Lawful evidence collection in online child sexual abuse investigations, including undercover

Grant Name
Lawful evidence collection in online child sexual abuse investigations, including undercover
Horizon Europe Framework Programme (HORIZON)
European Commission
Research Field
Child sexual abuse
Electronic evidence
Artificial Intelligence
Forensic technologies, others
Incident Handling and Digital Forensics
Police authorities
Data protection and privacy
Digital Agenda
Analysis and preservation of digital evidence
Education and training of police authorities
Fight against crime and terrorism
Human rights
Social sciences and humanities
Grant Size

General conditions

1. Admissibility conditions: described in Annex A and Annex E of the Horizon Europe Work Programme General Annexes

Proposal page limits and layout: described in Part B of the Application Form available in the Submission System

2. Eligible countries: described in Annex B of the Work Programme General Annexes

A number of non-EU/non-Associated Countries that are not automatically eligible for funding have made specific provisions for making funding available for their participants in Horizon Europe projects. See the information in the Horizon Europe Programme Guide.

3. Other eligibility conditions: described in Annex B of the Work Programme General Annexes

The following additional eligibility conditions apply:

This topic requires the active involvement, as beneficiaries, of at least 2 Police Authorities[[In the context of this Destination, ‘Police Authorities’ means public authorities explicitly designated by national law, or other entities legally mandated by the competent national authority, for the prevention, detection and/or investigation of terrorist offences or other criminal offences, specifically excluding police academies, forensic institutes, training facilities as well as border and customs authorities.]] and 2 forensic institutes from at least 3 different EU Member States or Associated Countries. For these participants, applicants must fill in the table “Information about security practitioners” in the application form with all the requested information, following the template provided in the submission IT tool.

4. Financial and operational capacity and exclusion: described in Annex C of the Work Programme General Annexes

5. Evaluation and award:

  • Award criteria, scoring and thresholds are described in Annex D of the Work Programme General Annexes

  • Submission and evaluation processes are described in Annex F of the Work Programme General Annexes and the Online Manual

  • Indicative timeline for evaluation and grant agreement: described in Annex F of the Work Programme General Annexes

6. Legal and financial set-up of the grants: described in Annex G of the Work Programme General Annexes

Specific conditions

7. Specific conditions: described in the [specific topic of the Work Programme]


Call documents:

Standard application form — call-specific application form is available in the Submission System

Standard application form (HE RIA, IA)

Standard evaluation form — will be used with the necessary adaptations

Standard evaluation form (HE RIA, IA)


HE General MGA v1.0

Call-specific instructions:

Template for Security & eligibility conditions in Horizon Europe

Additional documents:

HE Main Work Programme 2023–2024 – 1. General Introduction

HE Main Work Programme 2023–2024 – 6. Civil Security for Society

HE Main Work Programme 2023–2024 – 13. General Annexes

HE Programme Guide

HE Framework Programme and Rules for Participation Regulation 2021/695

HE Specific Programme Decision 2021/764

EU Financial Regulation

Rules for Legal Entity Validation, LEAR Appointment and Financial Capacity Assessment

EU Grants AGA — Annotated Model Grant Agreement

Funding & Tenders Portal Online Manual

Funding & Tenders Portal Terms and Conditions

Funding & Tenders Portal Privacy Statement

Grant Number

Projects’ results are expected to contribute to all of the following outcomes:

  • Development of safer justice outcomes through an increased understanding of the EU-wide legal aspects of online investigations, including undercover, in the area of child sexual abuse;
  • Improved understanding of the EU-wide legislative frameworks that impact (undercover) investigations in this area;
  • Modern and robust methods at the European level are proposed at all steps of an investigative process in this area, overcoming various types of biases and obstacles to the collection of evidence that is admissible in court and respects the dignity, privacy, protection of personal data and anonymity of victims;
  • Forensic practitioners, Police Authorities and other relevant security practitioners active in online (including undercover) child sexual abuse investigations benefit from innovative guidelines, manuals, education and training curricula.


The use of online undercover investigation techniques is an important asset for Police Authorities in infiltrating the networks of sexual abusers of children. These methods have proven very effective in understanding offender behaviour and interaction of online service providers, and have ultimately facilitated the shutting down of communication channels used by these offenders, as well as their prosecution. An increasingly important need for Police Authorities’ activity in these spaces is the ability to effectively infiltrate particularly dangerous online groups of offenders, while making sure that the evidence obtained will be admissible in court. EU values and fundamental rights shall stay in the core of any future measures. Research in this area should tackle legislative frameworks to collecting evidence in online, including undercover, investigations of child sexual abuse, leading to guidelines and manuals that would make the capability available across the EU to target these offenders more effectively. The results of this research topic (training, manuals guidelines) should be shared among all European Police Authorities, notably via CEPOL, provided that the Agency opts out from applying for funding under this topic. The successful proposal should build on the publicly available achievements and findings of related previous national or EU-funded projects as well as create synergies with similar on-going security research projects from the Calls 2021-2022 on Fighting Crime and Terrorism in the area of digital forensics and countering child sexual abuse, in order to avoid duplication and to exploit complementarities as well as opportunities for increased impact.

Since the use of undercover agents online could be beneficial in other crime areas too, particularly in counter terrorism, analysis of possibilities for the developed approaches to be adapted to these other crime areas would be welcome. Special care needs to be given to ethics and fundamental rights protection throughout the research and the solutions proposed. This topic requires the effective contribution of SSH disciplines and the involvement of SSH experts, institutions as well as the inclusion of relevant SSH expertise, in order to produce meaningful and significant effects enhancing the societal impact of the related innovation activities.

Proposals funded under this topic are expected to engage with the Europol Innovation Lab during the lifetime of the project, including validating the outcomes, with the aim of facilitating future uptake of innovations for the law enforcement community.

Specific Topic Conditions:

Activities are expected to achieve TRL 5-6 by the end of the project – see General Annex B.

Funding resources

Purdue Grant Writing Lab: Introduction to Grant Writing Open Link
University of Wisconsin Writing Center: Planning and Writing a Grant Proposal Open Link

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