how talentlayer secured european union funding, and how you can too

8 min read

Greetings, friends! Two months ago were accepted into the NGI Search Support Programme funded by the European Union under the Horizon Europe Programme. NGI, or Next Generation Internet, is an initiative to support research and new open-source innovations that increase data searchability and sharing across the web. They host accelerator programs and grant support programs that help projects like ours grow and serve EU markets. We’re happy to share that this past week was the kick-off of the program and now we’re here to tell you all about it.

Participating in this program is a huge milestone for us and it is a great honor to have such an organization as one of our backers; NGI’s network is made up of really cool open-source OGs, brilliant researchers working on open data ecosystems, and key government data interoperability players. The NGI grant and advisory program will allow us to build faster and better, with the help of amazing advisors and €125K in grant funding as we build towards key milestones of our Beta release.

But what is the accelerator and grants program and how did a blockchain team like us get involved? We #buildinpublic so that you and your team can find opportunities like this too; all the deets for you below!

An intro to EU-funded data tech grants & accelerators Before we dive into what the NGI search program is, let’s set the stage with some info on why and how the EU funds these programs to begin with. It’s not too common for governments to care so much about data tech and open-source! The EU is different for a few reasons.

Why does the EU fund this stuff? Data interoperability has always been a huge initiative of the EU — makes sense, considering it’s one of the world’s biggest unions of independent countries. That’s a lot of data silos, and the EU has been thinking for decades on how to make important data more transferable and searchable.

TalentLayer (as well as many other infra-level blockchain projects by the way) helps with data interoperability and discovery by enabling one low-level data layer for work that sits behind many hiring platforms. TL effectively creates a massive open data bank for workers and jobs.

This type of architecture, having a unified low-level layer for data, is actually something that pre-dates blockchain tech; this area of design and research is called “open data ecosystems” (shoutout to our team member Emil Madrell who first brought this concept to my attention — he’s studying them as a part of his thesis!). Open data ecosystems have been a big focus for the EU to support for decades, and funding blockchain-based data ecosystems are just a natural continuation of this support.

Additionally, the EU is a big supporter of open-source development in general! This is evident in all of their programs to support open hardware and software development — many programs require or strongly recommend the building you do as part of the program to be open-source.

Why didn’t I know about this? Dude, I feel you. The only reason I knew programs like this existed was because my friend Rick was awarded an EU grant to support an innovative defi protocol he was building a few years back. I made a mental note of this, and once TalentLayer deployed our Alpha to testnet, we started investigating how on earth teams can qualify for stuff like this!

Luckily, around that time the incredible Tomás Albuquerque joined our team as an open-source contributor as he was finishing up his MBA! He ended up leading an initiative to scan the internet for

And boy, are these grant programs hard to find. This is why people don’t know about this stuff! Because the EU itself doesn’t directly give grants (that’d be too much work for one government) it deploys capital to hundreds of third-party research and grants organizations that then manage specialized grant and accelerator programs and select who can participate. From what we can see at least, most of these third-party orgs have their own separate websites where you can check if they have “open calls” (applications open) for grants and accelerators.

insert joke about data searchability being a priority for the EU, but data on grant programs to support open data is not very searchable 😆 😆 😆

Major props to Tomás for spending so much time and effort on making TalentLayer’s grant search initiative happen — it’s paid off in major ways already and we’re gonna keep it up! 👏👏👏


This is Tom!

A few tips for you as you search for programs like this:

🔎 Look for programs that are specialized for your niche! Less teams will apply for those than if you apply for “generalized” grant and accelerator programs, meaning you’ll have a better chance at getting selected. For example, we’re targeting hiring and data interoperability programs.

⌛ Program “open calls” (applications) are usually only open for short time — the program we applid for through NGI was only open for a few weeks. Find the programs that are applicable for you and then mark your calendar for when the open call starts!

✊ Be persistent. I know they are hard to find but just find the person on the team best at Google-fu and LFG!

What’s NGI Search? NGI Search is one of the third party organizations that the EU partners with to manage accelerators and grant giving. NGI does a ton of work around how we “use, experience, search and discover data and resources, on the internet and web”. It’s a consortium of a few different organzations that each provide unique support to projects in their programs; “two Universities, Aarhus and Murcia Universities, two SMEs, FundingBox and Linknovate Science and one open source community, OW2”.

What program is TalentLayer participating in? We’re a part of the “Search and Discovery” Accelerator Program! Here’s a bit of info on the topics the program was targeting:

The following list of topics is a set of problems that the consortium has identified upfront under the topic of Search and Discovery for the first Open Call. We expect that all developments will be open source and provide real demonstrations either as research demonstrators showcasing novel concepts; minimum viable products showcasing a potential business; and/or community projects that are in a deployable state. We will accept not only Open Source, but also Open Core if the developments within the project work on the core

  1. The next generation of intelligent voice-based assistants

  2. Natural Language Processing

  3. Semantic Analysis

  4. Social Computing

  5. Data visualization

  6. Enabling news ways of discovering and accessing information

Project proposals must clearly address a specific technology, method, tool or problem related to information retrieval, search, indexing, discovery and exploration of information. Project proposals can be part of larger ongoing projects; however, the applicants need to identify the specific contribution they are planning to make.

How does TalentLayer fit the program? Talentlayer fits into topic 6: “Enabling new ways of discovering and accessing information”. TalentLayer is an open data ecosystem for building interoperable work platforms; that means all data is public and unified, enabling new ways of discovering and accessing labor information. Job and hiring reputation data is searchable by anyone anywhere without restriction because of it’s open nature. This means all sorts of institutions from research organizations to other users can search and analyze this data. Data available from TalentLayer has a high degree of trustedness because it is immutable and has a chain of provenance.

What support does the program offer? This program is one year long in duration and offers a ton of support on everything from open-source liscensing and corporate partnerships to fundraising and business model design. we’ve done an incubator with Kleros Collective and an accelerator with Filecoin Basecamp, but each of these was only three months in duration. We gained so much value from these in only three months — so we’re super stoked to be doing a year-long accelerator like this!

Shoutout to our program mentor Carlos Rodríguez from Linknovate. Thanks for helping us get started during the program’s kick-off and looking forward to working with you this year ❤️

Knocking down data silos in the labor market! The current labor market is made up of data siloes, and platforms like Upwork, Uber, and Thumbtack struggle with having enough users to meet eachothers needs. Users are forced to use many platforms because they cannot find enough work or people to hire on just one, leading to low liquidity in the labor market. Segregated user reputation also hurts information searchability, and centralization of power in platforms can cause users to lose everything by being de-platformed. TalentLayer’s vision is to solve these problems and build a world where labor market information is openly searchable, work is accessible, and reputations are uncensorable.

The NGI Search Support programme will help us achieve that!

Let’s build the future of work together.