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NGI: € 21.6 million in grants for Free Software

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The Next Generation Internet (NGI) Zero consortium, of which the FSFE is a partner, has just unveiled the NGI0 Commons Fund. This new public fund will award 21.6 million euro to small and medium R&D projects developing Free Software technologies that can improve the Internet.

Illustration with the text “NGI Initiative, internet of humans” showing a future city in the background with some hands holding phones in the foreground

The Next Generation Internet Zero consortium aims to build a more resilient, trustworthy, and open Internet that empowers end-users to control technology. Since 2018, FSFE has been a partner of this coalition, led by the NLNet Foundation, providing support to several hundreds of Free Software projects with their legal and licensing issues. The FSFE has developed workflows and best practices for such projects. We have also been promoting the REUSE specification as a way to simplify copyright and licence compliance for software projects.

The NGI Commons Fund will award over 21 million euro in small and medium R&D grants to Free Software projects starting in 2024, until 2027. This makes the fund the single largest investment made by the European Commission’s Next Generation Internet initiative since it became operational in 2019.

Simplified granting process

The grants (between 5,000 and 50,000 euro) are available to individuals and organisations of any type. One requirement for receiving a grant is that the project outcomes must be made publicly available under a Free Software license. For projects with high scalable potential, a scale-up programme is also available.

The scope of the open calls is broad, meaning that those working on technology commons across the entire technological spectrum can apply: operating systems, front and backend apps, AI, open hardware, encryption and security technologies, and many more areas are included.

The first call of the NGI Zero Commons Fund opens on 1 February 2024, with a deadline of 1 April 2024 12:00 CET (noon). It will be followed by new opportunities every two months until the budget is fully allocated.

Besides financial support, the projects can count on a range of support services to improve the quality, maturity, and deployability of their efforts. Practical services such as security, accessibility audits, and packaging help to improve the quality and promote adoption of the projects. Services like mentoring and diversity management aim to strengthen the communities behind them or, in the case of the FSFE, to help with legal and licensing questions.

“We believe the NGI0 Commons Fund to be a crucial stepping stone for promoting the development of Free Software in Europe. Free Software is key for helping people to control technology in a democratic society. Fostering digital commons through these investments will render technologies more accessible and the internet less dependent on proprietary solutions”, Gabriel Ku Wei Bin, FSFE’s Legal Programme Manager.

About NGI Zero

The FSFE is a consortium member of the Next Generation Internet (NGI), supported by the European Commission's DG CNECT. The NGI has the mission to re-imagine and re-engineer the Internet to shape a value-centric, human and inclusive society for all. NGI Zero is a dynamic coalition of not-for-profit organisations founded in 2019 that together fund and support the development of technology commons as building blocks for the future of the Internet. NGI Zero encompasses a grant mechanism providing resources for several hundreds of Free Software projects.