Proton AG has always been engaged in research as a legacy of our scientific past. Whether it’s designing open source cryptographic libraries, modernizing existing standards, or developing new standards, research and development has always comprised a large fraction of our expenditures. We are glad to announce that the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 program, which has distributed nearly €80 billion across Europe to encourage scientific research and technological innovation, has recognized our contributions to the European economy and will be granting us €2 million to further our mission.
Switzerland, despite being outside of the EU, qualifies for Horizon 2020 funding because of bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EU. The EU has always represented an integral part of our community, accounting for approximately 40% of Proton Mail users. It is also a core part of who we are: outside of our headquarters in Switzerland, 20% of our workforce is based in our offices in Czech Republic and Lithuania, and EU citizens collectively represent approximately half of our workforce.
Horizon 2020 in many ways aligns with our vision. First, Horizon 2020 funding comes in the form of grants, and because of that, they do not increase our debt, nor does it give the EU any shares or voting control in Proton AG. Control of the company therefore remains with our team, allowing us to continue putting the priorities of the community first.
This grant also does not create any commitments on our part, other than using the funding for the purposes that we have outlined in our proposal to the European Commission. It does not alter our Swiss jurisdiction, nor can it compel us to do anything that would compromise the security of our product and privacy of our users in any way.
Second, this funding aligns the EU with our long-term success. The EU has now clearly signaled its support for privacy rights and is betting on Proton AG to deliver a European answer to the data mining monopolies of US tech giants like Google. In summary, we have not just gained a meaningful amount of funding, but also a powerful ally in the tough battles to come.
The Horizon 2020 selection process was rigorous. For over a year, the European Commission thoroughly scrutinized our team, our technology, our financials, and our main stakeholders during multiple rounds of evaluation, including a visit to Brussels to present Proton AG to European Commission officials. In this process, the Commission also sought input from the people who use our software, including some of the millions of individual EU citizens who use Proton Mail, and also customers of our business secure email solutions.
We are glad that the European Commission has recognized our technical excellence, transparent and ethical business model, and the importance of our mission. At a time when many governments are looking to roll back privacy protections, sometimes with the collusion of massive tech giants, we are heartened that the EU is following through on the commitment to privacy set out by the GDPR, and is now investing real money into privacy tech for the first time.
The European Commission has specific requirements for the use of funds, and this funding is mostly earmarked for building technologies for ProtonDrive, as the EU would like to see an expansion of the Proton product offerings to enhance our global competitiveness. While €2 million may not look like much in the big scheme of what we are trying to accomplish, every bit helps. This funding will without a doubt accelerate our ProtonDrive efforts and help us bring more value to the existing Proton community.
We also believe this is the right choice for Europe. Today, the tech industry is dominated by a small number of US tech giants, who exercise near monopoly power over the data of European citizens, controlling what we see online and how we get online, with a complete disregard for privacy. A European alternative that puts privacy first is not only a win for Europe, but of great benefit to the world.
Disrupting any industry and taking on gigantic competitors is always a challenge. That’s why having the support of the European Commission in this endeavor is a big win for the Proton community. We now have the chance to build a different and better Internet, one that puts user rights first, and one that seeks to improve the lives of all, and not just the few.
The Proton Mail Team
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