NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme: 2023 Open Call for Proposals

Funding available to organisations in NATO member countries and partner countries for a range of research and networking activities to address emerging security challenges relevant to NATO’s strategic objectives.

The NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme aims to promote dialogue and practical cooperation between NATO member states and partner countries in various fields of scientific research, technological innovation and knowledge exchange to support civil security-relevant activities that respond to NATO’s strategic objectives.

The function of the programme is to link the scientific community to NATO through civil science cooperation to deliver technical and scientific advancements that address emerging security challenges such as cyber defence, counter-terrorism, advanced technologies, energy and environmental security, and threats posed by chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive (CBRNE) hazards.

Funding is available through several grant mechanisms (Multi-Year Projects, Advanced Research Workshops, Advanced Training Courses and Advanced Study Institutes) to enable networks of scientists, experts and government officials from NATO member and partner countries to engage in meaningful, practical cooperation with tangible results and deliverables.

The SPS Programme Multi-Year Project (MYP) grants enable scientists from NATO and its partner nations to collaborate on applied R&D and capacity building projects that result in new civil science advancements with practical application in the security and defence fields. The MYP grants offer funding in the region of €150,000 to €350,000 over 24-36 months to support projects that have a clear link to security and NATO’s strategic objectives that are aligned with the SPS Programme Key Priorities.

The SPS Programme Advanced Training Courses (ATC) enable specialists in NATO countries to share their security-related expertise in one of the SPS Key Priority areas with trainees, who will mainly be from NATO’s Partner countries, as well as from NATO countries.

ATCs are tailor-made, modular courses, typically taking place over five to seven days and involving between 20 and 50 participants, primarily from partner nations, that are intended to be intensive, interactive and practical in nature and contribute to the training of experts in partner nations and enable the formation and strengthening of international expert networks. Grants for ATCs are in the order of €60,000 to cover direct organisational costs, travel and living expenses for specialists and attendance costs of trainees.

The SPS Advanced Study Institutes (ASI) are high-level tutorial courses that aim to convey the latest developments in topics of relevance for NATO and the SPS Key Priorities to an advanced-level audience.

An ASI will typically take place over seven to ten days and involve between 60 and 80 pre- and post-doctoral level scientists with relevant backgrounds in the subject matter of the course. Particular encouragement is given to young scientists from NATO partner nations. Grants are in the order of €60,000 per meeting to cover direct organisational costs; travel and living expenses for up to 15 lecturers; and attendance of students from countries eligible to receive NATO funding.

The SPS Advanced Research Workshop (ARW) grants provide support for workshops involving between 20 and 50 participants that provide a forum for experts and scientists to engage in advanced-level discussion to share their experience and knowledge on security-related topics. The aim of an ARW is to identify directions for future actions to address contemporary security challenges, and will often form the starting point for follow-on activities such as applications for SPS Multi-Year Project grants.

Funding for an ARW is typically in the order of €30,000 to €40,000 to cover direct organisational expenses; travel and living expenses of key speakers; and to subsidise any other participants from NATO countries and Partner countries who are unable to obtain support from other sources.

All activities funded under the SPS Programme must have a clear link to security and to NATO’s strategic objectives and must address one or more of the following SPS Key Priorities:

  1. Facilitate mutually beneficial cooperation on issues of common interest, including international efforts to meet emerging security challenges, including:
    • Counter-Terrorism
    • Energy Security
    • Cyber Defence
    • Defence against CBRN Agents
    • Environmental Security
  2. Enhance support for NATO-led operations and missions, including:
    • Provision of civilian support through SPS Key Priorities
    • Provision of access to information through internet connectivity as in the SILK-Afghanistan Programme
    • Cultural and social aspects in military operations and missions
    • Enhancing cooperation with other international actors
  3. Enhance awareness on security developments including through early warning, with a view to preventing crises, including:
    • Security-related Advanced Technology
    • Border and Port Security
    • Mine and Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) Detection and Clearance
    • Human and Social Aspects of Security related to NATO’s strategic objectives
  4. Other projects clearly linked to a threat to security, not otherwise defined, that are relevant to NATO’s Strategic Objectives.

Applications must be developed jointly by scientists or experts (ie affiliated with a government, academic, or other non-profit institution) from at least one a NATO country and one Partner country.

Applicants based within the following countries are eligible to apply:

NATO Countries:

Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Netherlands, the Republic of North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States.

Partner Countries:

Algeria, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Egypt, Finland (invited), Georgia, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, the Republic of Korea, Kuwait, Kyrgyz Republic, Malta, Mauritania, the Republic of Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco, New Zealand, Pakistan, Qatar, Serbia, Sweden (invited), Switzerland, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan.

Priority Topics for the 2023 Call for Proposals

In line with the outcomes of the 2022 NATO Summit in Madrid and the new Strategic Concept, proposals focusing on the following topics are especially encouraged and will be given higher priority for funding.

1. Emerging and Disruptive Technologies (EDTs):

  • Policies related to EDTs:
    • Policy aspects in NATO and partner nations
    • Ethical and legal aspects
    • Strategic foresight
    • Exchange of experiences / best practices
  • Quantum technologies:
    • Quantum sensing
    • Quantum communications
    • Enablers for quantum technologies
    • Post-quantum cryptography
  • Autonomy:
    • Autonomy in all physical domains (ground, air, space and maritime)
    • Counter-autonomy
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI):
    • Use of AI (in particular machine learning) to: enhance energy management, environmental security or early warning systems; help mitigate the impact and risks of climate change on operations and missions; combat disinformation; strengthen cyber security
    • Innovative methods and frameworks for machine learning techniques, in particular federated learning, machine vision, image recognition and voice technology
    • Human-in-the-loop approaches
  • Data:
    • Enhanced solutions for mining big data and/or sparse data, originating in particular from sensors, satellites or autonomous systems
    • Novel approaches or frameworks for enhancing data quality, in particular of sparse data
    • Synthetic data generation, in areas such as cyber security, environment, climate and energy, military mobility or multi-domain operations
    • Environmentally sustainable data management and processing, for example exploring the optimisation of data processing, storage or transfer to reduce the energy consumption of such operations
  • Biotechnology and human enhancement:
    • Security applications of biotechnology
    • Exoskeletons
    • Augmented reality
  • Novel materials and manufacturing:
    • Security applications of 3D printing and additive manufacturing
    • Resistant and stealth coatings
    • Superconductors
  • Technological convergence:
    • Research and development in multiple scientific areas through a tight integration of different technologies and disciplines with the purpose to serve a common goal (ie integration of engineering, biotechnologies, physical sciences, data science, computation, life sciences, social sciences, etc)
    • Technologies for enabling digital trust across data, platforms and technologies

2. Climate Change and Security/Environmental Security/Energy Security:

  • Assessment of current and future increased climate change-related bio-security risks and mitigation options
  • Climate change interactive scenario modelling – outlook to 2050/60+
  • Exploitation of innovative and low carbon environmental technologies for operations
  • Impact of increased variation in maritime salinity, acidity, and temperature on legacy and novel systems and technologies
  • Impact of climate change on transboundary security
  • Strategic and critical resource management
  • Nexus between terrorism and climate change
  • Insurgency, Terrorism and Organised Crime in a warming climate
  • Exploitation of innovative sustainable energy systems in off grid and on grid locations
  • Exploitation of hydrogen fuel cells

Application forms and guidelines are published alongside the Call for Proposals.

Applications for the 2023 Open Call for Proposals should be submitted by the deadline on 17 February 2023 (23:59 Central European Time).

(This report was the subject of a RESEARCHconnect Newsflash.)