S+T+ARTS OPEN CALL : Art and the digital: Unleashing creativity for European water management

Topic: Tackling biodiversity and resilience in water systems

Water covers around 75% of the Earth’s surface. It is one of the lifelines that sustains our planet, with the water cycle being fundamental for life. Yet, in the current period these important processes are under continuous strain.
In recent years, Europe has been experiencing various extreme challenges linked to water. In some places, severe droughts have become a regular phenomenon. While others have seen record-breaking floods. Due to these developments, people’s livelihoods are under threat. According to a report issued recently by the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), the water crisis threatens around 1 trillion EUR of economic value, food security, and sustainability in Europe. The importance of water and water quality has been recognized by the European Union.

The primary legislation governing action here is the EU Water Framework Directive. The EU’s Green Deal also recognizes these challenging goals set out by the EU Water Framework. It sets them into a wider set of areas it wants to tackle. Among its priorities, it includes:

• protecting our biodiversity and ecosystems
• reducing air, water and soil pollution
• moving towards a circular economy
• improving waste management
• ensuring the sustainability of our blue economy and fisheries sectors

Many challenges related to water management are connected to climate change, but also to poor use of water resources by humans. According to the WWF, Europe has lost 90% of its floodplains and about 60% of its surface waters like lakes and rivers are in a bad condition. This has a huge impact on the continent’s biodiversity. Freshwater systems are considered as particularly vulnerable to biodiversity loss. Saltwater systems also suffer from their own types of problems. For example, the events after the Russian invasion of Ukraine have gravely impacted the Black Sea ecosystem. It is estimated that thousands of dolphins and other wildlife have been killed as a result of the war.

In that view, developing new ideas and approaches that can contribute to achieving progress in this very important area seem crucial. This is where putting together art, philosophy, science, and technology could play a crucial role in the creation of new solutions and ways of looking at the problems, and thereby driving positive changes.

Artificial intelligence has been particularly noted as a novel way of addressing water related challenges. It can be used for better environmental monitoring and data analysis, modelling and predictions of ecosystem behaviours, optimisation techniques for resource allocation, as well as a myriad of other things. With these developments,
there is an opportunity to adopt a “digital by design” approach for creating a variety of solutions linked to water.
More generally, there is also a clear need across the European Union to raise awareness about the urgency to tackle water challenges both on a societal collective level and on the level of each citizen.

Objectives :

Consortia are invited to propose concrete ideas at the nexus of art, digital, and water how an alliance of digital experts, artists and stakeholders in water can achieve the goals outlined in section 1. The work should build upon the results achieved in the previous STARTS Water calls (STARTS4Water 1, and STARTS4Water 2). However, so as not to overlap, the topics chosen need to be different from those of STARTS4Water 2 (the topic tackled there is linked to ports).

STARTS residencies – Artistic experimentation with key technologies and their uses :

Artistic experimentation with key technologies and their uses: Launch artistic experimentation that bring together artists with local stakeholders (regional development, water/utility companies, technology companies…) to work on concrete challenges (economic-ecological-social) related to water. Digital must form a core of these artistic experimentation (ranging from data science over social/digital media to AR/VR and more).

STARTS Sylloge – a narrative on new approaches to adress water challenge:

Create with input from key players in project and with help of STARTS residents a corpus of discourses, designs, installations, videos, AR/VR installations and performances that unfold and tell stories linked to water, biodiversity in water systems, importance of water for local communities, new ways of interaction with the oceans, new ideas to address water scarcity, or stories rooted in scientific data on oceans and on water use, also related to fighting disinformation on environmental issues. The sylloge should incorporate perspectives from art, philosophy, history, science, and technology and combine them together to create a coherent narrative.

STARTS water community:

Develop a community (beyond the project consortium) at the nexus of art, digital, and water that can contribute to a new thinking in policy, business and society on sustainable water use. This objective will be implemented by conferences, workshops, online activities, educational workshops, and exhibitions. This community should build upon the community from the previous STARTS Water calls.


  • The project should tackle challenges linked to water, for example the loss of biodiversity in water systems, and/or resilience in these systems, as well as a variety of other potential issues.
  • The project should use new innovative techniques and technologies (for example artificial intelligence, IoT, immersive technologies, and/or high
    performance computing (HPC)).
  • The project should incorporate perspectives from different disciplines, including art, philosophy, science, and technology.
  • The project should build upon work already done in previous STARTS Water calls.
  • The project can incorporate different countries and regions around Europe, but a particular focus should be paid on Central and Eastern Europe, and the
    Nordic countries.

Available budget :

The available call budget is EUR 2.500.000 (two million five hundred thousand euros). The EU co-financing is imited to a maximum of 80% of the total eligible costs.

Project budget : We expect to fund 1 project for a maximum grant amount of EUR 2.500.000. This does not preclude the submission/selection of a proposal requesting a lower amount. We reserve the right not to award all available funds depending on the proposals received and the results of the evaluation. The grant awarded may be lower than the amount requested.

Admissibility and documents :

Proposals must be submitted before the call deadline (15 September 2024).

The mandatory Grant Application Form and other mandatory template documents to
be completed are available at Call for proposals – Art and the digital: Unleashing creativity for European water management | Shaping Europe’s digital future (europa.eu)