the emerging understanding from evolutionary biology, ethology, micro-, plant- and animal biology of essential features of living systems such as physical autonomy, growth, interaction and enaction, adaptation and evolution, among others. The aim is to create new functional biological, technological or hybrid artefacts, with similar capabilities of purposeful stability and change. This can also lead to hybrid materials and systems with programmable features of shape, structure, functionality and evolvability (including for their use in bio-robotics or bio-engineering), potentially constructed from naturally existing complexes, through synthetic biology, systems biology and /or chemical biology. New insights into the multi-level mathematics and complexity of living systems or the boundaries/characteristics of life may also emerge from this. Work on ethical implications should be included.
  • d. Socially interactive technologies. There is a growing understanding of the changes at cognitive, neural and physiological levels from group interactions in realistic settings, from pairs to large groups and crowds. Based on this, this initiative seeks new technologies for deeper social interaction involving, for instance, context, culture, emotion, and factors of embodiment and cognition. Realistic and larger contexts require new experimental tools and paradigms, combining social sciences and humanities with neuroscience, engineering and computing in new ways. This will lead to new socially interactive media with radical improvement for building trust and understanding, social integration, engagement, collaboration, learning, creativity, entertainment, education and wellbeing, among others. Work on ethical implications and gender should be included.
  • e. Disruptive micro-energy and storage technologies. This initiative seeks radically new approaches to energy for embedded, personal or local use (including bio-mimicking, the use of soft or intelligent materials to generate, capture or store energy or the development of new types of batteries). Proposals could target in particular the lower end (i.e., micro-energy or nano-scale energy transfer, dissipation and conversion) and/or new technologies for optimal local (close to where-needed) energy storage/release and their smart integration within hybrid/distributed energy systems. Proposals should also address aspects of sustainability and environmental impact.
  • f. Topological matter, strongly based on topology and quantum physics, is a rapidly emerging area that after an initial focus on insulators now touches the whole range of material properties, providing advances in spintronics, photonics, plasmas, mechanics, superconductivity, elasticity, acoustics and their combinations, among others. Here concept development together with design, realisation and testing of topological devices are called for to unleash the promise of topological matter beyond the pure physics and mathematics aspects. The much expected robustness, wide spectral range and topologically-protected spin- and transport properties call for an engineering approach to apply the multi-physics of wave-matter interactions to novel, potentially lossless communication components and circuits. Challenges to be addressed include compact designs and fabrication technologies, setting figures of merit and benchmarks relevant to functions.

FET Proactive projects shall establish a solid baseline of knowledge and skills and assemble the interdisciplinary communities around them. They shall further foster the emergence of a broader innovation ecosystem and create a fertile ground for future take-up of its new technological paradigm (e.g., public engagement, informal education, policy debate).

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of EUR 4 to 7 million (but up to EUR 5 million for proposals on the sub-topics of 'Time' and 'Topological matter') and with a duration of up to 5 years would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals of different size and duration.

This topic allows for the provision of financial support to third parties established in an EU member state or country associated with Horizon 2020 in line with the conditions set out in General Annex K, either to enhance impacts through punctual small scale experimentation and use of project results by third parties, or to award a prize following a contest organised by the beneficiaries.

Expected Impact

  • Scientific and technological contributions to the foundation and consolidation of a radically new future technology.
  • Potential for future returns in terms of societal or economic innovation or market creation.
  • Spreading excellence and building leading innovation capacity across Europe by involvement of key actors that can make a difference in the future, for example excellent young, researchers, ambitious high-tech SMEs or first-time participants to FET under Horizon 2020[1].
  • Build-up of a goal oriented interdisciplinary community (within and beyond the consortium).
  • Emergence of an innovation ecosystem around a future technology in the theme addressed from outreach to and partnership with high potential actors in research and innovation, and from wider stakeholder/public engagement, with due consideration of aspects such as education, gender differences and long-term societal, ethical and legal implications.

Delegation Exception Footnote

A second series of sub-topics under FET Proactive will be called for in 2020

Cross-cutting Priorities

  • Gender
  • Socio-economic science and humanities
Application date
Humanities : Philosophy, Theology and religion
Social sciences : Economy, Information and Communication Sciences, Sociology