The European Commission has launched two Horizon Prizes to reward innovators who find groundbreaking solutions in digital technologies. Two prizes of €500,000 are on offer for breaking the optical transmission barriers and collaborative spectrum sharing, through the EU's Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.

The aim is to develop and demonstrate solutions to societal or technological challenges that have not yet been met.  Contestants including innovators, SMEs and non-profit organisations acting alone or together with other entities, can formally register for the competition starting from May 2015. The deadlines for submissions are 17 December 2015 for Collaborative spectrum sharing prize and 15 March 2016 for Breaking the optical transmission barriers prize.

Open challenges in spectrum and optical areas

The Horizon Prize for Breaking the optical transmission barriers will be awarded to a solution that maximises the fibre capacity per channel, spectrum range and/or spectral efficiency and reach, to overcome the current limitations of long distance fibre transmission systems. It should also be energy efficient, economically viable, and easy to install and deploy. The winning solution should have a strong potential to be adopted in future generations of optical-system products.

The Horizon Prize for Collaborative spectrum sharing will be awarded to an innovative and disruptive approach which will enable a significant increase in spectrum sharing and re-use, beyond the currently applicable spectrum sharing methods and centralized techniques.  The winning solution should be a significant step forward from current technologies and solutions in terms of shared spectrum usage metrics and will have to prove its economic viability.

Results count, not how you get them!

Horizon Prizes are a new competition for European innovators that aim to deliver breakthrough solutions to specific issues.

How you get there is not important. There are no specific rules on how to achieve the solution and the contestants are free to submit any development of a technological solution that meets the criteria of the challenge. The feasibility of the approach for each challenge prize will have to be demonstrated through clearly convincing experimental results.

Find out more details on rules of contest for breaking the optical transmission barriers and rules of contest for collaborative spectrum sharing.

Why these challenges?

The number of people using mobile technologies and the volume of data transmitted over them have increased dramatically over the last two decades. The demand for wireless services alone will increase by at least 1000 times over the next decade! Spectrum (the radiofrequencies over which this information is transmitted) is a finite resource and is one of the crucial limiting factors for enabling new services and driving the development of wireless systems. It is unlikely that a linear improvement of today's spectrum access technologies will alone be able to respond to such explosive demand.

In addition, everyday objects and machines are increasingly connected to form the Internet of Things. It is forecast that by 2020 the number of network-connected devices will reach 1000 times the world's population. This aggregated demand for bandwidth results in increasingly high volumes of data being transported across optical communication networks around Europe and beyond.

A major pillar of our digital age is connectivity.  There is constant pressure on our communications networks' ability to satisfy right here right now our ever increasing applications and services with super-fast transmission needs while the spectrum we use is becoming a scarce resource.

This is why the European Commission calls innovators (see eligibility conditions) to help overcome the limitations of our current networks systems and find radical breakthrough solutions in optical transmission systems and for collaborative spectrum sharing.

Horizon Prizes, new instrument for European innovators

Five Horizon Prizes are planned to be launched this year. Three are ICT-related: Breaking the optical transmission barriers; Collaborative spectrum sharing and Food scanner. The other two are Better use of antibiotics and Materials for clean air.

Each challenge comes with a clearly stated goal and any innovator that meets the eligibility criteria is welcome to propose effective ways to achieve it.  The rules of contest and time schedule are published on each prize respective web pages.

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