STARTS – The Arts stimulating innovation

The ever-increasing role of technology in our daily life offers huge potential for added value for our society. Artists can help unleash this potential. They can help shape a better relation of technology and humans and stimulate human-centred innovation through their transversal competencies and unconventional thinking. The challenge of the S+T+ARTS=STARTS program – innovation at the nexus of Science, Technology and the Arts - is to better address innovation in industry and society by engaging artists in European R&I projects to explore unconventional art-inspired solutions to industrial/societal problems.


The topic will support art-driven innovation in European R&I projects by inclusion of artists in research consortia.

a) STARTS lighthouse pilots (RIA instrument) will explore art-inspired solutions to industrial/societal challenges in two chosen areas. Pilots will engage industry, technology, end-users, and artists in a broad artistic exploration of technologies with the aim of creating novel products, processes and services that respond better to human needs. The added value of artistic practices to realise unexpected solutions via artistic exploration must be clearly put forward in the two light house pilots.

  • (i) Lighthouse pilot in 'art-inspired interactive human-centred environments' created by digital objects and novel media, like IoT, augmented reality or social media. The pilot will explore how these digital objects and media can lead – via artistic exploration – to novel experiences and new models for creativity and thereby to unexpected solutions for challenges in the city, in the home or for mobility.
  • (ii) Lighthouse pilot in 'art-inspired urban manufacturing' driven by de-centralised digitally-enabled production systems and co-creation in urban environments. The pilot will explore how digitally-enabled small-scale production/manufacturing systems and networks combined with artistic exploration and creativity in design and process - can revive the social, ecological and economic urban space and lead to unexpected products and services in an urban environment.

It is expected to fund one lighthouse pilot in each of the two chosen areas (i) and (ii). For grants awarded under this topic for Research and Innovation Actions at least 30% of the EU funding requested shall be allocated to contributions to the work by artists and creatives.

For grants awarded under this topic for Research and Innovation Actions beneficiaries may provide support to third parties as described in part K of the General Annexes of the Work Programme. The support to third parties can only be provided in the form of grants. The respective options of Article 15.1 and Article 15.3 of the Model Grant Agreement will be applied. Third party support is expected to help cover the work of artists and creatives.

b) Coordination and Support Action (CSA instrument) to create a STARTS ecosystem by coordinating artistic and innovation relevant aspects of the two lighthouse pilots and of other European/international R&I projects that put artists and creatives at the centre of innovation. Tasks comprise analysing and helping implement best practices for including artists in R&I, organising events, providing online spaces for artists and technologists to meet, presenting the results from art-technology collaborations in exhibitions that are highly visible in the art world and in industry, and assisting European research teams to learn from art and design thinking as a strategy for innovation.. It is expected to fund one Coordination and Support Action.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of up to EUR 4 million for each of the two light house pilots for Research and Innovation Actions and of up to EUR 1 million for maximum one Coordination and Support Action would allow the areas to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts. All proposals under a) and b) should target a duration of 3 years.

Expected Impact

  • The demonstration of value-added to industry and society in having artists contribute to the development of radically new products, services and processes.
  • Signalling effect for future uptake of art-driven solutions to concrete industrial and societal challenges and art-driven user-centred products and services.
  • Efficient working models how art-technology collaboration can contribute to innovative processes in research, industry and society.
  • Burgeoning STARTS ecosystem involving industry, technology, research, end-users, societal stakeholders, and the Art world that reconciles and unites the goals and thinking of industry and technology with that of the Art world.

Cross-cutting Priorities

Socio-economic science and humanities

Application date
Humanities : Arts and Art history, Literature
Social sciences : Information and Communication Sciences
Other : Biology, Chemistry, Computer science, Physics, mathematics and engineering