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New circular solutions and decentralised approaches for water and wastewater management
Horizon Europe - Cluster 6 - Destination 3: Circular Economy and Bioeconomy Sectors
Estimated EU contribution per project
Link to the call
Link to the submission
Actions in this topic should further develop efficient and sustainable decentralised and distributed approaches and technologies for climate-neutral and zero pollution water supply and wastewater treatment to optimise circular and sustainable use of natural resources, including integrated stormwater management systems to encourage water management on site rather than to the sewer.
With a rapidly changing urban, peri-urban and rural environments, increasing flooding and contamination of water resources, and in order to reap the benefits of circular economy approaches, adapt to climate change and support the implementation of water supply and sanitation related SDG, innovative approaches and technologies are required. Such innovative approaches should go beyond the central objective of protecting human health and environment, by enabling the overall concept of circularity and sustainability in terms of economic feasibility, social equity and acceptance, technical and institutional applicability, environmental protection, and resource recovery.
Moreover, the current COVID19 pandemic highlighted the essential role of safely managed water supply, sanitation, and hygiene services for preventing disease and protecting human health during infectious disease outbreaks and constitutes a good opportunity to revisit strategies implemented so far, and to build a more sustainable society meeting basic needs such as water and sanitation for all.
Decentralised water and wastewater systems can play an important role in delivering such an innovative approach and has the potential for a sustainability transition of the water supply and sanitation sector, by treating wastewater close to its source. However, full and appropriate exploitation of these systems, requires further developments, in order to become economically affordable, ecologically sustainable and socially accepted. In addition, the integration between centralised and local, decentralised and/or semi-decentralised solutions should be further explored.
The impact of reduced sewer flows, more concentrated sewage and waste sludge discharges from decentralised systems on sewer infrastructure should be better assessed. A thorough comparison of the overall environmental and economic performance of ongoing decentralized water and wastewater systems in different geographical and climate conditions and their potential for climate mitigation and adaptation should be undertaken, in order to assess under which conditions decentralised systems perform better than the centralised ones and help to create the right enabling environment to overcome various regulatory and technological barriers related to the implementation of these approaches. New urban sanitation models based on decentralised and integrated approaches which consider municipal organic waste and wastewater as source for recovery and recycling materials such as organic matter and nutrients that are included in the organic fraction of municipal solid waste and wastewater streams, could be also considered.
The integration of decentralised and centralised systems for water supply and sanitation is particularly needed in highly urbanised areas where centralised systems are currently used, to provide better water services, by reconciling, for instance, the need to meet an increasing water demand and new quality standards in an economic and sustainable manner, including energy efficiency and production. In this context, this action should:
- Develop an overarching risk analysis and optimization framework for the integrated design and operation of multiple source water supply systems, enhancing the application of digital technologies and solutions.
- Demonstrate the potential of the integration of decentralised with centralised systems for water supply and sanitation in different areas and scales (eg. district level, cities, river basin), to assess the potential benefits/drawbacks, strengthening public participation and engagement and public private partnerships.
- Address potential regulatory, financial and socioeconomic bottlenecks with a view of promoting long-term performance-based business models in public private partnerships for decentralised and/or integrated decentralised and centralised systems.
This action should bring together relevant researchers, technology providers, water utilities, business representatives, investors, policy makers and other water users and citizens. The active participation and engagement of different stakeholders should span the entire project development and implementation to ensure performance and sustainability and maximise the final impact.
To reinforce the potential benefits of implementing these decentralised approaches to policy makers their social impact, notably in terms of employment generation and population settlement in decentralised territories should be demonstrated.
The inclusion of relevant SSH expertise would be also needed to ensure the proposed solutions are also socially accepted.
Decentralised approaches for water and wastewater systems provides significant opportunities for developing countries and emerging economies to establish new alternatives and more sustainable approaches to water supply and sanitation and support the implementation of related SDGs. International cooperation is therefore strongly encouraged.
In support of the European Green Deal and EU water-related policies, successful proposals will contribute achieving sustainable and circular management and use of water resources, as well as prevention and removal of pollution, in particular Destination ‘Circular economy and bioeconomy sectors' impact ‘Accelerate transitions towards a sustainable, regenerative, inclusive, just and clean circular economy based on enhanced knowledge and understanding of science’.
Projects results are expected to contribute to all of the following expected outcomes:
- Demonstrate the benefits of decentralised approaches for water and wastewater treatment in various geographic, climate and economic conditions and create a decision framework to help policy makers to see where a decentralised approach can bring the most overall benefits with regards to the centralised one, as well as, how to better design their integration.
- Improve co-design and co-creation processes and synergies between all relevant stakeholders and enhance public engagement to speed up the market uptake of decentralised and/or semi-decentralised solutions.
- An enhanced systemic circular economy approach along the water, cycle by using process integration, to minimise water pollution, water consumption and the environmental footprint (including energy use) of water activities and ensure water security.
- Support the implementation of relevant EU policy needs (e.g., water and marine related policies, water reuse regulation, climate change adaptation strategy, circular economy action plan, the EU zero pollution action plan, and chemical strategy for sustainability).
Regions / countries for funding
Moldova (Moldova), Albania (Shqipëria), Armenia (Հայաստան), Azerbaijan (Azərbaycan), Belarus (Беларусь), Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosna i Hercegovina / Босна и Херцеговина), Faeroes (Føroyar / Færøerne), Georgia (საქართველო), Island (Ísland), Israel (ישראל / إِسْرَائِيل), Kosovo (Kosova/Kosovë / Косово), Montenegro (Црна Гора), Morocco (المغرب), New Zealand (Aotearoa), North Macedonia (Северна Македонија), Norway (Norge), Serbia (Srbija/Сpбија), Tunisia (تونس /Tūnis), Türkiye, Ukraine (Україна), United Kingdom
Education and training institution, International organization, Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) / Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Other, Private institution, incl. private company (private for profit), Public Body (national, regional and local; incl. EGTCs), Research Institution incl. University, Small and medium-sized enterprise (SME)
To be eligible for funding, applicants must be established in one of the following countries:
- the Member States of the European Union, including their outermost regions
- the Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) linked to the Member States
- third countries associated to Horizon Europe - see list of particpating countries
Only legal entities forming a consortium are eligible to participate in actions provided that the consortium includes, as beneficiaries, three legal entities independent from each other and each established in a different country as follows:
- 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.
Any legal entity, regardless of its place of establishment, including legal entities from non-associated third countries or international organisations (including international European research organisations) is eligible to participate (whether it is eligible for funding or not), provided that the conditions laid down in the Horizon Europe Regulation have been met, along with any other conditions laid down in the specific call topic.
A ‘legal entity’ means any natural or legal person created and recognised as such under national law, EU law or international law, which has legal personality and which may, acting in its own name, exercise rights and be subject to obligations, or an entity without legal personality.
- Affiliated entities — Affiliated entities (i.e. entities with a legal or capital link to a beneficiary which participate in the action with similar rights and obligations to the beneficiaries, but which do not sign the grant agreement and therefore do not become beneficiaries themselves) are allowed, if they are eligible for participation and funding.
- Associated partners — Associated partners (i.e. entities which participate in the action without signing the grant agreement, and without the right to charge costs or claim contributions) are allowed, subject to any conditions regarding associated partners set out in the specific call conditions.
- Entities without legal personality — Entities which do not have legal personality under their national law may exceptionally participate, provided that their representatives have the capacity to undertake legal obligations on their behalf, and offer guarantees to protect the EU’s financial interests equivalent to those offered by legal persons.
- EU bodies — Legal entities created under EU law including decentralised agencies may be part of the consortium, unless provided for otherwise in their basic act.
- Joint Research Centre (‘JRC’)— Where provided for in the specific call conditions, applicants may include in their proposals the possible contribution of the JRC but the JRC will not participate in the preparation and submission of the proposal. Applicants will indicate the contribution that the JRC could bring to the project based on the scope of the topic text. After the evaluation process, the JRC and the consortium selected for funding may come to an agreement on the specific terms of the participation of the JRC. If an agreement is found, the JRC may accede to the grant agreement as beneficiary requesting zero funding or participate as an associated partner, and would accede to the consortium as a member.
- Associations and interest groupings — Entities composed of members (e.g. European research infrastructure consortia (ERICs)) may participate as ‘sole beneficiaries’ or ‘beneficiaries without legal personality’. However, if the action is in practice implemented by the individual members, those members should also participate (either as beneficiaries or as affiliated entities, otherwise their costs will NOT be eligible.
other eligibility criteria
Activities should reach TRL 6-8 by the end of the project.
Relevance for EU Macro-Region
EUSAIR - EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region, EUSALP - EU Strategy for the Alpine Space, EUSBSR - EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, EUSDR - EU Strategy for the Danube Region
UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN-SDGs)
All proposals must be submitted electronically via the Funders & Tenders Portal electronic submission system (accessible via the topic page in the Search Funding & Tenders section). Paper submissions are NOT possible.
Proposals must be complete and contain all parts and mandatory annexes and supporting documents, e.g. plan for the exploitation and dissemination of the results including communication activities, etc.
The application form will have two parts:
- Part A (to be filled in directly online) contains administrative information about the applicant organisations (future coordinator and beneficiaries and affiliated entities), the summarised budget for the proposal and call-specific questions;
- Part B (to be downloaded from the Portal submission system, completed and then assembled and re-uploaded as a PDF in the system) contains the technical description of the project.
Annexes and supporting documents will be directly available in the submission system and must be uploaded as PDF files (or other formats allowed by the system).
This call follows a two-stage approach.
This topic is part of the blind evaluation pilot under which first stage proposals will be evaluated blindly. Applicants submitting a proposal under the blind evaluation pilot (see General Annex F) must not disclose their organisation names, acronyms, logos, nor names of personnel in Part B of their first stage application (see General Annex E).
The limit for a first-stage application is 10 pages. The limit for a full application (Part B) is 45 pages.