Research & Innovation - Participant Portal


TOPIC : The Autonomous Ship

Topic identifier: MG-3-2-2018
Publication date: 27 October 2017

Types of action: IA Innovation action
Opening date:
31 October 2017
2nd stage Deadline:
31 January 2018 17:00:00
19 September 2018 17:00:00

Time Zone : (Brussels time)
  Horizon 2020 H2020 website
Pillar: Societal Challenges
Work Programme Year: H2020-2018-2020
Topic Description
Specific Challenge:

Digitisation and autonomy will bring disruptive changes to waterborne transport, providing competitive advantages to European business, better integrating logistics, changing business models, improving safety, facilitating maintenance, allowing telemetry and shore-based support as well as modifying the role of crew thus raising societal issues that need to be addressed. Whilst the first autonomous prototypes are being deployed, important regulatory and technical challenges remain. Due to the regulatory environment applicable to intercontinental shipping, the first adopters will operate only within national water of a single country or several countries subject to specific agreement. Consequently the first connected and autonomous services are expected to concern inland waterways, short sea shipping, ferries, coastal operations and urban water transport. The challenge is to now develop and demonstrate integrated automation technologies within a real environment.


To address these challenges, proposals should address the first bullet and several of the following aspects:

  • With a focus on first adopters (inland waterways, short sea shipping, ferries coastal operations and urban water transport) develop and demonstrate to TRL7 a fully autonomous vessel within a realistic environment which encompasses all necessary features including collision avoidance, interaction with waterway and/or port infrastructure, interaction with waterborne traffic, connectivity, control, navigation and docking, condition monitoring, smart maintenance and fail safe operation. The differentiators of EGNOS/GALILEO for Autonomous Vessels should be considered.
  • Assess operability, reliability and failure scenarios for on board systems without human interaction on board, for example; propulsion and machinery systems, auxiliaries, safety systems, navigation, connectivity/communication and if appropriate, their connectivity/controllability from a remote operation centre.
  • Develop validation, certification and safety assessment methodologies, tools to support autonomous ships and system development.
  • Safety assessment and demonstrate hazard avoidance using typical scenarios.
  • Regulatory and legal requirements, including liability regimes, needed to operate autonomous waterborne transport within the environments foreseen for the likely first adopters should be addressed. Also, for intercontinental shipping identify the potential necessary amendments to international conventions. In discussion with important stake holders, identify the technological and regulatory barriers and establish a road map to overcome.
  • Cybersecurity solutions to enable secure safe and reliable data connectivity that are resistant to both malicious intervention and system failure.
  • Advance and demonstrate underdeveloped technologies such as for example situational awareness and actions to alert in case of a potential unavoidable collision such as with a fast moving leisure craft.
  • Address operations and establish a business case for the most promising vessel type and for other services likely to be adopted at an early stage.
  • Increase public awareness of autonomous waterborne transport and engage in dialogue with relevant stake holders so address social and human factors including those concerning safety, change of skills, socio technic aspects and the impact on employment.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU between EUR 10 and 20 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected Impact:

Achieve a breakthrough in automated waterborne transport through demonstration of a fully autonomous vessel targeted towards either inland waterways, short sea, ferry, coastal operation or urban water transport vessel within a relevant environment. Understand the social economic and regulatory factors of autonomous waterborne transport. Enable establishment of the first commercial automated water transport services within 5 years. Enhance European competitiveness and support European jobs and growth.

Cross-cutting Priorities:

Blue Growth

Topic conditions and documents

1. Eligible countries: described in Annex A of the Work Programme.
A number of non-EU/non-Associated Countries that are not automatically eligible for funding have made specific provisions for making funding available for their participants in Horizon 2020 projects. See the information in the Online Manual.


2. Eligibility and admissibility conditions: described in Annex B and Annex C of the Work Programme. 


Proposal page limits and layout: please refer to Part B of the proposal template in the submission system below.


3. Evaluation:

  • Evaluation criteria, scoring and thresholds are described in Annex H of the Work Programme.  
  • Submission and evaluation processes are described in the Online Manual.

4. Indicative time for evaluation and grant agreements:    

Information on the outcome of evaluation (two-stage call):
For stage 1: maximum 3 months from the deadline for submission.
For stage 2: maximum 5 months from the deadline for submission.
Signature of grant agreements: maximum 8 months from the deadline for submission.


5. Proposal templates, evaluation forms and model grant agreements (MGA):

Research and Innovation Action:

Specific provisions and funding rates
Proposal templates are available after entering the submission tool below
Standard evaluation form
General MGA - Multi-Beneficiary
Annotated Grant Agreement


6. Additional provisions:

Horizon 2020 budget flexibility
Classified information
Technology readiness levels (TRL) – where a topic description refers to TRL, these definitions apply

Members of consortium are required to conclude a consortium agreement, in principle prior to the signature of the grant agreement.

8. Additional documents:

1. Introduction WP 2018-20       
11. Smart, green and integrated transport WP 2018-20      
18. Dissemination, Exploitation and Evaluation WP 2018-20

General annexes to the Work Programme 2018-2020

Legal basis: Horizon 2020 Regulation of Establishment
Legal basis: Horizon 2020 Rules for Participation
Legal basis: Horizon 2020 Specific Programme


7. Open access must be granted to all scientific publications resulting from Horizon 2020 actions.

Where relevant, proposals should also provide information on how the participants will manage the research data generated and/or collected during the project, such as details on what types of data the project will generate, whether and how this data will be exploited or made accessible for verification and re-use, and how it will be curated and preserved.

Open access to research data
The Open Research Data Pilot has been extended to cover all Horizon 2020 topics for which the submission is opened on 26 July 2016 or later. Projects funded under this topic will therefore by default provide open access to the research data they generate, except if they decide to opt-out under the conditions described in Annex L of the Work Programme. Projects can opt-out at any stage, that is both before and after the grant signature.

Note that the evaluation phase proposals will not be evaluated more favourably because they plan to open or share their data, and will not be penalised for opting out.

Open research data sharing applies to the data needed to validate the results presented in scientific publications. Additionally, projects can choose to make other data available open access and need to describe their approach in a Data Management Plan.

Projects need to create a Data Management Plan (DMP), except if they opt-out of making their research data open access. A first version of the DMP must be provided as an early deliverable within six months of the project and should be updated during the project as appropriate. The Commission already provides guidance documents, including a template for DMPs. See the Online Manual.

Eligibility of costs: costs related to data management and data sharing are eligible for reimbursement during the project duration.

The legal requirements for projects participating in this pilot are in the article 29.3 of the Model Grant Agreement.


Additional documents

  • Flash Call Info_Stage 1 2018 en
  • Generalised feedback_Stage 1 2018 en
  • Flash Call Info_Stage 2 2018 en

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