HORIZON-CL2-2023-HERITAGE-ECCCH-01-01: A European Collaborative Cloud for Cultural Heritage

  • Action type: Innovation Actions
  • Opening date: 10 January 2023
  • Closing time: 21 September 2023 17:00 (Europe/Brussels)
  • Budget per project: € 25 000 000 of total € 25 000 000
  • Estimated number of projects funded: 1
  • Official website


This topic aims at designing and establishing a European Collaborative Cloud for Cultural Heritage (ECCCH) and demonstrating its basic capacities.
The cultural heritage sector is in the middle of a digital transition: digital technologies are revolutionising existing workflows, procedures and practices. To support this transition and further enhance research and innovation collaboration and activities in the field, the action should extend and improve the availability of sophisticated digital instruments and provide a platform for data exchange and collaboration to the cultural heritage sector. It should fulfil the requirements of the practitioners in the field by being inclusive, collaborative, interactive, safe, fidelity- and equality-based, and providing open access.

The overall goal is to define, extend and accelerate the development of a platform for multidisciplinary and multi-sectoral collaboration on cultural heritage, focusing on users’ requirements and ease of use, as well as underpinning an open digital ecosystem that provides the tools and services needed to enable and scale-up future research and innovation in the field.

The initial focus is on the design and implementation of the basic architecture and governance of the ECCCH. The design and implementation of the ECCCH should be driven by the needs of its users: The professionals with various disciplinary background working on cultural heritage and in related sectors. The governance body of the effort therefore should include a wide representation from the European cultural heritage sector, research organisations, other related initiatives and from Member States and Associated Countries (see further below).
The project should:
• Provide services to both large and small museums and other cultural heritage institutions, thereby bridging the gap between national, regional and local cultural heritage institutions, both public and private.
• Establish a pan-European network of key stakeholders from cultural heritage institutions, including a robust scientific and professional community and be open to the cooperative efforts of a wide community of users.
• Supervise and steer the overall development strategy for the ECCCH. This includes the collaborative production, enrichment, structuring and dissemination of shared data to support community needs, while at the same time establish clear rules for access and participation and set up a framework for connecting existing communities and initiatives related to research and digital innovation in cultural heritage and cultural and creative industries.
• Provide a unified framework for long-term access and preservation of digital(ised) data, both public and private, based on a user-driven and scalable design as well as a general strategy for stimulating the use of innovative tools and services for the ECCCH.
• Propose a convincing consortium structure and outline a business plan ensuring viability during and after the implementation of the grant.
• Ensure continued maintenance of the ECCCH platform and the required storage, beyond the lifetime of the project and position the digital ecosystem as a key to connecting cultural heritage actors, activities and objects in synergy with the other related initiatives in the field.
• Enable semantic representation of multiple data types (various incarnations of 2D and 3D media, video, text), stored in federated repositories according to FAIR principles and encoding data provenance. Previous and current ongoing related European initiatives should be properly taken into account. If appropriate, collaboration with the common European Data Space for Cultural Heritage (the Data Space) should be established.
• Allow for efficient web-based visualisation and analysis, and the creation of annotations over visual data.
Controlled use of data is an important goal. Thus, the ECCCH should support authentication (single user/groups of users), identification of ownership, data rights and traceability of modifications (creation of derived data), data quality/fidelity information, and data security facilities. Technologies enabling access and use from geographic areas with low-performance network connections should be provided. The system should allow national communities/institutions to link and potentially configure their own local clouds in case this is necessary.
The project should build an inventory of previously funded EU and national initiatives and existing digital resources in areas relevant to the ECCCH, such as for instance EOSC, the Data Space, Europeana or Gaia-X, establish a comprehensive gap analysis and identify the outputs or resources that could be incorporated in, connected to or facilitate interoperability with the ECCCH, with a view to build on previous investments and already available initiatives.
The proposed open source platform should:
• Build on and expand existing standards and consolidated practices for managing the relevant data, including resources such as ontologies, vocabularies and terminologies. Where appropriate, this work should be conducted in collaboration with the Data Space;
• Be based on a modular, extensible and evolutionary model, that enables the incorporation of other instruments/tools developed by other subsequent consortia (thus providing libraries and Application Programming Interface (API) for designing tools, including HTML5- and WebGL-compliant Graphical User Interface (GUI) and data visualisation libraries);
• Provide instruments for assessing the quality of the data on the platform (and related attributes in the data model), and for monitoring the effectiveness/usage of the tools integrated into the ECCCH;
• Along with basic data management layers, the ECCCH should provide the necessary instruments for developing applications working on and integrating with the cloud. These instruments and related libraries should be properly documented by means of software development guidelines, allowing other consortia to design additional tools to extend the ECCCH.

Demonstrating successfully a selection of essential tools enabling collaborative research and innovation activities of users within the ECCCH that can also serve as good-practice examples for the development of additional professional tools needed for the sustainable functioning of the platform, e.g.:
• Integrating and accessing data, providing interactive and batch functionalities for data and metadata stored on the (federated) semantic repository, as well as sophisticated search and retrieval features, with web-based browsers specific for each data type, with compatible GUI;
• Data management, to structure, encode, store and analyse all knowledge needed to support curation activities (organisation of catalogues, bibliographies, conservation history of specific artworks, loan and travel history, monitor fraudulent use of museum’s digital assets, etc.).
All basic infrastructure components should be provided as open-source, with proper documentation and training material to enable other consortia to cooperatively contribute data and tools to the cloud platform, according to the principle of an extensible and evolutionary design of the cloud. The good practice proposed for software documentation should become a reference for other project consortia under topics promoted in future ECCCH calls.
The ECCCH governance should follow basic requirements. In concrete terms, it should be structured and defined around the following needs: data security, scalability, technical robustness, technical and economic sustainability, independent usability evaluation and long-term assessments, networking, training and community building. To this end, the governance should include a legal entity with a Single Entry Point (SEP), as well as an independent external advisory board. The governance should be properly documented.

The governance body should include representative stakeholders of existing communities and cultural heritage institutions, potentially involving coordinators of other actions funded under the ECCCH calls and, where appropriate, relevant actions funded under the Digital Europe Programme, such as the Data Space. Furthermore, the governance body should ensure the engagement of appropriate representatives of a wide range of Member States and Associated Countries, as well as of related EU initiatives.

The governance body should:
• drive continuous evaluation processes (integration and interoperability aspects, verification of user interface consistency and usability, and evaluation of effectiveness). These evaluations need to be conducted independently of the funded consortium;
• connect technical consortia with the cultural heritage community at large, as well as with an inclusive community of professionals and researchers, through networking and training programs;
• capture community expectations and oversee user-based assessments of ECCCH resources;
• contribute to the future development agenda of the ECCCH and ensure economic, organisational and technical long-term sustainability.
• ensure sustainability after the implementation of the grant.
The proposal should set out active links and coordination with projects funded under the call HORIZON-CL2-2023-HERITAGE-ECCCH-01, and if appropriate also with relevant projects funded under the Digital Europe programme, to take part in common technical coordination activities, and with a view to ensure synergies with current and previous activities in the field. It is expected to provide clear guidelines and technical support on how the deliverables developed by subsequent projects should be designed and implemented, with the goal of ensuring a proper integration in the ECCCH platform. Therefore, the proposal is expected to include a budget for the attendance to regular joint meetings and may consider to cover the costs of any other joint activities without the prerequisite to detail concrete joint activities at this stage. The Commission may take on the role of facilitator for networking and exchanges, including with additional relevant stakeholders, if appropriate.

The proposal should also set up and manage a common ECCCH website, where all projects funded under the ECCCH calls should be granted space. It is critical that any interested party from the EU or Associated Countries can access the ECCCH at fair conditions and pricing and with transparent and mutual obligations with regards to, for instance, security, safety and intellectual property rights. This should include the promotion of examples of collaborative work in representative application areas that relate to a large part of the cultural heritage sector.

Beneficiaries may provide financial support to third parties, in particular cultural heritage institutions with regional or local scope or mandate, in view of promoting the take-up of tools and methodologies as well as for demonstrating and validating the relevant use cases through experiments. The financial support to third parties can only be provided in the form of grants. A maximum of 10% of the budget is expected to be dedicated to financial support to third parties.
The Commission estimates that a project duration of approximately 5 years is appropriate for the project funded under this topic, in order to ensure that results from future ECCCH actions can be properly incorporated.

Please also refer to the Destination introduction text to consider some key characteristics of the vision for the ECCCH.


Projects should contribute to all of the following expected outcomes:
• The ECCCH is established as a legal entity, which serves as a Single Entry Point (SEP)* and managing body, and is supported by an external independent advisory board that assesses and advises on the technical robustness, effectiveness and usability of the ECCCH platform, its tools and services.
• The European Collaborative Cloud for Cultural Heritage (ECCCH) enhances the ability of cultural heritage actors to interact across disciplinary, institutional, sectorial and political boundaries and cooperate effectively in advancing research on cultural heritage and in developing innovative solutions for the discovery, recovery, conservation, digitalisation and valorisation of digital, digitised and digitisable cultural heritage objects **. This might also facilitate the prevention of illicit trafficking of cultural heritage objects ***.
• Cultural heritage institutions, curators, conservators, researchers, art managers, educators, other cultural heritage professionals and potential users in Europe are aware of, have access to and use the ECCCH platform, its tools and services for the study, digitisation, conservation, valorisation and access to cultural heritage artefacts and related data, in particular for the sharing and preservation of such data, and are involved in its validation and assessment, in view of continuously improving the ECCCH’s performance and use.
• Cultural heritage institutions, curators, conservators, researchers, art managers, educators and other cultural heritage professionals apply new working approaches to collaborate across geographic, cultural, and political borders within Europe (and beyond), develop new business models to manage and valorise intellectual property related to cultural heritage artefacts and their digital twins, and unleash the full potential of a digitally enabled cultural heritage ecosystem connecting cultural heritage actors, activities and objects.
• The governance and management of the ECCCH is widely accepted, trusted and supported by stakeholders at European, national, regional and local level, in particular by Member States, and its sustainability at legal, technical, financial, human resources and scientific level is ensured.
• Participants of past and ongoing EU-funded initiatives, activities and networks are invited to cooperate with the ECCCH-related actions and to contribute with data to the ECCCH and testing of ECCCH tools.

Eligibility: The conditions are described in General Annex B. The following exceptions apply:
If projects use satellite-based earth observation, positioning, navigation and/or related timing data and services, beneficiaries must make use of Copernicus and/or Galileo/EGNOS (other data and services may additionally be used).

The following additional eligibility criteria apply:
Proposals must include an outline of previously funded projects in areas relevant to the European Collaborative Cloud for Cultural Heritage (ECCCH), at both European and national levels, as well as of other pertinent existing digital resources, and they must identify the outputs or resources that could be incorporated in, connected to, or facilitate interoperability with, the ECCCH. Proposals must outline a business plan for the sustainable operation of the structure and activities of the ECCCH after the end of the project.

Important note: Eligible costs will take the form of a lump sum as defined in the Decision of 7 July 2021 authorising the use of lump sum contributions under the Horizon Europe Programme – the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (2021-2027) – and in actions under the Research and Training Programme of the European Atomic Energy Community (2021-2025).
The use of significant parts of the project budget to purchase or lease hardware equipment or commercial software is strongly discouraged.

Beneficiaries may provide financial support to third parties to cultural heritage institutions, in take-up of tools, technologies and for populating and validating the relevant use cases through experiments. A maximum of 10% of the budget should be dedicated to financial support to third parties. The maximum amount to be granted to each third party is EUR 60 000.

Beneficiaries will be subject to these additional requirements on outputs:
All software developed should be open source, licensed under a CC0 public domain dedication or under an open source licence as recommended by the Free Software Foundation and the Open Source Initiative . If the use of open source software components would require disproportional efforts or significantly diminish the quality or performance of the software, proprietary components may be used provided that: an open functional replacement is available; they do not introduce proprietary data formats or Application Programming Interfaces; a full user license free of charge for an unlimited period of time is granted to the consortium responsible for the ECCCH and all its users.

* https://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/data/ref/h2020/other/guides_for_applicants/h2020-im-ac-innotestbeds-18-20_en.pdf and https://www.lawinsider.com/dictionary/single-entry-point
** In the context of this topic, cultural heritage objects or artefacts should be understood as any form of cultural heritage that can be represented in a digital format: tangible, intangible, born digital, etc.
*** In line with the European Commission action plan against trafficking in cultural goods: https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/13352-Trafficking-in-cultural-goods-EU-action-plan_en

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