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Call: Marginal lands and climate-resilient and biodiversity-friendly crops for sustainable industrial feedstocks and related value chains

Type of Fund Direct Management
Description of programme
"Horizon Europe - Cluster 6 - Destination 3: Circular Economy and Bioeconomy Sectors"

This destination and its topics target climate-neutral circular and bioeconomy transitions, covering safe integrated circular solutions at territorial and sectoral levels, for important material flows and product value chains, such as the textile, electronics, plastics and construction sectors, as well as key bioeconomy sectors such as sustainable bio-based systems, sustainable forestry, small-scale rural bio-based solutions, and aquatic value chains. With this approach, the destination supports the European Green Deal, and other European initiatives such as the Industrial Strategy, SME Strategy, Circular Economy Action Plan, Bioeconomy Strategy, Biodiversity Strategy, Farm to Fork Strategy, Textile Strategy, Plastics Strategy, the Action Plan on Critical Raw Materials, and the Forest Strategy.

More specifically, the focus on circularity [[In synergy with Horizon Europe Clusters 4 and 5, in particular, Cluster 4 dealing with industrial and technological aspects and raw materials supply, including construction with lower environmental footprint, through modularisation, digital technologies, circularity and advanced materials, while Cluster 6 has a systemic approach across sectors including civil society, covering the whole value chain: including technological, business, governance and social innovation aspects.]] aims at less waste and more value by extending the lifetime and retaining the value of products and materials. It supports a sharing, reusing, and material-efficient economy, in a safe way, and minimises the non-sustainable use of natural resources. The cascading use of materials and innovative upcycling of waste to new applications is encouraged. The safe and sustainable use of biomass and waste [[EU Waste Framework legislation:]] for the production of materials and products, including nutrients, can reduce Europe’s dependence on non-renewable resources, cut GHG emissions, offer long-term circular carbon sinks and substitutes to fossil-based and carbon-intensive products, and reduce pressures on biodiversity and its wide range of ecosystem services. The potential of biological resources goes beyond biomass processing into renewable products. It includes the use of organisms and their parts in “green” (i.e. more environmentally friendly) bio-based industrial processes. Marine and land-based biotechnology can provide new sustainable and safe food and feed production methods, greener industrial products and processes, new health-related products, and can help characterise, monitor and sustain the health of marine and terrestrial ecosystems. The potential of marine resources and biotechnology will contribute to the coming “blue economy”, accelerating the transition towards a circular and climate-neutral economy that is sustainable and inclusive. The concepts of the circular economy, bioeconomy and blue economy converge and altogether provide an opportunity to balance environmental, social and economic goals, with their sustainability ensured by the life cycle assessment approaches.

Acknowledging the multiple benefits of circularized material/substance and energy flows, such circularity however has to be achieved in a safe, non-hazardous way without (re-)connecting epidemiological pathways or introducing pathogen/toxin enrichment cycles when involving biogenic materials. Established circularized material/substance flows have to be complemented with accompanying research in their safety and non-hazardous to health, society, economy and nature. In addition, a local and regional focus [[In synergy with Horizon Europe Cluster 4, with focus on the industrial dimensions; and Cluster 5, covering cross-sectoral solutions for decarbonisation (including on community level), whereas Cluster 6 targets systemic regional and local (i.e. territorial) circular and bioeconomy approach.]] is crucial for a circular economy and bioeconomy that is sustainable, regenerative, inclusive and just. Innovative urban and regional solutions and value chains can create more and better quality jobs and help our economies rebound from the COVID-19 crisis.

A systemic and science-based circular transition with the help of research, innovation and investments will address all issues from material selection and product design via resource efficiency along the value chain to an optimised after-use system, incorporating reuse, repair and upgrade, refurbishment, remanufacturing, collection, sorting and new forms of recycling and upcycling also to improve the waste cycle management. It will tackle all barriers and mobilise all key stakeholders. The development of definitions, taxonomies, indicators and targets will inform and support policy and decision making. The use of advanced life cycle methods such as the European Commission Product Environmental Footprint (PEF), data and information will enable economic actors, including consumers, to make sustainable choices. The development and deployment of specific technological and non-technological circular solutions, including new business models, will cover intra- and inter-value chain collaboration between economic actors. The development of a working after-use system for plastic-based products, incorporating reuse, collection, sorting, and recycling technologies will provide insights into the transition towards a circular economy for key material flows including plastics. The Circular Cities and Regions Initiative (CCRI)[[]] under the European Circular Economy Action Plan will expand the circular economy concept beyond traditional resource recovery in waste and water sectors and support the implementation, demonstration and replication of systemic circular solutions for the transition towards a sustainable, regenerative, inclusive and just circular economy at local and regional scale. Water use will be tackled from a circularity perspective, aiming at pollution prevention, resource efficiency and business opportunities.

Bio-based innovation lays the foundations for the transition away from a fossil-based carbon-intensive economy by encompassing the sustainable sourcing, industrial [[In synergy with Horizon Europe Clusters 4, 5 (including their European Partnerships), whereas Cluster 4 targets industrial dimension (including digitisation and circular and climate neutral / low carbon industry, including developing bio-integrated manufacturing), and Cluster 5 covers cost-efficient, net zero-greenhouse gas energy system centred on renewables (including R&D necessary to reduce CO2 emissions from the power and energy-intensive industry sector, solutions for capturing, utilisation and storage of CO2 (CCUS), and bioenergy and other industrial sectors), while Cluster 6 covers the research and innovation based on sustainable biological resources (bioeconomy sectors), in particular for new sustainable feedstock development and through the development of integrated bio-refineries).]] [[In synergy with the European Partnership on Circular Bio-based Europe (CBE), under Horizon Europe Cluster 6.]] and small scale processing and conversion of biomass from land and sea into circular bio-based materials and products with reduced carbon and environmental footprint including lower impacts on biodiversity and long-term circular carbon sinks in sustainable products substituting carbon-intensive ones, with improved end-of-life including biodegradability in specific natural as well as controlled environments. It also capitalises on the potential of living resources, life sciences and industrial biotechnology for new discoveries, products, services and processes, both terrestrial and marine. Bio-based innovation can bring new and competitive economic activities and employment to regions and cities in the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, revitalising urban, rural and coastal economies and strengthening the long-term circularity of the bioeconomy, including through small non-food bio-based solutions. Furthermore, targeted and well-tailored investments can increase and diversify the income of primary producers and other rural actors (e.g. SMEs).

To enable the bio-based innovation, environmental objectives and climate neutrality will build on a robust understanding of environmental impacts and trade-offs of bio-based systems at the European and regional scale, including the comparisons to similar aspects on the fossil and carbon-intensive counterparts. Systemic impacts of bio-based systems on biodiversity and its wide range of ecosystem services as well as how we restore and use them, need to be assessed, and negative impacts avoided in line with the “do no harm” principle of the European Green Deal. Implementing sustainable and just bio-based value chain requires symbiosis across primary production and industrial ecosystems in regions, Member States and Associated Countries and improved environmental performance of products, processes, materials and services along value chains and life cycles.

The multifunctional and sustainable management of European forests as well as the environmentally sustainable use of wood and woody biomass as a raw material have a crucial role to play in the achievement of the EU’s climate and energy policies, the transition to a circular and sustainable bioeconomy as well as the preservation of biodiversity and the provision of ecosystem services such as climate regulation, recreation, clean air, water resources and erosion control among many others. Furthermore, forestry and the forest-based sector offer important opportunities for wealth and job creation in rural, peripheral and urban areas. The condition of European forests is increasingly threatened by a growing number of social, economic and environmental and climatic pressures. The European Green Deal and the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 recognise that the EU’s forested area needs to improve, both in quality and quantity, for the EU to reach climate neutrality and a healthy environment. The multifunctionality and the sustainable forest management under rapid climate change will be enabled through a variety of approaches, including the use of intelligent digital solutions, enhanced cooperation in forestry and the forest-based sector as well as the establishment of an open-innovation ecosystem with relevant stakeholders.

Aquatic biological resources and blue biotechnology are crucial to delivering on the Green Deal’s ambition of a ‘blue economy’, which alleviates the multiple demands on the EU's and the Associated Countries’ land resources and tackles climate change.

The immense marine and freshwater biodiversity both faces and offers solutions to multiple challenges such as climate, biodiversity loss, pollution, food security, green products, and health but remains largely unexplored. Unprecedented advances in the biotechnology toolbox (e.g. -omics, bioinformatics, synthetic biology) have triggered an increased interest in the potential of aquatic bioresources. Further research and innovation will be key to unlocking the value of the marine and freshwater biological resources available in Europe, including its outermost regions by learning from the functioning and processes of aquatic living organisms to provide a sustainable products and services to the society, whilst avoiding systemic impacts on biodiversity. Algae biomass is becoming increasingly important not only as food but also as a sustainable source of blue bioeconomy products such as pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and speciality chemicals. Although only a small fraction of marine microbial diversity has been characterised to date, advances in genetic and sequencing technologies are opening new avenues for the understanding and harnessing marine microbiomes such as for the biodiscovery of new products and services for the environment and society.

Expected impacts

Proposals for topics under this destination should set out a credible pathway to developing circular economy and bioeconomy sectors, achieving sustainable and circular management and use of natural resources, as well as prevention and removal of pollution, unlocking the full potential and benefits of the circular economy and the bioeconomy, ensuring competitiveness and guaranteeing healthy soil, air, fresh and marine water for all, through better understanding of planetary boundaries and wide deployment and market uptake of innovative technologies and other solutions, notably in primary production (forestry) and bio-based systems.

Specifically, the topics will target one or several of the following impacts, for circular economy, bio-based sectors, forestry and aquatic value chains:

  • Regional, rural, local/urban and consumer-based transitions towards a sustainable, regenerative, inclusive and just circular economy and bioeconomy across all regions of Europe based on enhanced knowledge and understanding of science, in particular regarding biotechnology-based value chains, for all actors, including policy makers, to design, implement and monitor policies and instruments for a circular and bio-based transitions.
  • European industrial sustainability, competitiveness and resource independence by lowering the use of primary non-renewable raw materials and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other negative environmental footprint (including on biodiversity), enabling climate-neutrality and higher resource efficiency (e.g. by circular design, improved waste management, cascading use of biomass) along and across value chains, developing innovative and sustainable value-chains in the bio-based sectors, substituting fossil-based ones, increasing circular practices in textiles, plastics, electronics and construction, developing recycling technologies and industrial symbiosis, increasing circular bio-based systems from sustainably sourced biological resources replacing carbon-intensive and fossil-based systems, with inclusive engagement of all stakeholders;
  • Improved consumer and citizen benefits, including in the rural settings by establishing circular and bio-based systems based on sustainability, inclusiveness, health and safety; reaching a significantly higher level of involvement of all actors (manufacturers, retailers, consumers, public administration, primary biomass producers etc.);
  • Multi-functionality and management of forests in Europe based on the three pillars of sustainability (economic, environmental and social);
  • Enlarged potential of marine and freshwater biological resources and blue biotechnology to deliver greener (climate-neutral circular) industrial products and processes, and to help characterise, monitor and sustain the health of aquatic ecosystems for a healthy planet and people.

When considering their impact, proposals also need to assess their compliance with the “Do No Significant Harm” principle[[as per Article 17 of Regulation (EU) No 2020/852 on the establishment of a framework to facilitate sustainable investment (EU Taxonomy Regulation)]] according to which the research and innovation activities of the project should not be supporting or carrying out activities that make a significant harm to any of the six environmental objectives of the EU Taxonomy Regulation.

In addition to the impacts listed above, topics under this destination will address the following impact areas of the Horizon Europe Strategic Plan for 2021-2024: “Climate change mitigation and adaptation”, “Enhancing ecosystems and biodiversity on land and in waters”, “A resilient EU prepared for emerging threats”; “Inclusive growth and new job opportunities”; “Industrial leadership in key and emerging technologies that work for people”.

Link Link to Programme
Marginal lands and climate-resilient and biodiversity-friendly crops for sustainable industrial feedstocks and related value chains
Description of call
"Marginal lands and climate-resilient and biodiversity-friendly crops for sustainable industrial feedstocks and related value chains"

Expected Outcome:

Successful proposals will contribute to the impacts of this destination and the European policies it supports, in particular the European Green Deal, the circular economy action plan and the bioeconomy strategy, and engage all stakeholders. They should help improve European industrial sustainability, competitiveness and resource independence by lowering the environmental footprint (including on biodiversity), enabling climate neutrality and higher resource efficiency (in particular upcycling and cascading use of biomass) along value chains, and developing innovative bio-based products.

Projects results should contribute to all following expected outcomes:

  • Identification of the co-benefits potential risks and upscaling potential of sustainable biomass production with a low potential for Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) with focus on marginal lands. This should include non-edible (industrial) biomass use (such as in biorefineries of various scale and types for climate-neutral circular materials and products); introducing new industrial cropping systems (such as perennial crops).
  • An improved understanding of the actual available land in the EU Member States and associated countries that could be used for biomass production that can be certified as ‘low ILUC’ for use in bio-based sectors; taking into account increasing resilience to environmental climate change effects such as soil erosion and water stress of the identified crops.
  • An increased understanding of the biodiversity challenges and potentials, and the ecosystem services, with due attention to protection measures, coupled with end-user adoption and implementation of environmentally sound practices by all operators (farmers, researchers, and bio-based industry active in rural areas). This should include the replication of such practices across Europe.
  • Improved functional performance of the specific value chains and products, and improved resource efficiency thanks to a better application of the cascading use of biomass.


Sustainable biomass provision by primary land sectors (agriculture and forestry), supporting climate change mitigation and adaptation. This will require finding a balance between productivity and ecosystem services, notably biodiversity and social sustainability goals.

The topic explores two main aspects. First, enhancing ecosystem services to prepare for increased water stress and water scarcity due to climate change (including the increasing desertification of large parts of the EU, especially of the Mediterranean and Central European Member States). Secondly, serving multi-purpose and optimised biomass production, with a specific focus on improving biodiversity-related benefits, with opportunities for European rural development and improved industrial competitiveness.

The scope includes identifying and developing environmentally and economically viable sources of pollinator-supporting industrial crops (e.g. by exploring the traits supporting the pollinators such as nectar provision, or resistance to pests and diseases, as well as the optimisation of a related agronomic practice). It also includes identifying and optimising crops (e.g. non-edible oil and fibre crops, dryland shrubs and woody crops) that could be adapted through modern biotechnology tools to require low-water/low-input use, and upscaling them in related value chains, e.g. in industrial sectors such as biochemicals, composites or elastomers, with the aim of replacing their fossil-based counterparts.

The topic aims to engage all relevant actors, especially the farming community, but also bio-based industry and academia, and civil society, calling for working together and co-creation, to develop solutions involving end users and taking into account a comprehensive business case at farm/production level.

Proposals should help to increase farming systems’ resilience to climate change and boost the sustainability of biomass provision through sound agronomic practices, with particular focus on high resource efficiency (including water, and nutrients e.g. via nature-based solutions and biodiversity-friendly solutions) and circular use of biomass and other natural resources.

Proposals may develop key performance indicators and life cycle assessment (LCA) criteria for operators, or identify biodiversity hotspots along the value chains and test them against established benchmarks as part of the overall recommendations.

Where relevant, proposals should seek links with and capitalise on the results of past and ongoing EU Member States and associated countries research projects (especially under the Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking and the future Circular Bio-based Europe partnership).

Proposals should:

  1. Identify and evaluate the most suitable feedstock options for different farming systems and pedo-climatic conditions. The agricultural diversity of EU and associated countries should be considered, and the selected options should contribute efficiently to climate change mitigation/adaptation (with a focus on water scarcity and water stress) and biodiversity preservation and enhancement (with special attention to marginal lands under high risk of desertification), while ensuring overall business case viability.
  2. Develop sustainable diversification strategies that can help optimise the production of agricultural feedstock in the emerging bio-based economy (e.g. through intercropping systems, logistics and storage). Identify and produce crops suited to marginal lands. Optimise intermediary/catch crops to increase biomass production sustainably, or optimise perennial crops and short-rotation coppice plantations in annual crops-dominated agricultural production systems.
  3. Identify and implement the best mix of appropriate technical solutions and practices for specific industrial value chains (a proposal should select and justify the choice). The scale-dependent effects on farms and landscapes should be analysed, as well as the barriers and drivers arising from governance and market issues. Make an effort to inform and engage all actors.
  4. Develop and communicate the methods to monitor and measure the qualitative and quantitative impacts of these solutions and practices for different farming systems, the climate neutrality/negativity potential and trade-offs, including for biodiversity, and the associated improvement in farm/business socio-economic resilience.
  5. Develop and test mechanisms with all actors, notably the research community and bio-based industry. Exchange knowledge on and demonstrate solutions for climate change mitigation and adaptation, water stress and biodiversity loss (including biotechnology approaches) to rural stakeholders (farmers, foresters) and the broader public, and help them implement them.
  6. International cooperation is encouraged to allow the exchange of best practice while ensuring win-win scenarios and contributing to European competitiveness.

For this topic, it is not mandatory to integrate the gender dimension (sex and gender analysis) into research and innovation.

Link Link to Call
Thematic Focus Research & Innovation, Technology Transfer & Exchange, Capacity Building, Cooperation Networks, Institutional Cooperation, Clustering, Development Cooperation, Economic Cooperation, Climate, Climate Change, Environment & Biodiversity, Circular Economy, Sustainability, Natural Resources, Agriculture & Forestry, Fishery, Food, Green Technologies & Green Deal, Employment & Labour Market, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, Competitiveness, SME, Digitisation, ICT, Telecommunication, Administration & Governance, Urban development, Consumer Protection
Funding area EU Member States
Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)
Origin of Applicant EU Member States
Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)
Eligible applicants Research Institution, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, SMEs (between 10 and 249 employees), NGO / NPO, University, Enterprise (more than 250 employees or not defined), Lobby Group / Professional Association / Trade Union, Public Services, Microenterprises (fewer than 10 employees), Start Up Company, Education and Training Centres
Applicant details

eligible non-EU countries:

  • countries associated to Horizon Europe
At the date of the publication of the work programme, there are no countries associated to Horizon Europe. Considering the Union’s interest to retain, in principle, relations with the countries associated to Horizon 2020, most third countries associated to Horizon 2020 are expected to be associated to Horizon Europe with an intention to secure uninterrupted continuity between Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe. In addition, other third countries can also become associated to Horizon Europe during the programme. For the purposes of the eligibility conditions, applicants established in Horizon 2020 Associated Countries or in other third countries negotiating association to Horizon Europe will be treated as entities established in an Associated Country, if the Horizon Europe association agreement with the third country concerned applies at the time of signature of the grant agreement.

  • low-and middle-income countries

Legal entities which are established in countries not listed above will be eligible for funding if provided for in the specific call conditions, or if their participation is considered essential for implementing the action by the granting authority.

Specific cases:

  • Affiliated entities - Affiliated entities are eligible for funding if they are established in one of the countries listed above.
  • EU bodies - Legal entities created under EU law may also be eligible to receive funding, unless their basic act states otherwise.
  • International organisations - International European research organisations are eligible to receive funding. Unless their participation is considered essential for implementing the action by the granting authority, other international organisations are not eligible to receive funding. International organisations with headquarters in a Member State or Associated Country are eligible to receive funding for ‘Training and mobility’actions and when provided for in the specific call conditions.
Project Partner Yes
Project Partner Details

Unless otherwise provided for in the specific call conditions , legal entities forming a consortium are eligible to participate in actions provided that the consortium includes:

  • at least one independent legal entity established in a Member State;and
  • at least two other independent legal entities, each established in different Member States or Associated Countries.
Further info

Proposal page limits and layout:

The application form will have two parts:

  • Part A to be filled in directly online  (administrative information, summarised budget, call-specific questions, etc.)
  • Part B to be downloaded from the Portal submission system, completed and re-uploaded as a PDF in the system

Page limit - Part B: 45 pages

Type of Funding Grants
Financial details
Expected EU contribution per projectThe Commission estimates that an EU contribution of around EUR 7.00 million would allow these outcomes to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of a proposal requesting different amounts.
Indicative budgetThe total indicative budget for the topic is EUR 14.00 million.
Typ of ActionInnovation Actions (IA)
Funding rate70% (except for non-profit legal entities, where a rate of up to 100% applies)

Activities are expected to achieve TRL 7 by the end of the project.
Submission Proposals must be submitted electronically via the Funding & Tenders Portal Electronic Submission System. Paper submissions are NOTpossible.

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