The utilization of underground geosystems continues to be massively important also with regard to the ongoing energy transition. In future, efficient digital tools must be available for planning and environmental impact analysis, in particular for knowledge- and data-based assessment and approval procedures. This call for proposals aims to further accelerate the process of digitalization in the geosciences and to tap the potential of cooperation with information science. In addition to further methodical research (both in the geosciences and in information science), this mainly requires the development of corresponding workflows and digital tools up to and including digital twins. This also involves extensive quality assurance for the new model and software systems to be developed. Digital geosystems offer a broad range of applications in the sustainable management of subsurface space. For example, this includes the value chain of geoenergy – including geothermal energy and energy storage – as well as the near surface as an interface with sustainable land use.
In this way, the present funding regulations contribute to Field of Action 1: Avoiding and reducing greenhouse gases (mitigation) and Field of Action 2: Improving adaptability and risk prevention (adaptation) of the BMBF’s Research for Sustainability (FONA) strategy as well as to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals SDG 7 Affordable and Clean Energy, SDG 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities, and SDG 13 Climate Action.
Who can receive funding?
Commercial companies, universities and non-university research institutions, municipal and Länder organizations as well as associations and other societal organizations (e.g. foundations and registered societies) are eligible for funding. Applicants are required to have a plant or branch (company) or another entity serving the non-commercial activity of the funding recipient (university, research institution, municipal and Länder organizations, associations, societal organizations) in Germany at the time of payment of the grant.
Research institutions which receive joint basic funding from the Federal Government can only be granted project funding supplementary to their institutional funding to cover additional project-related expenditure or costs under certain conditions.
Funding applications from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are expressly welcome. SMEs within the meaning of these funding regulations are companies that meet the requirements of the EU definition of SMEs. Applicants will declare their classification according to Annex I of the GBER to the granting authority in their written application for funding.
A model declaration can be obtained from the project management organization.
Concerning the conditions for when state aid is or is not deemed to be involved and the extent to which funding can be provided without constituting aid, please consult the Community Framework for State Aid for R&D&I.
The "easy-Online" electronic application system must be used for drafting project outlines and formal proposals.
What will be funded?
The purpose of funding is to support the development of digital tools for reliable forecasting of the impact of geotechnology use underground. The aim is to enable the modelling of complex physical, chemical and biological processes and interaction at highly different spatial and temporal scales. Based on a well-founded understanding of processes, the newly developed models will enable the assessment of risks, show possible competing uses and serve as a basis for economic viability analysis.
The funded research projects are expected to develop a new generation of numerical simulation tools and to link and upgrade existing tools.
Funding will be provided for research and development projects which relate to at least one of the following three thematic fields:
Thematic field 1: Development of methods
Adequate methods development is crucial for a successful digitalization process. A major distinctive feature of geosystems is that the sub-processes to be described interact with each other at different spatial and temporal scales and semantic levels. One aim is to develop data-driven and process-based methods further to enable seamless data and model integration for the multi-scale, multi-physical processes described on different scales. Another aim is to make targeted use of the potential of modern data science, e.g. new schemes for intelligent adaptive model coupling, machine learning for efficient substitute models and virtual realities, in order to develop a new generation of geoscientific models.
Thematic field 2: Digital tools
The second thematic field is devoted to the development and systematic introduction of digital tools as an essential information technology element to accelerate the digitalization of the geosciences. In particular technologies for system solutions are to be developed and made available. These include modular software systems that enable the seamless linking of typical simulation steps in workflows as well as the concept of digital twins as virtual labs for future scenarios regarding the potential and limits of geoscientific applications. The thematic field of digital tools is expected to bridge the gap between methodical development (TF1) and geoscientific applications (TF3) in accordance with the requirements of universal usability, continuity in software development and computing efficiency of modern hardware architectures.
Thematic field 3: Geoscientific applications
The third thematic field deals with using the methods (TF1) and developed tools (TF2) to address selected geoscientific issues mainly in the context of transition to renewable energy. As a rule, this includes all the parts of a value chain such as the exploitation and utilization of georesources, transport and energy transfer, geological energy and mass storage, underground energy conversion, and the transformation of post-mining landscapes. Specific geoscientific applications will be selected to validate and demonstrate the developed methods and tools, also in cross-collaboration exchange about methods. Possible fields of application will involve complementary requirements to enable the broad development of methods and digital tools needed.
Funding can be provided for project-related standardization activities (e.g. DIN SPEC) if the project provides a suitable basis for this.
How is funding provided?
Funding will be awarded in the form of a non-repayable project grant.
Grants for commercial companies and for projects of research institutions which fall into the category of economic activitieswill be calculated on the basis of the eligible project-related costs. Part of these can be covered in individual cases, taking legislation on state aid into account (see Annex). The BMBF’s policy requires that applicants make an appropriate contribution of their own towards the eligible costs incurred.
Grants for higher education institutions, research and science institutions and similar establishments that do not fall into the category of economic activities are calculated on the basis of the eligible project-related expenditure (in the case of the Helmholtz centres and Fraunhofer, eligible project-related costs), up to 100% of which can be funded in individual cases, taking legislation on state aid into account.
In the case of non-commercial research projects at universities, a flat-rate grant amounting to 20% of total expenditure will be awarded in addition to the eligible expenditure funded by the BMBF. Eligible expenditure/costs are governed by the BMBF’s regulations governing applications for expenditure-based grants (AZA) and/or cost-based grants (AZK).
Funding recipients are expected to ensure open electronic access if they publish the results of the research project in a scientific journal. This can be done through publication in an electronic journal which is accessible to the public free of charge. If the results are not initially published in a journal which is electronically accessible to the public free of charge, they must be made publicly available free of charge by electronic means, following a suitable embargo period. The BMBF expressly welcomes secondary open access publication of scientific monographs resulting from the project.
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