EIC Pathfinder Challenge: DNA-Based Digital Data Storage

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European Commission
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The EIC is Europe's flagship innovation programme to identify, develop and scale up breakthrough technologies and game changing innovations.The funding and support is organised into three main funding schemes and with its Pathfinder programme the EIC supports the exploration of bold ideas for radically new technologies. It welcomes the high-risk / high gain and interdisciplinary cutting-edge science collaborations that underpin technological breakthroughs. 

Applicants participating in EIC Pathfinder projects are typically visionary scientists and entrepreneurial researchers from universities, research organisations, start-ups, high-tech SMEs or industrial stakeholders interested in technological research and innovation.

EIC establish a portfolio of projects that explore different perspectives, competing approaches or complementary aspects of the Challenge, and one of the EIC Pathfinder challenge is DNA-based digital data storage.

This EIC Pathfinder Challenge is to explore scalable and reliable high-throughput approaches for using DNA as a general data-storage medium. Solutions would thus need to address the read/write/edit operations of digital data in synthetic DNA, capturing the expected advantages of high density and stability/longevity of this form of data storage. The use of DNA sequences as chassis for non-standard forms of information coding, or of other polymeric substrates and related coding/decoding techniques are also in scope, provided they entail at least similar benefits than state of-the-art DNA approaches.

Proposed techniques should deliver qualitative advances in key parameters such as throughput, DNA-length (well above a few hundred mers), reliability (coupling efficiency), speed and cost. Beyond the usual storage applications, there is also scope for radically different scenarios for such a technology, for instance for data-processing, in-vivo sensing or fingerprinting

The following specific objectives for this Challenge have been defined:

  • New approaches for coding, decoding, modification or computational use of digital data in synthetic DNA or other sequence-controllable polymers with quantitative targets (theoretical and technological).
  • Proof-of-Concept of technical feasibility with indications of at least state of the art benefits and major operational characteristics (eg, extreme densities, longevity, stability) and going well beyond for some of them (eg, speed, cost, accuracy).
  • End-to-end scenarios of use, be it for data storage (archival, but also shorter term storage) or other purposes (like sensing, cryptography or computation) that exploit the benefits of the technology.

The EIC Pathfinder Challenges support collaborative research and innovation from consortia or proposals from single legal entities established in a Member State or an Associated Country (unless stated otherwise in the specific challenge chapter). In case of a consortium your proposal must be submitted by the coordinator on behalf of the consortium that includes at least two independent legal entities: Consortia of two entities must be comprised of independent legal entities from two different Member States or Associated Countries. Consortia of three or above entities follow standard rules i.e. they must include at least one legal entity established in a Member State and at least two other independent legal entities, each established in different Member States or Associated Countries

The legal entities may for example be universities, research organisations, SMEs, start-ups, natural persons. In the case of single beneficiary projects, mid-caps and larger companies will not be permitted.

Grants of up to 3 to 4 million euro support early stage development of future technologies (e.g. various activities at low Technology Readiness Levels 1-3), up to proof of concept. Pathfinder projects can also receive additional funding for testing the innovation potential of their research outputs.


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