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Call: Increasing the circularity in textiles, plastics and/or electronics value chains

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Programme
Acronym HORIZON-CL6-CIRCBIO
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: https://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/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)[[https://ec.europa.eu/research/environment/index.cfm?pg=circular]] 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”.

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Call
Increasing the circularity in textiles, plastics and/or electronics value chains
Description of call
"Increasing the circularity in textiles, plastics and/or electronics value chains"

Expected Outcome:

A successful proposal will contribute to all impacts in this destination related to consumers and industry, in particular to European industrial sustainability, competitiveness and resource independence by lowering the environmental footprint, enabling climate-neutrality and higher resource efficiency, through increased circularity and a resulting reduction in GHG and air pollution emissions.

Project results are expected to contribute to at least four of the following outcomes:

  • Increased deployment and market uptake of new technological solutions to waste management and recycling, and the measurement of recycled content
  • Enhanced diffusion and demonstrated benefits of advanced digital solutions in circular businesses
  • Emergence of new value chains using upcycled, recycled and/or biobased resources
  • Increased upcycling and recycling rates for the targeted material streams
  • Increased uptake of recycled material and upcycling to new higher-value products
  • Increased resource efficiency along and across value chains, causing a measurable reduction in GHG emissions
  • Increased diffusion of new circular business practices, in particular in the uptake of repair, reuse and remanufacturing
  • A significantly higher level of involvement of all actors (manufacturers, retailers, consumers, CSOs, public administration etc.) in circular practices
  • Increased level of information and awareness of citizens regarding circular and climate-neutral products and services
  • Strengthened competitiveness and job retention and creation potential of circular value chains under different economic and social conditions

Scope:

The 2020 circular economy action plan (CEAP) highlights the four material streams textiles, plastics, electronics including ICT equipment, and construction as particularly important with regard to their circularity potential and their environmental footprint. The circularity deficits for these streams are mainly due to the: lack of trust in secondary raw materials; lack of control over supply chains; lacking focus on material efficiency and design for circularity; unsustainable product lifetimes; lack of repair services; price gap between primary and secondary material; lack of secondary material markets; insufficient collection and sorting systems; insufficient and unpredictable input quality for recycling; insufficient information about quality and quantity of materials, including knowledge about possible microplastics pollution and substances of concern, lack of communication along the lifecycle between manufacturers and recyclers; lack of involvement and empowerment of citizens that would allow environmentally informed purchases.

Projects should address the priorities set in the CEAP, which states that “electrical and electronic equipment continues to be one of the fastest growing waste streams in the EU, with current annual growth rates of 2%. It is estimated that less than 40% of electronic waste is recycled in the EU. Value is lost when fully or partially functional products are discarded because they are not reparable.” Textiles are “the fourth highest-pressure category for the use of primary raw materials and water, after food, housing and transport, and fifth for GHG emissions, as well as one of the highest sources of emissions of synthetic microfibers in the EU. It is estimated that less than 1% of all textiles worldwide are recycled into new textiles.” “In the light of the complexity of the textile value chain, to respond to these challenges the Commission will propose a comprehensive EU Strategy for Textiles.” It will be necessary to boost “sorting, re-use and recycling of textiles, including through innovation”, while “tackling the presence of hazardous substances”. Beside the continuous implementation of the EU plastics strategy, the CEAP has a strong focus on microplastics, but also calls for mandatory recycled content and the controlled use of bio-based, biodegradable plastics and alternative materials. In view of the feasibility problems of plastic recycling, this will require the deployment of technologies that are still in their infancy, such as the various forms of chemical and enzymatic recycling.

Projects should deal with one of the three priority material streams (plastics, textiles, electronics), taking however into account the complexity of some materials currently in use (such as composites) and that the three streams are related and to some extent overlapping (plastics-textiles; plastics-electronics), and that specific solutions might require an integrated approach.

Projects should demonstrate and deploy at large scale innovative solutions and designs for increased quality, non-toxicity and durability of secondary materials and increased share of secondary materials in new products. Projects should demonstrate increased recovery, recycling and upcycling rates and a higher uptake of secondary materials for high value applications. Projects should also demonstrate circular business practices, in particular in the uptake of repair and reuse, remanufacture, product-service-systems, and in the full lifetime of products or services. To achieve this, targeted market size, economic feasibility, cost efficiency and social acceptance need to be addressed. To break down the barriers for this transition, it is important that proposals involve and address the different perspectives of all relevant actors, e.g. manufacturers, retailers, consumers and civil society organisations (CSOs). The projects should consider the use of digital solutions and demonstrate their benefits for increased circularity. Projects should also help produce harmonised and robust methods to assess the amount of recycled content in sectoral products, which is key for a future review of green claims through authorities and consumer organisations. Environmental, social and economic impacts should be assessed from a lifecycle perspective as product, organisation and consumption environmental footprints, using the respective methods developed by the European Commission (Product Environmental Footprint, PEF, should be used for the assessment of the environmental impacts) and through costing methods; relevant data should be fed into the European Platform on Life Cycle Assessment, following the specific Environmental Footprint data and format requirements. The functional performance of technologies and secondary materials can be assessed through the EU Environmental Technology Verification (ETV) scheme. Considering the microplastics and microfiber pollution and hazardous substances that are present in the targeted waste streams, their removal from the materials used for the products in concern as well as from the recovered material is crucial, in addition to applying less-polluting production and consumption procedures. Decontamination levels need to be properly addressed and accumulation prevented. All achieved outcomes should be demonstrated using quantitative indicators and targets wherever possible.

Projects should also develop training material to endow workers in this occupational group with the right skillset in order to deploy the new technologies developed. Proposals should consider the development of learning resources for the current and future generations of employees, with the possibility to integrate them in existing curricula and modules for undergraduate level and lifelong learning programmes. The projects should provide contributions to relevant standards or best practices.

Social innovation is recommended when the solution is at the socio-technical interface and requires social change, new social practices, social ownership or market uptake.

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, Administration & Governance, Green Technologies & Green Deal, Urban development, Employment & Labour Market, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, Competitiveness, SME, Regional Development & Regional Planning
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.
Call opens 22.06.2021
Call closes 06.10.2021
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 between EUR 6.00 and 8.00 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 22.00 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 6-8 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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