Second Call for Project Proposals on COVID-19 and Distributed Ledger Technologies

 

Submissions open from 13 May 2020 to 18 July 2020 (24:00 UK time)

          1. INTRO

Founded in 2016 as an interdepartmental centre supported by eight different departments and institutes at University College London (UCL), the UCL Centre for Blockchain Technologies (CBT) has grown to become the largest in the world by number of associates. Currently, the CBT’s community comprises of over 180 research and industry associates of qualified expertise and knowledge in distributed ledger technologies. More than two thirds of the associates are from non-UCL academic institutions and organizations. The centre focuses on technical, socio-economic and legal-policy research in distributed ledger technologies and counts more than 180 scientific publications.

The primary goal of the UCL CBT is to promote the widespread adoption of distributed ledger technologies in our techno-socio-economic systems. In line with our mission, this is the second of a series of Calls for Research Proposals that will be launched in the next years in order to support and award our best community members with research grants on distributed ledger technologies.

This second Call for Research Project Proposals relates to the current pandemic situation we find ourselves in and how blockchain and distributed ledger technologies can be used to combat this crisis.  Each proposal that is awarded will be eligible to receive funding up to £30,000 of direct costs. To learn more about the requirements for applying, what proposals are eligible, and what costs can be claimed please read the instructions below.

          2.  ELIGIBLE RESEARCH TOPICS

In light of the current threat posed by COVID-19, the UCL CBT decided to launch an emergency call for proposal to address the new socio-economic issues arising from this pandemic. Our goal is to inspire the future with innovative emerging technological solutions.

The research topics in this special call aim to create technological tools that can support business leaders and policy makers to create a more robust and resilient society.

  • DLT for Charity – New money distribution channels and control tools
  • DLT for remote governance
  • Central bank digital currency and other digital form of fiat money to directly sustain the real economy
  • Decentralize finance and liquidity injection mechanisms
  • Blockchain solutions in healthcare and medical records
  • Blockchain solutions in distributed research efforts
  • Blockchain solutions for supply chains
  • Emerging technologies for privacy-enhanced governments monitor
  • DLT for the management of surveillance mechanisms in respect of individual freedom
  • Technology policy, social bonds and societal breakdown
  • Interplay between crypto currencies, global trades, and financial markets in the time of pandemics
  • DLT, social networks and the spread of (mis)information during lockdown

         3. FUNDING INFORMATION

3.1 Duration. The research project proposals can be submitted from 13th May 2020 until 18th July 2020 and their duration should be no less than 6 months and should terminate before 31st January 2021. Projects cannot reapply for an extension.

3.2 Applicants.  Each project must name one Principal Investigator (PI). The PI will be responsible for the development and delivery of the project and the reporting on the outcomes and budget usage. Each proposal must have a minimum of two applicants. PI and collaborators funding contributions can follow three paths: 1) for UCL staff only, transfer to internal research account via Internal Departmental Transfer; 2) Payment by means of “Form 7” which UCL uses for one-off duty arrangements. Guidance on payment for one-off duties can be found here: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/hr/docs/casual_worker_dept_guide.php;  3) Payment by means of invoice through a company or self-employment. Funding contributions for collaborators should be detailed within the submitted budget, see 6. All payments to non UCL staff members will need to be authorised by UCL CBT.

3.3 Award.  Projects will be selected on an on-going basis with the final date of submission being the 18th July 2020. Projects may apply for any amount of funding up to £30,000. Funds will only be distributed to named individuals or companies in the approved budget proposals. These payments will be made in two tranches – the first on successful award of the grant (50%) and the second on successful submission and acceptance of a mid-term project update (50%). Changes in the allocated budget are not allowed after submission. Applicants understand that UCL CBT reserves the right to unilaterally decide whether to partially award their project.

3.4 Eligible Costs. The scheme covers “Directly Incurred” costs (eg. project-specific research staff, technical staff, travel, consumables or equipment costing less than £10,000) and the salary costs associated with the PIs and collaborators estimated time on the project. Any funding requested shall only be awarded for named individuals or companies who are in the submitted budget. Budgets should not include indirect, estates and generic administrative costs including infrastructure technician costs.

       4. ELIGIBILITY AND PROJECT REQUIREMENTS

4.1 Principal Investigator (PI) and collaborators. The PI is responsible for ensuring any person engaged, employed, or who may volunteer to work on this project complies fully with their country of residence legislation on right to work throughout any time they are participating on the project.

4.2 Status of CBT Associate. All applicants must be affiliated to the UCL CBT at the Starting Date of the project (or have submitted an application to become an Associate), see 5.1. The official list of CBT Research and Industry Associates  can be found here: http://blockchain.cs.ucl.ac.uk/people/. You should submit an application to become an Associate of the UCL CBT via this form http://blockchain.cs.ucl.ac.uk/affiliate-form/.

4.3 PhD students. The engagement of PhD students, postdoctoral research assistants, sponsored researchers, etc. in these projects is encouraged, as it could provide valuable experience complementary to their studies. The proposed project must also be outside and additional to the student’s PhD; otherwise their involvement would be classed as research and therefore ineligible for this type of funding. PIs are responsible for ensuring that duties associated with the project do not compromise or overlap with students’ core research. Any student involved in the proposal must be given adequate time to pursue their research and not be overburdened with additional responsibilities which would be likely to limit their capacity to complete a thesis in due time.

4.4 Areas. Projects must address intellectually inspiring challenges and industry impact opportunities in the areas detailed in Section 2 of this Call.

4.5 Impact. Projects must demonstrate how their impact will be maximised through the project plans, for example by addressing clearly defined research challenge(s), demonstrating how they have been elaborated through undertaking research and appropriate knowledge exchange and early stage ‘proof of concept’ activities. Research proposals which are instrumental to other projects Calls with larger scope and impact are also welcome.

4.6 Retrospective application. Retrospective application (where the individual has already commenced his/her study) or partial applications (where part funding has been found from other sources) will not be considered.

4.7 Conflict of interest.  All applicants are required to recognise and disclose activities that might give rise to actual, perceived or potential conflicts of interest and to ensure that such conflicts are properly managed or avoided. Applicants must be able to confirm that they are in compliance with UCL’s policy on Disclosure of Conflicts and Declaration of Interest and that disclosure of any potential conflicts of interest has been made clear. By submitting your application you should declare to accept and undertake, during the term of the project, not to carry out activities that conflict or compete with the activity covered by the project. In particular, it is hereby expressly agreed that applicants shall not be allowed to carry out such competing activity either on their own or through a third party.

4.8  Ethical Approval. If the research project involves collecting data from living people, involves people as research subjects, or involves data derived from people, the PI must seek and obtain ethical approval before starting the project. See here for more info: https://ethics.grad.ucl.ac.uk/

Failure to comply with the published policies in 4.7 and 4.8 will result in disqualification from the award process or withdrawal of any awarded funds.

4.9 Acknowledgment. Any publication resulting from the project must acknowledge UCL CBT funding. The recommended text to be used is as follows: “This work has been funded by UCL Centre for Blockchain Technologies as part of the 2nd Call for Project Proposals on COVID-19 and Distributed Ledger Technologies”.

        5. TIMELINE

5.1 Notification and Acceptance. Applicants will be notified within 10 days from their submission and, if awarded, they will be required to confirm acceptance and start their project within 2 days.

5.2 Starting Date. Starting date depend on the submission date, see 5.1. The final date for submitting applications is 18th July 2020.

5.3 Closing Date. Projects should last no less than 6 months and should terminate before 31st January 2021.

5.4 All awarded proposals must submit their research finding no later than 1stFebruary 2021 (10:00 UK time). All awardees are required to present their research at an event held by the UCL CBT showcasing the research from this 2nd Call for Proposals to be held in March 2021 (date to be confirmed nearer the time).

        6. HOW TO APPLY

Applications should be submitted online using the electronic form at the bottom of this page.

To be considered for funding, all submissions should include:

– The completed application form.

– Project costing

A clear written agreement/letter of support from all those participating in the proposal including their agreements on budgeted funding will be required.

         7. EVALUATION CRITERIA

All eligible submitted proposals will undergo a submission evaluation process as described in 7.1 and awarded project proposals will undergo a post-submission assessment as described in 7.2. For this scope, an Evaluation Committee will be appointed by UCL CBT and will be composed of three members chosen from the national and international scientific and industry community.

7.1 Submission evaluation process.

7.1.1  Submission Deadline. Proposals will be evaluated on an on-going basis once submitted. The final submission deadline for consideration is 18th July 2020 (24:00 UK time).

7.1.2 Evaluation Criteria. The eligible applications will be assessed according to the following criteria. Each evaluation criterion will be assigned a maximum score, whose total sum corresponds to 100.

  • Scientific & Technical Quality and Impact (40 points)
    1. relevance to the specific project.
    2. clarity of project objectives, in a quantified way.
    3. research impact and augmentation, namely preparation of research grant proposals.
  • Quality of Applicants (20 points)
    1. quality of individual investigators, and quality of team as a whole.
    2. CBT community inclusion, namely minimum 2 different CBT Associates.
  • Industrial Impact (20 points)
    1. level of industrial ambition, as well as end-user pull.
    2. the relevance of the project to the blockchain vast market needs.
  • Management Approach (20 points)
    1. clarity and coherency of work-plan, incl. realistic manpower allocation.

7.1.3 Announcement of the awarded proposals. Proposals which have successfully submitted all necessary documentation will receive a notification within 10 days from the submission date as to whether they have been awarded funding or not (within the limit of the available budget). On successful confirmation of acceptance of funding, projects will be announced on the UCL CBT website.

7.1.4 Starting date of approved projects. After the notification of the awarded funding, the PI must confirm in written to blockchain-cfp@ucl.ac.uk the acceptance of the funds and start the project within 2 days.

7.2 Post-submission Assessment.

7.2.1 Mid-term Deadline. Each PI of awarded proposals must submit a mid-term project report to blockchain-cfp@ucl.ac.uk at the half way of the project duration. The format of the report is free but it must include the details of the results obtained up to that point, activities carried on and both the expenses already incurred and the indication of the costs, as much as possible documented, which are expected to incur until the end of the project.

7.2.2 Evaluation Criteria. The mid-term report will be assessed according to the following criteria. Each evaluation criterion will be assigned a maximum score, whose total sum corresponds to 100.

  • Scientific & Technical Quality (40 points)
    1. overall novelty, creativity and originality, beyond the state-of-the-art.
    2. soundness and coherency of scientific/technical work-plan.
  • Quality of Applicants (20 points)
    1. technical complementarity and integration between different investigators.
    2. good market opportunities for each investigator in the project plan.
  • Industrial Impact (20 points)
    1. likelihood of making a positive contribution to the blockchain industry.
    2. likelihood a new product can be brought to the market thanks to research results.
  • Management Approach (20 points)
    1. management of the intellectual property and research data.

7.2.3 Announcement of the post-assessment Results. The final assessment will be drawn up on the basis of the total obtained score. If the score will be lower than 75 points, the award will be suspended, and the project will terminate. The results of the assessment will be approved by the CBT which will inform each project’s PI within 10 days after successful receipt of their mid-term report.

7.2.4 Missing deadline. If the mid-term report will not meet the deadline, the award will be suspended and the project will terminate immediately.

7.3 Final Submission Deadline. The final projects must be submitted to blockchain-cfp@ucl.ac.uk by 31st January 2021.  The format of the final report is free but it must include the details of the results obtained, activities carried on and both the expenses already incurred and the indication of the costs, as much as possible documented, which have been incurred during the project.

        8. PAYMENT ARRANGEMENTS

8.1 Payment Modalities. The project budget will be directly transferred individually to each investigator (Principal Investigator (PI) and collaborators) named on the submitted budgets according the modalities in 3.2.

8.2 Payment Terms. Payments are made in arrears. The first 50% of the funds will be transferred individually to the named investigators on the proposal budget starting within 60 days of successful notification (and acceptance) of an award. The remaining 50% of the amount will be transferred to the named individuals on the proposal budget starting within 60 days of the approval of the mid-term report which must score at least 75 points (See 7.2). Although the initial 50% of the payment can be retained by individuals on the proposal, if the score will be lower than 75 points, the final 50% of the payment will not be transferred. Applicants understand and agree that projects must start and follow their timelines submitted and should not be contingent on payments to begin or continue.

Further Information

For call related enquiries please contact the following:

General enquiries: Dr. Paolo Tasca (UCL CBT Executive Director): blockchain-cfp@ucl.ac.uk

Awards and Payments: Nikhil Vadgama (UCL CBT Deputy Executive Director): nikhil.vadgama@ucl.ac.uk

Scientific enquiries: Prof. Tomaso Aste (UCL CBT Scientific Director): T.Aste@ucl.ac.uk

ANNEXES – TIME LINE