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Call: Integrated urban food system policies – how cities and towns can transform food systems for co-benefits

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
Integrated urban food system policies – how cities and towns can transform food systems for co-benefits
Description of call
"Integrated urban food system policies – how cities and towns can transform food systems for co-benefits"

Expected Outcome:

In line with the European Green Deal priorities and the farm to fork strategy for a fair healthy and environmentally friendly food system, as well as of the EU's Climate ambition for 2030 and 2050, the successful proposal will support the development of policies, business models and market conditions contributing to the sustainable, balanced and inclusive development of urban and peri-urban areas and to the empowerment and resilience of their communities, who can access, afford and choose healthier, nutritious and environmental-friendly food.

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

  • City-region food systems and of the urban-rural linkages across Europe are better understood and taken into account in urban policies;
  • The concept of local food environments is better understood and taken into account in local planning, with a view to driving people towards healthier food choices and transforming urban food systems to be healthier, circular and resilient;
  • More cities and towns build on good practice initiatives (e.g.: signatory cities of the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact) to develop integrated urban food policies and planning frameworks linking health, environment and food systems, bridging the national and the local level and including risk prevention and reduction plans to anticipate and manage food systems shocks, as well as to develop resilience;
  • Strengthened urban food systems governance through increased multi-stakeholder engagement in designing and implementing urban food policies in cities and towns across Europe, representing different cultural and geographical settings;
  • More Higher Education Institutes engaging in structured and long-term collaborations with local/regional actors to help transform their urban food system through participatory R&I;
  • Improved decision-making by government actors willing to commit to change their local food systems, based on ready-to-use knowledge on the typologies, evolution, outcomes and impacts of integrated local food policies, throughout and within Europe, and in comparison with other regions.


Urban areas face a serious challenge to ensure healthy, affordable, safe and sustainably produced food to their residents. Many cities and their inhabitants are disconnected from their food – e.g. where it comes from, how it is produced, the impact food production and consumption have on the environment, climate and health, and the complexity and fragility of food value chains –. The way in which cities deal with food is highly variable and often fragmented, but integrated urban food policies and social innovations providing co-benefits are progressively emerging throughout Europe.

A key issue to be addressed is that of poorly planned urban food environments that drive citizens, and children in particular, towards unhealthy packaged food that is high in calories, sugars, salt and saturated fat, which contributes to obesity and diet-related illnesses. Furthermore, different shocks disrupting urban food systems worldwide can exacerbate the already limited access to healthy food, in particular for the urban poor.

Cities have the potential to make healthy and sustainable food available, affordable and attractive to all, which will in turn reduce consumption-based GHG emissions, in a win-win situation for people and the planet.

Proposals under this topic should address the following four issues and be targeted to help at least 5 cities/towns lacking integrated food systems policies to take ambitious and decisive action:

  1. Understanding: map local food systems, policies and actions, with a special focus on assessing short supply chains and urban food environments (including harmful marketing and advertising and unequal access to healthy food for the urban poor), and on developing local indicators and monitoring frameworks.
    This should be built on existing tools such as the “Food systems dashboard framework” and should include the development of food systems stakeholder maps, maps of the formal and informal food flows and retail channels and, especially relevant in case of food shock crisis, maps identifying the most vulnerable people and their access to nutritious food.
    This should include analysing the local responses to emergencies and take into account the environmental, social and economic dimension.
  2. Governance: develop and evaluate innovative, multi-actor, urban food systems governance processes and capacities for science-backed integrated policy making and implementation actions that deliver on farm to fork strategy objectives and Food 2030 co-benefits for health, environment, climate, circularity and inclusion, while minimizing trade-offs. Special attention should be given to improving food environments, providing increased food access to vulnerable groups and fostering short supply chains.
  3. Engaging: mobilise a wide diversity of food system actors from farm to fork (i.e. public and private, the financial sector, civil society and academia). Higher education institutions and research centres, in particular, should be engaged to collaboration with local actors to support evidence-based food policy development and to help provide local solutions to integrated food system challenges.
  4. Mutual learning: reinforce or create new networks of cities and towns to share good practices and learn from and support each other. This implies involving cities with well-developed food policies to provide guidance and lessons learned, as well as new forms of collaboration/twinning.

Proposals should address inequalities in urban food systems, whether they be due to gender, race and other social categories.

Conducting inter and trans-disciplinary research and involving a wide diversity of food system actors is required to implement the multi actor approach (cf eligibility condition). In particular, a strong involvement of citizens and civil society, together with urban designers, design thinkers, social innovators, planners, social scientists and public authorities to strengthen relationships between urban planning and food choices and to develop new methods and approaches to innovation have to be ensured.

Proposals should set out a clear plan on how it will collaborate with other projects selected under this and any other relevant topic/call, e.g. by participating in joint activities, workshops, as well as common communication and dissemination activities.

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.

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, Regional Development & Regional Planning, Disaster Prevention, Resiliance, Risk Management, Children & Youth, Education & Training, Urban development
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, International Organization
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 12.00 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 12.00 million.
Typ of ActionInnovation Actions (IA)
Funding rate70% (except for non-profit legal entities, where a rate of up to 100% applies)

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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