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Call: Smart XG, last-mile and edge solutions for remote farming, forestry and rural areas

Type of Fund Direct Management
Description of programme
"Horizon Europe - Cluster 6 - Destination 6: Resilient, Inclusive, Healthy and Green Rural, Coastal and Urban Communities"

Places and people matter to the achievement of a more sustainable Europe. The Sustainable Development Goals and the ecological and digital transitions brought forward by the European Green Deal [[]] and digital strategy [[]], alongside the recent pandemic, bring challenges and opportunities that differ for different places and people. Rural (including mountains and sparsely populated areas) and coastal areas, play a key role in managing, protecting and using natural resources. The provision of both private and public goods from these areas depends on the resilience and attractiveness of rural and coastal communities and the capacity of people who live and work there to access a sufficient level of well-being. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted deficiencies in digital infrastructures and economic opportunities that hamper resilience. Urban communities generally offer better access to many services but are also more vulnerable to supply-chain disruptions, as shown during the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, they have a key role to play in fostering sustainable production and consumption as major demand drivers. In all communities, social and behavioural drivers play an important role in enabling or slowing down transitions. Knowledge and innovative solutions need to be developed to enhance every community’s resilience and capacity to contribute to and benefit from the upcoming transitions in an economy that works for all territories and ensures a fair and just transition leaving no one behind.

Under this destination, transdisciplinary R&I with a strong social and behavioural sciences dimension, and attention to gender aspects, will foster a sustainable, balanced and inclusive development of rural [[R&I will support the implementation of an EU-level long-term vision for rural areas to be published in the 2nd quarter of 2021.]], coastal and urban areas in three different ways. Firstly, it will aim to increase our understanding of the differential impacts of climate, environmental, socio-economic and demographic changes on rural, coastal and urban areas in order to identify ways to turn these changes into equal opportunities for people wherever they live, enhancing territorial cohesion and enabling a just transition. Secondly, it will explore innovative ways to tailor policy responses to the place-based challenges identified at various levels of governance. Thirdly, it will support bottom-up community-led innovation to empower communities to develop, test and upscale solutions that answer global challenges in locally adapted ways. Achieving policy goals require providing people with more equitable access to the knowledge and skills required to make informed choices and be actively engaged in the sustainable and circular management of natural resources, from production or service provision to consumption. Rural, coastal and urban communities, in particular women, youth, the most vulnerable groups like indigenous people and those hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, need to see their labour conditions, quality of life and long-term socio-economic prospects improved in the context of major transitions and rising threats to climate, resources and health. Their capacity to drive community-led innovations must be enhanced and their resilience increased across the diversity of European territories including remote places such as mountains and sparsely populated areas. Mobilising the forces of digital transformation, start-up ecosystems, nature-based solutions, as well as social and policy innovation will facilitate necessary changes and support smart, environment and climate friendly and resilient lifestyles.

Activities under this destination are complementary to Cluster 2 activities with attention to spatial differences and specifics in relation with democracy (Destination ‘Innovative research on democracy and governance’), socio-economic transformations (Destination ‘Innovative research on social and economic transformation’) and cultural heritage (Destination ‘Innovative research on the European cultural heritage and the cultural and creative industries). They are also complementary to Cluster 5’s Destination ‘Cross-sectoral solutions for the climate transition’ on cities and communities that should explore place-based approaches to climate, energy and mobility specifically for all places.

To maximise the intended impacts and to ensure uptake by the communities, actions in the cluster should aim for high standards of transparency and openness for the solutions developed, going beyond ex-post documentation of results and extending to aspects such as assumptions, processes, models and data during the life of projects.

Expected impacts

Proposals for topics under this destination should set out a credible pathway to contributing to resilient, inclusive, healthy and green rural, coastal and urban communities and more specifically one or several of the following expected impacts:

  • Rural, coastal and urban areas are developed in a sustainable, balanced and inclusive manner thanks to a better understanding of the environmental, socio-economic, behavioural, cultural and demographic drivers of change as well as deployment of digital, nature-based, social and community-led innovations.
  • Rural, coastal and urban communities are empowered to act for change, better prepared to achieve climate neutrality, adapt to climate change, and turn digital and ecological transitions into increased resilience to various types of shocks, good health and positive long-term prospects, including jobs, for all including women, young people and vulnerable groups.
  • Rural communities are equipped with innovative and smarter solutions that increase access to services, opportunities and adequate innovation ecosystems, including for women, youth and the most vulnerable groups, improve attractiveness and reduce the feeling of being left behind, even in the most remote locations like mountains.
  • The sustainable development of coastal areas including coastal protection and resilience reaps the benefits of social, digital and community-led innovations, to deliver nature-based and scientifically validated solutions to existing coastal socio-economic and environmental threats. In this way, applications of new social, economic and governance frameworks are enabled.
  • Tourism, recreational and leisure activity development in natural and coastal areas respects long-term environmental carrying capacity, and social goals.
  • Urban and peri-urban communities – including the most vulnerable individuals and families – can access, afford and choose healthier, nutritious and environmental-friendly food.

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.

Topics under this destination will have impacts in the following impact areas of the Horizon Europe strategic plan for 2021-2024 [[[Link to the strategic plan]]]: “Climate change mitigation and adaptation”; “Enhancing ecosystems and biodiversity on land and in water”; “Sustainable food systems from farm to fork”; “Good health and high-quality accessible healthcare”; “A resilient EU prepared for emerging threats”; “A competitive and secure data-economy”; and “Inclusive growth and new job opportunities”.

Link Link to Programme
Smart XG, last-mile and edge solutions for remote farming, forestry and rural areas
Description of call
"Smart XG, last-mile and edge solutions for remote farming, forestry and rural areas"

Expected Outcome:

In line with the ambitions of the Green Deal, the Digital Age and an Economy that works for people, leaving no one behind, the farm to fork strategy and the European strategy for data in particular, successful proposals will strengthen the capacities of famers, foresters and rural community through connectivity gains. They will therefore contribute to i) fostering a sustainable, balanced and inclusive development of rural areas thanks to the deployment of digital, nature-based, social and community-led innovations; ii) empowering people to act for change and get prepared to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, adapt to climate change, and turn digital and ecological transitions into increased resilience; and iii) equipping rural communities with innovative and smarter solutions that increase access to services, opportunities and adequate innovation ecosystems.

Project results are expected to contribute to all of the following expected outcomes:

  • Reduce (the risk of) digital divides between different types of farms, sectors and regions.
  • Contribute to increase the competitiveness and social and environmental sustainability of the agricultural and forestry sectors and rural areas through innovative 5G, last-mile and edge solutions.
  • Facilitate decision-making, in particular for municipalities, farmers, foresters and their associations, in the selection of internet connectivity solutions under consideration of technical, economic and environmental aspects.
  • Increase energy efficiency through analysing and developing connectivity options and contributing to climate mitigation.


Missing access to fast broadband still presents a development challenge to many rural and remote areas. Frequently, the investments costs appear to be too high in comparison to the final number of end users in certain regions. Sometimes only investing in the “last-mile” presents a bottleneck to the connectivity. End-user needs vary not only between communities, but also between individual businesses and households, making it more challenging to find a common solution.

5G connectivity is a prerequisite for the running of several real-time applications, including of applications in the agricultural and forestry sectors, and has thus theoretically the potential to increase the economic and environmental performance of the sectors.

Overall, a range of possibilities to establish different types of broadband access at e.g. community-, farm- or field level are available going along with different investment and running costs.

Edge technologies allow under certain conditions the processing and analysis of data in remote systems, independently from larger data centres, which are frequently far away from rural communities. Edge technologies have the potential to reduce energy consumption.

Communities and businesses in rural areas considering upgrading their internet connectivity are confronted with decision-making challenges regarding the choice of technologies in which they should invest in to achieve best outcomes at system level under consideration of technical, economic, environmental and social aspects and the location-specific requirements and systemic resilience.

Proposals should cover all of the following aspects:

  • Assessing the socio-economic and environmental effects of innovative and existing 5G/4G/3G provision options (at regional-, community-, and farm-level) and making them feasible for non-scientists).
  • Developing innovative cost-effective and environmentally friendly solutions to 5G-and last-mile provision in remote areas tailored to the needs of communities, farms and forestry.
  • Assessing the socio-economic and environmental effects of innovative and existing edge technology options (at regional-, community-, and farm-level) and making them feasible for non-scientists.
  • Developing innovative cost-effective and environmental friendly edge solutions tailored to the needs of communities, farms and forestry, including an energy balance at system level.
  • Developing innovative business models (including at systemic level and cross-sectoral approaches).

Proposals are expected to undertake a comprehensive stocktaking exercise of solutions towards 5G, last-mile and edge solutions existing in the EU and globally (including satellite-based solutions and other solutions, such as drones-assisted broadband provision), and of related studies and assessments. This review may also cover connectivity solutions developed in other domains, such as expedition, emergency or military services.

The aspects of regional and/or systemic resilience and energy efficiency should be elaborated, including the contribution to climate mitigation. Different regional contexts in the EU and Associated Countries as it regards environmental framing conditions, as well as the structure of the society and economy are to be reflected. To tailor solutions to practitioners’ and citizens’ needs, proposals must implement the multi-actor approach.

Project results are to be made feasible to rural communities, farmers and foresters associations, and policy-makers. A decision-making support tool, which includes assistance in business model development, is to be provided. – Practitioner-orientation has to form a key element of the project(s).

Proposals are not expected to develop innovative technology solutions for the general use of 5G, but should reflect and build – as far as possible – on the (interim) results of relevant projects funded under Horizon 2020, Horizon Europe Cluster 4, the Digital Europe Programme, the Connecting Europe Facility and other research and innovation projects, to develop innovative solutions tailored to the needs of remote farming, forestry and rural communities.

This topic should involve the effective contribution of SSH disciplines.

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, Administration & Governance, Rural & Peripheral Development, Regional Development & Regional Planning, Disaster Prevention, Resiliance, Risk Management, Digitisation, ICT, Telecommunication, Children & Youth, Education & Training, Employment & Labour Market, Health, Social Affairs, Sports, Equal Rights, Human Rights, People with Disabilities, Social Inclusion, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy
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, Federal State / Region / City / Municipality / Local Authority, National Government
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 5.00 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 10.00 million.
Typ of ActionResearch and innovation actions (RIA)
Funding rate100%

The proposals must use the multi-actor approach.

Proposals focusing on one type of activity or sector (e.g. primary production) are out of scope.
Submission Proposals must be submitted electronically via the Funding & Tenders Portal Electronic Submission System. Paper submissions are NOTpossible.

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