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PEN-CP is a dynamic innovation-boosting network of expert Customs practitioners. Among its regular activities, PEN-CP publishes periodic calls on various knowledge and innovation instruments and events, all of which aim to identify solutions for key customs challenges. Depending on the type of instrument or event involved, individual calls for participation may target external experts and innovators or Customs administrations – or professionals from all of these realms.

During 1 March – 1 June 2024 we invite companies and research organizations to make submissions across our four PEN-CP Innovation Grant (PING) calls. (Note: these calls are not open to individual persons or government agencies).

 

  • Call ID: PING-2024-1–Dark-Web

    • Title: Dark web monitoring to counter illicit trade in New Psychoactive Substances (NPSs), firearms, and other contraband

 

  • Call ID: PING-2024-2–Cannabinoids

    • Title: Enhanced handheld instruments for accurate measurement of cannabinoid levels in hemp and cannabis products

 

  • Call ID: PING-2024-3–Biodegradable-Plastics

    • Title: A Software tool and database to help customs officers verify the declared biodegradability of plastics

 

  • Call ID: PING-2024-4–Passenger-Drugs

    • Title: Fast non-intrusive screening of passenger flows to detect and deter body-worn drugs

 

While each of the four PING projects has a different scope and purpose, all share a common vision: to create the opportunity for selected suppliers to make concrete innovations, which will receive real-world testing and assessment by expert Customs end users. Below are summaries of each call topic, and links to download full call texts (four separate pdf files).

PING-2024-1–Dark-Web

Dark web monitoring to counter illicit trade in New Psychoactive Substances (NPSs), firearms, and other contraband 

In the context of customs risk assessment, PEN-CP customs partners aim for cutting-edge knowledge on the merits of accessing information and retrievable data from dark web marketplaces that trade in goods such as NPSs, firearms, and one additional illicit product/ material (to be chosen by the Selected Supplier).  Such information may be useful for risk assessment purposes (shipment targeting, operator profiling, etc.). The Selected Supplier will use an existing technology/software (whether their own or from a third party) to carry out monitoring and analysis activities in the dark web, and PEN-CP customs partners will assess the value of the information presented during the project and in the final report. The results and findings can potentially help shape the future direction on how Customs administrations would best benefit from ´information in the dark web´.

PING-2024-2 – Cannabinoids

PING-2024-3 – Biodegradables

ID: PING-2024-4 – Passenger-drugs

PING-2024-2–Cannabinoids

Enhanced handheld instruments for accurate measurement of cannabinoid levels in hemp and cannabis products

In the context of material identification, and in ´border operational conditions´, PEN-CP customs partners wish to deploy a handheld analytical device (such as FTIR) capable of quickly determining whether certain legal thresholds (THC, CBD or other cannabinoids compounds) in hemp and cannabis products are exceeded. Using their existing technology/product as the basis, the Selected Supplier will extend its capabilities (adding to the reference library, fine tuning sensors or algorithms, etc.) to match customs requirements. At project conclusion, PEN-CP customs partners will assess the performance level of the enhanced technology/product – and the results can potentially help shape the future direction of further developments (this would be outside PEN-CP context, as the current project finishes 31.1.2025).

PING-2024-3–Biodegradable-Plastics

A Software tool and database to help customs officers verify the declared biodegradability of plastics

In the context of material identification, both for customs laboratory and border officer users, PEN-CP customs partners seek a software tool and database (´IT system´) which contain information on known manufacturers, traders and their product catalogues, as well as applicable industry standards/norms and applied visual signs on biodegradable plastics (both raw materials and finished products). This IT system will provide an initial layer of assurance on whether plastics declared as biodegradable are likely to be accurately declared. The Selected Supplier will design and develop a prototype for such an IT system and populate the database with information available both in public domain and collected directly (by email requests) from the industry sources. Near the completion of the project, PEN-CP customs partners will assess the value of the IT system in their operations. If effective, the IT-system may be used by customs administrations after project completion, including conducting database queries on demand, and executing database updates (e.g. on a 3-monthly cycle).

PING-2024-4–Passenger-Drugs

Fast non-intrusive screening of passenger flows to detect and deter body-worn drugs. 

In the context of material identification, and in ´border operational conditions´, PEN-CP customs partners wish to deploy a real-time, non-invasive screening method that operates without hindering traveller flows at the border, while accurately detecting and identifying such drugs as heroin, cocaine and MDMA smuggled on the body. The Selected Supplier will use their existing technology/product as the basis, and extend its capabilities (additions to reference library, fine-tuning of sensors or algorithms, etc.) to match customs requirements. At the end of the project, PEN-CP customs partners will assess the performance level of the enhanced technology/product – and the results can potentially help shape the future direction of further developments (this would be outside PEN-CP context, as the current project finishes 31.1.2025).

Common instructions for all PING calls

Announcement of call for proposals

This call for proposals for PEN-CP Innovation Grants (PINGs) is published on the PEN-CP project website at www.pen-cp.net/calls and on the European Commission portal at https://ec.europa.eu/info/funding-tenders/opportunities/portal/screen/home (the direct link to the EC call text page will not be known at the time that the call is published on the PEN-CP website).

 

Eligibility of applicants

  • The call is targeted for companies and research organizations (as ´legal persons´), which have a well-recognized ID such as a national registration number, a VAT number, etc.

  • Proposals from individual persons or consortia are not eligible and will not be considered in the evaluation.

  • Proposals from applicants with prior involvement in customs innovation projects are encouraged.

 

Application process

  • Step 1: To express interest, the applicant should send an email to pen-cp@cross-border.org , specifying the call identifier in the subject line. The email should include the contact details of the applicant's designated representative, including their email address and phone number.

  • Step 2: In a return email, the applicant will receive a designated applicant ID, indicating clearance to proceed with the full proposal submission.

  • Step 3: The applicant should submit the full proposal by sending the three required documents to pen-cp@cross-border.org AND pen-cp-arttic@eurtd.com

 

Required documents for full proposal submission

  • Document 1 — Technology starting point, main outputs and expected results

    • Explain the starting point with the technologies you propose to use and/or develop/innovate further.

    • Provide a comprehensive outline of the project's main outputs and results. This may incorporate technical diagrams where appropriate.

    • Please ensure that the document does not exceed 3 pages.

 

  • Document 2 — Methodology, work plan and risk management

    • Detail the methodology, work plan and risk management plan, as well as any accompanying resources such as Gantt charts, person-day allocations, etc.

    • Please ensure that this document does not exceed 3 pages.

 

  • Document 3 — CV of the project manager and CV of a key expert

    • Submit curricula vitae (CVs) for the project manager and one other key expert, detailing their respective relevant experience and skills.

    • While there is no page limit, we encourage you to follow the Europass standard format.

    • Additional action: Please include in the project manager CV cover page a web link to a (national) Register of Commerce or similar institution, where the legal entity data is visible.  Alternatively, please include a separate extract document on the legal entity data.

 

  • Please do not include a financial bid, since the grant amount is pre-determined as described at the end of this document.

 

Submission language

  • All documents must be in English.

 

Proposal evaluation and scoring

  • Document 1 — Technology starting point, main outputs and expected results (max 42 points, threshold 25 points)

    • Suitability of the technologies / solutions you plan to use for project execution.

    • Feasibility to achieve the planned outputs and results of the project.

    • Anticipated impacts for the broader customs community.

 

  • Document 2 — Methodology, work plan, risk management (max 42 points, threshold 25 points)

    • Proposed approach, techniques, and methodologies for conducting the project.

    • Project timeline with tasks outlined in the work plan, considering organization, scheduling, and resource allocation for efficient project execution.

    • Summary of key project risks and related mitigation measures.

 

  • Document 3 — CV of the project manager and a key expert (max 16 points, threshold 10 points)

    • Capability to effectively carry out technical work and all project tasks.

    • Demonstrated experience and skills relevant to the project.

    • Past involvement in customs innovation projects is viewed favorably.

 

  • Full proposal: total points max 100 (threshold 60 – aggregation of individual document thresholds).

 

Evaluation and contract signing process

  • Step 1: Evaluation of all proposals through scoring and ranking. 

  • Step 2: Selection of the applicant (referred to as the Selected Supplier) with the highest score and initiation of the contractual process. 

  • Step 3: Notification of evaluation results to all other applicants.

  • Step 4: Contracting with the Selected Supplier.

  • Step 5: If the contract cannot be finalized with the Selected Supplier, the next highest scoring applicant may be invited for contract negotiation (then proceed with Step 4).

 

Questions and Answers

 

Publication of evaluation results

 

Innovation Grant Panels

  • Each PEN-CP Innovation Grant (PING) has its dedicated Innovation Grant Panel, whose responsibilities will include proposal evaluation, project steering, and assessment of outputs and results.

  • The Panels will comprise three PEN-CP experts, at least two of whom will be representatives of PEN-CP member customs administrations. 

 

Dates & deadlines

  • Official call publication date: 1 March 2024

  • Deadline for proposal submission: 1 June 2024 (by 5pm Brussels time)

  • Proposal evaluation results available: 15 June 2024 (target date)

  • Project start date: Latest by 1 September 2024 (and earliest on 1 July 2024)

  • Project duration: Maximum 5 months (project must finish by 31.1.2025 latest)

 

Grant amount, payments, travel expenses and IP rights

  • Grant amount: 59.500 EUR (fixed)

  • Payment terms: The grant will be paid in two installments: 60% upon project kick-off, and the remaining 40% following the delivery and presentation of final outputs and results at the designated PEN-CP event.

  • The Selected Supplier will be responsible for covering the expenses related to two trips for attendance at live project meetings, which include the kick-off and the final presentation.

  • IP rights issues, including possible transfers, are explained separately in each PING call.

 

Contact person for all queries

Valentina Scioneri, PEN-CP Administrator, Cross-border Research Association (CBRA), valentina@cross-border.org , tel & WhatsApp +39 334 159 8179

Questions & Answers applying to all PING topics

Q: Are there document templates available for preparing submission files?

A: We opted not to offer templates, i.e. free format documents are fine (except cv:s, which should follow Europass format, as indicated in the call text).

 

Q: Is it possible to ask questions (voice, web-conferencing) with PEN-CP experts before the submission?

A: We opted that this is not possible. Instead, we welcome any questions by email, and the replies are published at www.pen-cp.net/calls , for all applicants to see them. We also send an email message to all applicants with applicant id at the moment, to inform them about new Q&A entries.

Q: We would like to clarify a point regarding step 3 of the application process: Is there a sample of how we should submit documents 1 and 2? Otherwise, how exactly do you expect us to structure these documents?

A: We refer to our previous reply of NOT offering document templates nor exact section headers for the submission. We encourage everyone to read carefully the call instructions, and to decide how to best structure the documents 1 and 2 for the submission.

 

 

Q&A specific to Call ID: PING-2024-2–Cannabinoids

 

Q: In the call the primary technique appears to be FTIR along with similar handheld product identification technologies - would handheld Raman be eligible and would submitting a proposal to test using both FTIR and Raman be acceptable?

A: Yes, multi-technology submissions are feasible for PING-2024-2

Q: Will it be possible to get access from you to a relevant number of samples containing CBD and THC?

A: That is our intention, and will be confirmed before final selection of and contract signing with the supplier for PING-2024-2

 

 

Q&A specific to Call ID: PING-2024-3–Biodegradable-Plastics

 

Q: Are there specific databases that we should use to gather the 1000 records of manufacturers of raw materials and products and at least 1000 records of trading companies?

A: To the best of our knowledge, such databases don't exist today - and this is part of the rationale to call for the PING-2024-3 submissions.

 

Q: How exactly can we get access to the technical sheets about the plastic that is used, to make sure we have the correct technical standards to make a distinction between regular plastic and biodegradable plastic?

A: We propose that next to searching the Internet, one would contact manufacturers which should have technical information about the composition of their products. In addition, consulting scientific literature might help in the process of trying to make a distinction between regular plastic and biodegradable plastic.

 

Q: How exactly do you expect the solvers to develop the solution? (e.g., mobile app or web application)

A: We propose to focus on a web application only.

Q: Is it possible to share any kind of “customs use case” for PING-2024-3 proposal development purposes?

A: Here we go with “an illustrative case on the customs process that PING-2024-3 software would be supporting / making more efficient in the future” - for the sole purpose of proposal content development for PING-2024-3:

(1) The sample arrived at the Customs laboratory with the attached documentation: (i) statement on the abbreviated name of the used raw material (product family and type); (ii) certificate (e.g. TÜV Austria, DINCERTCO, Vincotte) about domestic or industrial compostability of the raw material or products used. 

(2) Based on the name of the declared raw materials, we looked up the exact composition on the website of the manufacturer/distributor and in the literature (constituents, e.g. polymers and their quantitative ratio, additives), but this information is usually not available. Information on the type of the main component that makes up the plastic is available mainly  (e.g. starch or PLA based).

(3) We have checked the validity of the submitted composting certificates and compared them with the product. The results of the analytical tests of the samples were compared with the available information on the raw materials.

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