Google's Digital News Initiative (DNI) was launched one year ago to promote collaboration between technology companies and the media industry.

One of the programme's core pillars was the innovation fund, where €150 million (£128m) will be awarded over three years to various projects and prototypes developed by publishers to enrich the European digital journalism landscape.

One hundred and twenty-eight projects from 23 European countries were funded during DNI's first round in February and applications for the second round closed in July, with the grantees to be announced in November.

"It's been interesting to see the collaboration, the dialogue and how this approach, which we frankly hadn't used that much before, is coming through," Madhav Chinnappa, director of strategic relations, news and publishers at Google, told

"We are making this up as we go along, so we need to experiment and iterate. We had over 1,000 applications for the first round and frankly I don't think we resourced it enough, so we are making more resources available now."

Chinnappa said the innovation fund is similar to the Knight Foundation's Prototype Fund in the United States – Google does not retain any intellectual property and grantees are not under any obligation to use or promote Google products in the development of their projects.

However, the technology company has individual discussions with each publisher and provides support in the development stages of the prototypes.

"This is a fund for innovation in digital news, but we intentionally did not want to define what 'innovation' meant, because we didn't want to limit people's thinking.

"A lot of the problems people are trying to solve in the news ecosystem are common across organisations and borders, so we encourage people to be collaborative.

"But everything is, in a way, local. What is innovative in a market might not be seen as such in another market, however that doesn't make it less innovative."

The projects funded in the first round of the DNI ranged from prototypes focused on machine learning and robot journalism, to crowdsourcing platforms for niche stories.

Chinnappa said he expects some of these trends, such as data journalism and personalisation, will continue to appear in the next rounds of the award, but it will be interesting to explore how they have evolved since the previous round.

"I'd love to see more projects around business models and the business aspect of news, and I think experimentation in this area will be a fertile ground in the future, from what I have seen while attending conferences and industry events in the last six months."

The DNI application process consists of a "relatively light touch" form, with questions that aim to balance freedom and detail to avoid restricting people.

The more specific applicants can be about their idea or project, the better, Chinnappa added, but equally they should not be put off from applying if they find themselves lacking complete answers to some of the questions, as the committee reviewing the answers will get in touch to follow up on the prototype ideas.

"We are interested in collaborative projects and seeing people work together, so it's worth thinking about your starting point and what exactly you are trying to solve.

"The process you are going through to develop the project is as important as the project itself."

Future DNI rounds might change to accommodate suggestions from past and prospective applicants.

For example, some publishers have expressed a desire for award rounds focusing on a single theme, such as mobile news or business models, so these ideas will be taken into account when Google next meets with the DNI council in October.

"I've seen a lot of appetite for experimentation, both from people applying and those simply inquiring about the programme.

"I spoke to someone interested in applying recently and they eventually decided not to take part, because they said they had realised their project had potential and they wanted to carry it out themselves.

"That was music to my ears – whether publishers do this through the DNI funding or not, the fact they are being prompted to experiment is what's good for the ecosystem," Chinnappa said.

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