UCD Computer Science wins €3.9 million for Augmented Reality Educational Tools project in Horizon 2020


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UCD Computer Science wins €3.9 million for Augmented Reality Educational Tools project in Horizon 2020

ARETE Consortium scored a maximum 15/15 

Starting date: 1st of November, duration 3 years

Total funding: €3 935 035 


Eleni Mangina, Associate Professor in the School of Computer Science, recently led a successful consortium application under the European Commission’s Horizon 2020, framework programme. The consortium was reviewed with a perfect score of 15/15. The project – ARETE – will design and pilot Augmented Reality educational tools for the teaching of literacy and STEM in schools across Europe. The ARETE consortium comprises of 10 partners from 7-member states: Ireland, Spain, Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Italy and UK. 

ARETE is based on the belief that advanced interactive technology is a key to increasing productivity. It aims to change the traditional “low-tech” vision of education, attracting the interest of new generations. The ARETE ecosystem will support the development of creative problem-solving skills in students and will educate creative, analytical and innovative problem solvers. Partners have extensive experience in education and will play a critical role in designing the showcase scenarios so as to validate the potential of the pilots developed in ARETE. The academic and private partnerships within ARETE will reinforce European leadership in AR-based teaching and learning technologies by addressing the technological challenge of modernizing and improving education with AR interactive technologies within the pilot studies. Working on a European scale enables the project to enhance European leadership in a US dominant market.

ARETE builds on an EU funded pilot project, AHA: Technologies and Tools for Children and Young People with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), (November 2017 to October 2019) https://aha.ucd.ie/. Students diagnosed with ADHD show low levels of motivation and academic engagement and require tailored instructional interventions within educational activities due to common comorbid diagnosis of Specific Learning difficulties (SLD). The AHA pilot advanced the state of the art in ADHD digital education towards a vision of inclusive education. The outcomes of AHA have been validated in real test scenarios, namely primary schools in Ireland (117 students in Ireland, diagnosed with ADHD, at 4th,5th or 6th class of primary school). The AHA project focused on both the technological and human aspects, basing itself on symbiosis during educational sessions rather than the domination of one or the other. This pilot showed improved reading and spelling skills of students diagnosed with ADHD and better concentration levels during the class and homework time.  AHA produced evidence-based results that Augmented Reality applications make a positive impact towards the attention, engagement, interest, motivation, satisfaction, knowledge comprehension, academic achievement, knowledge retention enjoyment and autonomy of the students diagnosed with ADHD. The use of such technologies makes a huge impact towards education and skills for digital learning and 21st century competencies.

Why did you choose H2020?

Eleni Mangina, “I was successfully coordinating a pilot study in Ireland on Augmented Reality for a specific domain and my vision was to promote the solution to the European market and to assess the impact of the emerging technologies in education in different domains, using the same methodology. H2020 was chosen as it is EU’s main instrument for funding and development. ARETE’s vision required funding support, both to promote world class research in science and education and to make it easier for the public and private sectors to disrupt innovation in educational systems.

Long Haul

Leading a large consortium though the lengthy application process to a perfect score was the result of years of preparation, building on the successes of other projects, and some failures too. “I have been working on ARETE project vision for the last 5 years” – Associate Professor Mangina, coordinator of ARETE project. “It was my third effort as a proposal coordinator for H2020. I knew that the competition was much higher than national funding competitions. At the time an average success rate was 11.94% across H2020 and the specific ICT call success rates was even lower. Still, I believe if you have a well justified vision the low success rate should not be considered a challenge, but an opportunity to prove that your idea can be distinguished. Have strength to persevere. After receiving an unsuccessful result, get back on the horse quickly with grit and analyse what went wrong and learn from the previous submissions.” 

In preparation for the submission of the proposal, Prof Mangina applied for a Coordination Support grant from Enterprise Ireland. This support allowed her to travel to Europe to meet her partners; to engage professional services to support the preparation of the proposal and to employ a research assistant to work on the proposal. This made the whole process a lot easier. She also worked closely with the National Contact Point (NCP) for ICT in Horizon 2020, Stephen O’Reilly. The NCP network provides expertise and logisitical support to Irish applicants to Horizon 2020. “In my opinion the communication with the National Contact

Point, who was available to discuss any query I had during the proposal preparation phase and his advice made a huge contribution to the successful outcome.”

Would you recommend this funding instrument (H2020) to other people? Who would you recommend it to?

I would definitely recommend H2020 funding instrument to both academics and innovators as it is EU’s main instrument for funding and development. For early stage academics, I would advise firstly to be involved as partners in consortia and network to familiarise with the process of the H2020 funding instrument, plan and develop a pilot study to prove their argument at a small scale and then aim to coordinate a project with higher scale impact.

“It is not an easy process, but it is a very interesting and rewarding one if you believe in your vision.”