A technological challenge is a type of Research & Development action.
Different teams address a challenging objective using a common testing environment set up for that purpose.
Technological challenges are particularly suited to studying complex systems, especially those involving artificial intelligence and machine learning, as they enable the objective and comparable measurement of the performances of such systems.
In a technological challenge, the organiser defines common experimental protocols in cooperation with the participating R&D teams before providing the environment enabling the teams to test their systems according to these protocols.
Rewards and Benefits
- Unique opportunity for innovators in a given domain to progress faster:
- Gain privileged access to resources tailored to the objective
- Perform unbiased experimental measurements
- Gain first-hand information about the state-of-the-art
- Fosters networking among the best teams in the domain
- Results obtained by the teams can help them to get further support and funding
How does it work?
The European Defence Fund annual calls for proposals offer specific call topics for Participating or Organising a Technological Challenge:
For the 2023 calls for proposals, Technological Challenges concern: Agile and Robust Human Language Technologies for Defence
For more information on how to apply and what it takes to be selected, visit the topic call pages:
Proposals can be submitted starting on 15 June 2023 until 22 November 2023.
A technological challenge is a form of organisation of R&D activities whereby several R&D teams address a given technological objective using a common testing environment set up for that purpose.
Organising technological challenges is necessary to measure the performances of systems involving artificial intelligence and machine learning in an objective, comparable and transparent way. Indeed, since systems learn, the test data should not be provided to system developers beforehand to avoid any bias in the measurements. However, to foster progress, the test data should be available to them after the test phase completion for analysing and comparing the results. It is therefore necessary to organise test campaigns whereby common test data is disclosed simultaneously to all participants. This need for a specific organisation to evaluate systems with learning capabilities is analogous to the need to organise exams to evaluate students.
Beyond the field of artificial intelligence, organising technological challenges is also needed when setting up and servicing testing environments of adequate size to address a given technological objective can only be done temporarily.
Another interesting feature of technological challenges is that they offer a unique blend of mission-driven R&D steering and openness to innovative approaches. They also contribute to community building and to the visibility of a domain.
Technological challenges have been used for several decades in various R&D programmes. They require careful planning and a tight coordination among stakeholders, but they have proved to be instrumental in the acceleration of progress in R&D.
A technological challenge is generally composed of a series of test campaigns organised over several years. Except for high technological readiness levels, durations of 4 to 5 years are customary.
Under the EDF, technological challenges are launched through dedicated calls for proposals including two topics per challenge, one for the challenge organisation and one for the participation to the challenge. Calls for technological challenges also include preliminary evaluation plans enabling applicants to prepare projects that can cooperate smoothly with one another. During the challenge implementation, the organising team develops a detailed evaluation plan for each test campaign, in close cooperation with the participating teams.
The topic selection for technological challenges follows the same procedure as for other topics in the EDF. Technological challenges are a modality of organisation which is chosen when appropriate for some topics.
A first EDF technological challenge on hidden threat detection has been launched in 2022. The projects selected for funding under this call are HiTDOC for the challenge organisation and AIDEDex, CONVOY, DeterMine and TICHE as participants. The first evaluation campaign is planned in 2024.
A second EDF technological challenge on human language technologies has been launched in 2023. The indicative budget is 7 M€ for the challenge organisation and 18 M€ for the participation (with a ceiling of 6 M€ per proposal). The deadline for proposal submission is 22 November 2023 at 17:00 CEST. Further information on how to apply is available on the Commission’s Funding and Tender Opportunities webpage.