The Incubator Lab fosters novel data science developments for ESS in dedicated focused projects. The objective of this task is to steer the exploration of new, potentially relevant building blocks to be included in NFDI4Earth and related NFDIs. Examples are tools for  automatic metadata extraction and annotation, semantic mapping and harmonization, machine learning, data fusion, visualization, and interaction. The Incubator Lab also serves as a forum where novel requirements can be formulated and trends presented in terms of a user consultation process. In this way, scouting for new trends and opportunities is achieved. The forum will materialize in annual meetings of NFDI4Earth-Experiment, where both achievements will be presented (e.g. from Lab projects but also from Pilots) and demands will be formulated (e.g. from the participants) which will trigger new ideas and potential projects. The results of the projects as well as the consultation process will be continuously monitored, evaluated and updated, resulting in a living document that describes current and future trends and records their implementation. The measure lead must oversee and monitor that compliance rules concerning the software and infrastructural developments are fulfilled while at the same time innovative blue sky developments should also be encouraged.

Guidelines - Incubator Projects

1st call - Submission Deadline: May 13, 2022

The objective of the Incubator Lab is to foster the exploration of new, potentially relevant building blocks to be included in the NFDI4Earth and related NFDIs. The Incubator Lab invites proposals on novel cutting-edge tools, latest innovations, and high-risk blue-sky ideas. Incubator Projects are supposed to be small, concise, and have a clear focus. The funding duration of each project is therefore limited to 3-6 months for one researcher (DFG personnel rate). In total, in this call up to 8 projects can be funded.

Eventually, all the funded projects will contribute to a repository of advanced tools to improve the use and usability of NFDI4Earth data, advancing the state-of-the-art and to better meet (current and future) user needs.

How to apply for an NFDI4Earth Incubator Project?

Submissions should focus on tools and methods, and can relate to all aspects of the NFDI4Earth, including, but not limited to:
●      automatic metadata extraction and annotations,
●      machine learning, data interpretation,  data fusion,
●      visualization and interaction,
●      …

Expected outputs should be, for example
●      reproducibility software,
●      easy to install and well documented with example data (preferably in GitLab),
●      easy to apply, including small tutorials or examples, e.g., as a Jupyter-notebook,
●      …

Application and evaluation process:

Any researcher can apply, who is affiliated or hosted by a German research institution. In the latter case, a letter of confirmation from the host is required along with the proposal submission. (If you do not have a host, please feel free to contact the NFDI4Earth Coordination Office.)

Incubator Projects must be described concisely; the proposal must not exceed 3 pages. Submissions should follow the template: Template Incubator
Proposals for Incubator Projects will be evaluated in an open review process. Both the proposals and the anonymous reviews will be made accessible. By submitting a proposal, you as PI agree to an open-access evaluation of the proposal.

The proposal will be assessed in three categories – each category will be scored from 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) and a total grade will be derived using the weighting indicated below:

●      Quality and Innovation (weight 40%)
        -        Is the idea convincing?
        -        Does it solve an interesting / relevant problem?
        -        Is it new (in the field)?
        -        Is the ambition adequate?
●      Feasibility (weight 40%)
        -        Does the researcher have the required expertise?
        -        Is the research plan feasible?
        -        Does it use or extend existing technologies? Or is it a novel innovation?
●      Potential for transferability (weight 20%)
        -        Ability to process similar data from different time periods / locations / institutions

We want to be maximally inclusive and invite new partners to the NFDI4Earth. Therefore, given equal quality of proposals, in selection process ●      proposals from new partners are preferred,
●      shorter projects are preferred.

Note: If the submitted incubator project proposal is successful, the applicant and host (if applicable) agrees that
●      the PIs parent institution will be named as Participant (with the PI as representative) of the NFDI4Earth,
●      a letter of commitment (LoC) will be provided if the institution of the PI is not yet a Participant in NFDI4Earth (due to DFG regulations the letter has to be signed by your institution),
●      the so called ‘funds transfer and cooperation agreement’ must be signed as Participant (Institution) for funding.

Also note: The submission is subject to a review process and does not guarantee any funding!

Frequently asked questions

What should be included in the LoC?
●      Running an NFDI4Earth Incubator Project requires you to become a Participant in NFDI4Earth. If your institution is not yet a Participant in NFDI4Earth, we would ask you to send a Letter of Commitment. The template for the partner’s LoC is available on request.

For what kind of resources can we apply?
●      You may only apply for staff costs, 3 to 6 months full-time equivalent (FTE).

I have a great idea, but I am not affiliated to a research organization. Can I still participate?
●      Yes, good ideas are welcome! Please find a host either from the list of participants, or from a German research organization. Your host has to confirm the willingness. If you do not find a host, please contact us.

From whom can I request further information or answers to further questions?
●      Feel free to send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (Coordination Office) or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

Download Templates


How to submit your application?

Click here to submit your application