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Call: Increasing the transparency of EU food systems to boost health, sustainability and safety of products, processes and diets

Type of Fund Direct Management
Description of programme
"Horizon Europe - Cluster 6 - Destination 2: Fair, Healthy and Environmentally-friendly Food Systems from Primary Production to Consumption"

National, EU and global food systems are facing sustainability challenges, from primary production to consumption, that could jeopardise food and nutrition security. The farm to fork strategy, which is key to the success of the European Green Deal and achievement of the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs), aims to address these challenges and to deliver co-benefits for environment, health, society and the economy, ensuring that actions leading to recovery from the COVID-19 crisis also put us onto a sustainable path going forward. Research and innovation (R&I) are key drivers steering and accelerating the transition to sustainable, safe, healthy and inclusive food systems, from farm to fork, thereby ensuring food and nutrition security for all.

Sustainable farming systems provide a number of economic, environmental, social and health benefits, and are the main prerequisite for food and nutrition security. For farmers, who are the backbone of food systems and the immediate managers of natural resources, the Green Deal sets ambitious targets with respect to the sustainability and safety of feed and food production. These targets are included in the core Green Deal policy initiatives, in particular the farm to fork strategy, the biodiversity strategy, zero pollution efforts and climate action. R&I in line with the strategic approach to EU agricultural research and innovation[[]] will be key enablers if these challenging targets are to be achieved. They will speed up the transition to sustainable and competitive agriculture by unlocking the potential of agroecology[[]], including improving organic farming as part of the agroecological transition, boosting production of EU-grown plant proteins and advancing digital and data technologies (Destination ‘Innovative governance, environmental observations and digital solutions in support of the Green Deal’). R&I will support farmers to manage land, soil, water and nutrients in new, sustainable ways, in particular through the Horizon Europe mission in the area of ‘soil health and food’. New knowledge and innovative solutions will improve plant and animal health and welfare, prevent interspecies disease transmission through food production and trade systems, and reduce farmers’ dependency on pesticides, antimicrobials and other external inputs. Thanks to R&I, farming systems will maximise provision of a wide range of ecosystem services from more sustainably managed EU agro‑ecosystems and landscapes, and help to reverse the loss of biodiversity and soil fertility while ensuring resilient primary production (Destination ‘Biodiversity and ecosystem services’). Farmers will be better equipped to make a significant contribution to climate neutrality and become more resilient to climate change (Destination ‘Land, ocean and water for climate action’). Also, R&I will support the development of policy (in particular the common agricultural policy (CAP)), business models and market conditions enabling transition to sustainable food and farming systems. Effective agricultural knowledge and innovation systems (AKISs) will speed up innovation and the uptake of R&I results from farm to fork (Destination ‘Innovative governance, environmental observations and digital solutions in support of the Green Deal’). As a result, farmers will be able to transform their production methods and move to climate- and environment‑friendly, and resilient farming systems, thereby contributing to sustainable food value chains that provide producers with fair economic returns and consumers with affordable, safe, healthy and sustainable food (Destinations ‘Biodiversity and ecosystem services’ and ‘Land, ocean and water for climate action’).

Sustainable fisheries and aquaculture contribute directly to environment‑friendly, inclusive, safe and healthy food production by providing highly nutritional proteins, lipids and micronutrients for a healthy diet. Sustainably produced food from marine and freshwater bodies can and should account for a much bigger proportion of our overall food consumption. The farm to fork strategy seeks to help fishers and aquaculture producers to achieve better climate and environmental results and to strengthen their position in the supply chain. R&I will directly support the common fisheries policy (CFP) and deliver inclusive, diversified approaches to allow fisheries management to adapt to different realities, including in the international context. Sustainable and resilient aquaculture systems, including the use of low trophic species (e.g. algae and herbivores), high animal welfare standards and alternative sources of protein for food and feed, will increase seafood production and reduce its environmental impact while adding economic value to the chain. Seafood security will benefit from a drastic reduction in the current massive pre- and post-harvest losses in seafood biomass. Producers’ and consumers’ awareness, trust and behaviour with respect to the responsible production, consumption and disposal of seafood will contribute directly to the competitiveness and sustainability of the sector. An overarching partnership for a climate‑neutral, sustainable and productive blue economy will contribute to food security, added value, blue growth and jobs in Europe through a jointly supported R&I programme in the European seas, coastal and inland waters.

Transforming food systems for health, sustainability and inclusion requires robust, system-wide changes at all governance levels (from local to global and vice versa) as food systems are intertwined with all other sectors and are among the key drivers of climate change and environmental degradation. Food systems are to be understood as covering all the sectors, actors, stakeholders, organisations and disciplines relevant to and connecting primary production from land and sea, food processing, food distribution and retailing, food services, food consumption, food safety, nutrition and public health, and food waste streams. The European Green Deal and, in particular, the farm to fork strategy support a shift to more resilient and environmentally, socially and economically sustainable food systems, as required to deliver safe, healthy, accessible and affordable food and diets for all sourced from land and sea, while respecting planetary boundaries. This will involve a better understanding of the multiple interactions between the components of current food systems, to foster solutions that maximise co-benefits with respect to the four priorities of the Commission’s ‘Food 2030’ R&I initiative:

  • nutrition and health, including food safety;
  • climate and environmental sustainability;
  • circularity and resource efficiency; and
  • innovation and empowering communities.

R&I will accelerate the transition to sustainable, healthy and inclusive food systems by delivering in various areas: dietary shifts towards sustainable and healthy nutrition; supply of alternative and plant-based proteins; prevention and reduction of food loss and waste; microbiome applications; improving food safety and traceability; fighting food fraud; behavioural change; personalised nutrition; urban food systems (Destination ‘Resilient, inclusive, healthy and green rural, coastal and urban communities’); food systems governance and systems science; and digital and data-driven innovation (Destination ‘Innovative governance, environmental observations and digital solutions in support of the Green Deal’).

R&I activities supporting the partnership for safe and sustainable food systems for people, planet and climate will help identify and deliver innovative solutions providing co-benefits for nutrition, food quality, the climate, circularity and communities.

The EU also aims to promote a global transition to sustainable food systems. Targeted R&I activities, in particular under the EU-Africa Partnership on Food and Nutrition Security and Sustainable Agriculture (FNSSA) and global initiatives involving international research consortia, will contribute to this ambition.

Expected impacts:

Proposals for topics under this destination should set out credible pathways to fair, healthy, safe, climate- and environment‑friendly, resilient food systems from primary production to consumption, ensuring food and nutrition security for all within planetary boundaries in the EU and globally.

More specifically, proposals should contribute to one or more of the following impacts:

  • sustainable, productive, climate-neutral and resilient farming systems providing consumers with affordable, safe, traceable healthy and sustainable food, while minimising pressure on ecosystems, restoring and enhancing biodiversity, improving public health and generating fair economic returns for farmers;
  • sustainable fisheries and aquaculture increasing aquatic biomass production, diversification and consumption of seafood products for fair, healthy, climate‑resilient and environment‑friendly food systems with low impact on aquatic ecosystems and high animal welfare; and
  • sustainable, healthy and inclusive food systems delivering co-benefits for climate mitigation and adaptation, environmental sustainability and circularity, sustainable healthy nutrition, safe food consumption, food poverty reduction, the inclusion of marginalised people, the empowerment of communities, and flourishing businesses.

When considering their impact, proposals also need to assess their compliance with the ‘do no significant harm’ principle[[See Article 17 of Regulation (EU) No 2020/852 on the establishment of a framework to facilitate sustainable investment (EU Taxonomy Regulation).]], whereby R&I projects should not support or involve activities that significantly undermine any of the six environmental objectives of the EU Taxonomy Regulation.

To unlock the full potential of R&I and maximise impacts, participatory approaches, e.g. multi-actor approach, involving input from industry, technology providers, primary producers, the food, drink and hospitality industry, consumers, citizens, local authorities, etc. should be promoted with a view to co-creating innovative systemic solutions in support of food systems’ sustainability.

Topics under this destination should have impacts in the following impact areas of the Horizon Europe strategic plan for 2021-2024:

  • sustainable food systems from farm to fork on land and sea
  • climate change mitigation and adaptation;
  • enhancing ecosystems and biodiversity on land and in waters;
  • good health and high-quality accessible healthcare;
  • clean and healthy air, water and soil;
  • a resilient EU prepared for emerging threats; and
  • inclusive growth and new job opportunities.
Link Link to Programme
Increasing the transparency of EU food systems to boost health, sustainability and safety of products, processes and diets
Description of call
"Increasing the transparency of EU food systems to boost health, sustainability and safety of products, processes and diets"

Expected Outcome:

In line with the European Green Deal priorities and the farm to fork strategy for a fair, healthy and environment-friendly food system, the successful proposal will support R&I to increase transparency across food systems to boost health, sustainability and safety of products, processes and diets, contributing to the transformation of food systems to deliver co-benefits for climate (mitigation and adaptation), environmental sustainability and circularity, dietary shift, sustainable healthy nutrition and safe food, food poverty reduction and empowerment of communities, and thriving businesses.

Advances in R&I to upgrade transparency will provide multiple benefits relevant to improving food safety, fighting food fraud and addressing growing public concern in the EU as regards the climate, biodiversity and environmental impacts of food and diets in practice.

Projects results are expected to contribute to all following expected outcomes:

  • accelerate the deployment of transparency innovations and solutions in EU food systems, especially among micro-enterprises and SMEs, to boost health, sustainability, and safety of products, processes and diets, and drive climate action; and
  • ensure that future transparency innovations and solutions are demand-driven, systemic and cost-effective, and support the objectives of the EU farm to fork strategy and the EU Green Deal.


Despite technological progress and the emergence of new approaches, solutions and methodologies, recent literature highlights continuing challenges in increasing the uptake of transparency solutions among food system actors. These include concerns about connectivity, interoperability, privacy, cost-efficiency and low consumer confidence in the technologies being deployed. In addition, many point to the fragmentation and complexity of food systems, the high number of SMEs and micro-companies, and the cross-cutting and systemic nature of transparency innovations as important reasons for the slow deployment of the solutions.

Transparency (defined in supply chains as access to non-distorted, factual, relevant and timely information about supply chain products) is a critical component of modern food systems. Transparency of food production from farm to fork is crucial to inform consumers, authorities and food system actors on product characteristics such as origin, production method, ingredients and safety, and on sustainability and ethical aspects of products and processes. It is also a crucial factor in ensuring food traceability and authenticity.

Proposals should accelerate the deployment of transparency solutions in EU food systems, especially among micro-enterprises and SMEs, to boost health, sustainability and safety of products, processes and diets in the period to 2030, and drive climate action. In particular, proposals should facilitate innovations that increase transparency in support of six objectives:

  1. Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of traceability;
  2. Making it easier for people to adopt healthy and sustainable diets with a lower environmental and climate impact, by advancing innovations that provide and process transparency data across the food chain to support the implementation of the future EU framework for sustainability labelling;
  3. Making it easier for farmers and food businesses to increase the sustainability of their products and processes, and make them more nutrition-sensitive;
  4. Drastically improving the efficiency and effectiveness of food safety processes and procedures, within companies and beyond;
  5. Increasing the authenticity of products, and reducing food fraud; and
  6. Increasing the capacity of authorities and policymakers that deal with food safety, sustainability, nutrition and health to monitor the performance of different parts and processes of the food system.

Proposals should build a network of expertise that can act as an EU hub for knowledge sharing and the demonstration and piloting of systemic solutions relating to transparency. The network should be governed by a wide range of experts and stakeholders, including primary producers, processors, retailers, food service providers, consumers, public and private institutions (governmental institutions, civil society, including NGOs, and industry), investors, entrepreneurs and policymakers.

Proposals should create an inventory of validated technologies (such as IoT, blockchain, artificial intelligence, 5G/edge, and ‘big data’), open data, approaches and methodologies based on past research and emerging best practice. They should demonstrate the use of these technologies to address the above objectives using existing or emerging data infrastructures across the food chain. They should make a particular effort to valorise relevant past EU-funded research.

Proposals should consolidate the state of play as regards approaches for dealing effectively with cross-cutting challenges (e.g. connectivity, privacy, interoperability, consumer acceptance, cost-effectiveness, skills) and address the lack of such approaches where needed and in line with the relevant legal frameworks.

Proposals should widely disseminate and communicate expertise among primary producers, processors, retailers, food service providers, public and private institutions (governmental institutions, NGOs, industry), investors, entrepreneurs and policymakers. In this way, they should build awareness, education and skills on at European level in a way that supports solution development in practice in major food categories, by taking into account EU, national, regional and sectoral contexts and needs (health, food & nutrition policies, environmental, socioeconomic, cultural, gender-related, behavioural and dietary).

Proposals should develop methodologies, tools and approaches to enable the clients of the network of expertise to engage actively with end-users of transparency solutions (e.g. retailers, public authorities), a broad range of food system actors, technology and infrastructure providers and policymakers, to make sure that new transparency solutions are demand-driven, systemic, in line with the relevant legal frameworks, and cost-effective, and that they support the objectives of the EU farm to fork strategy, including the implementation of the future food sustainability labelling framework. Proposals are encouraged to assess the merits of existing and future citizen-science initiatives that can help build or uptake transparency solutions.

Proposals should help clients to apply systems thinking to identify challenges linked to the above objectives and possible innovative systemic solutions. They should help them understand and assess how transparency solutions will be used and how they will generate benefits and incentives for consumers and food businesses by enabling policy development (including the implementation of a future EU framework for sustainability labelling). They should stimulate mutual learning across parts of food systems, scientific disciplines, geographies and languages.

Proposals should perform these tasks using a business model that guarantees the functioning of the network and its services beyond the lifespan of the project.

In addition, proposals should develop and pilot cross-cutting and systemic solutions that improve transparency as regards one or more of the six objectives, while respecting the relevant legal frameworks and national competence in the area of diet and health, to complement and support the above tasks. The pilots should advance solutions that can benefit a wide range of micro-enterprises and SMEs. For the purpose of the pilots, proposals may involve financial support for third parties in the form of grants, typically in the order of EUR 100 000 to 300 000 per party. These amounts are deemed sufficient to ensure that solutions are demand-driven, systemic and cost-effective, and support the objectives of the EU farm to fork strategy and the EU Green Deal. Up to 20% of the EU funding requested by the proposal may be allocated to the purpose of financial support for third parties.

Proposals should explain and map how the pilots will achieve co-benefits relevant to the Food 2030 priorities (nutrition for sustainable healthy diets, climate and environment, circularity and resource efficiency, innovation and empowerment of communities).

Proposals should set out a clear plan on how they will collaborate with other projects selected under this and any other relevant topic, by participating in joint activities, and common communication and dissemination activities. Proposals are encouraged to link with relevant smart specialization platforms.

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, Health, Social Affairs, Sports, Administration & Governance, Green Technologies & Green Deal, Disaster Prevention, Resiliance, Risk Management, 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, National Government, International Organization, 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 11.00 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 11.00 million.
Typ of ActionInnovation Actions (IA)
Funding rate70% (except for non-profit legal entities, where a rate of up to 100% applies)

Beneficiaries may provide financial support to third parties. The support to third parties can only be provided in the form of grants. The maximum amount to be granted to each third party is EUR 300 000 in order to cover the expenses for developing and piloting crosscutting and systemic solutions that improve transparency with regards to one or several of the six objectives mentioned in the topic.
The proposals must use the multi-actor approach. Activities are expected to achieve TRL 6-7 (according to the activity) 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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