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Call: Expertise and training centre on rural innovation

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
Expertise and training centre on rural innovation
Description of call
"Expertise and training centre on rural innovation"

Expected Outcome:

The successful proposal will contribute to fostering a sustainable, balanced and inclusive development of rural areas, supporting the implementation of the European Green Deal, in particular its fair and just transition component, the European digital strategy, the European pillar of social rights and the EU long-term vision for rural areas. It will do so by accelerating the deployment of digital, nature-based, social and community-led innovations in rural areas through capacity building and enhanced knowledge exchange, leading to rural communities that will be better equipped with innovative and smarter solutions that increase access to services, opportunities and adequate innovation ecosystems. Enhanced capacities and better knowledge flows and innovation support will empower rural 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, good health and positive long-term prospects, including jobs, for all including women, young people and vulnerable groups.

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

  • enhanced capacity of rural communities and rural people to innovate for change thanks to the specific outcomes below;
  • improved skills and knowledge of rural citizens, entrepreneurs, organisations, local action groups and community leaders of existing tools to develop and implement rural innovation (including social innovation) strategies and innovative actions to implement these strategies in rural communities, in all domains of relevance to rural life and economy;
  • shortening of the innovation cycle in rural communities and businesses leading to quicker results and transitions in rural communities, strengthened human capital, including more lively networks and improved attractiveness of rural communities, in particular for women and young people;
  • enhanced valorisation by rural communities of the results of rural innovation projects funded under various programmes; and
  • enhanced dialogue and cooperation on rural innovation worldwide, with sharing of learning resources.


Proposals should provide capacity building on rural innovation towards rural communities and actors in the EU and beyond, seeking to valorise the outcomes of projects funded under various programmes. The latter may include Horizon 2020, Horizon Europe, the common agricultural policy (LEADER, EIP-AGRI operational groups), regional policy (community-led local development, INTERREG, smart specialisation strategies), preparatory actions such as the Smart rural project or SMARTA and other EU or non-EU relevant actions. Projects from these programmes should be considered as relevant if they produced practical tools to develop and/or implement strategies and roadmaps in various domains (energy, digital, climate adaptation and mitigation, mobility, environment, social, education and care, food etc.), innovation approaches such as living labs, activities related to smart villages; training packages, videos etc. innovation activities in general and innovative solutions. Proposals should pay special attention to social innovation, which has been demonstrated to have a high potential to meet rural challenges. Social innovation is recommended when the solution is at the interface between social and technical solutions and requires social change, new social practices, social ownership or market uptake. Capacity building should target in particular communities developing smart village strategies as foreseen under the common agricultural policy for 2021-2027 or similar initiatives, paying attention to the needs of various groups within these communities (e.g. women, youth etc.). They should map and promote funding opportunities and prepare the ground for rural communities to take part in innovation actions funded under Horizon Europe or other innovation support actions that can be used to support ecological, digital or social transitions in rural areas (whether or not they are targeted to these areas).

Proposals should organise the capitalisation and exchange of knowledge between projects funded under Horizon Europe working on innovation for rural communities. They should feed in and translate results from the research and innovation actions as these results become available. They should allow the portfolio of projects to reflect on rural innovation processes, lessons learnt and ways to improve innovation processes and innovation systems for rural communities in a multi-dimensional and multi-sectoral way. They should also ensure a lively interface between actions supporting rural community-led innovation funded under Horizon Europe (e.g. HORIZON-CL6-2022-COMMUNITIES-01-01 and HORIZON-CL6-2022-COMMUNITIES-02-01-two-stage in the work programme 2021-2022) and common agricultural policy networks. The project duration should be adapted to ensure such capitalisation is possible (a duration of at least five years is recommended). They may engage in collaboration with projects funded under other relevant calls.

Proposals should explore with rural communities and benchmark various options and business models to create viable, networked and long-term rural innovation expertise and training mechanisms, centre(s) or hub(s) in Europe, able to capitalise on new knowledge and tools created and process them into training packages and sessions for rural communities in Europe and beyond. They should engage with international partners, including relevant international organisations (e.g. FAO, OECD) and partners in priority regions of the world for EU international cooperation on rural development (e.g. Africa) or with outstanding expertise in rural development, on resources to support the sustainable development of rural communities. Proposals may include partners from these countries in capacity building activities.

Proposals must implement the multi-actor approach, bringing together the required competencies in communication, dissemination, exploitation and training alongside genuine knowledge of rural communities’ context. Training contents and packages should be provided in multiple languages and multimedia formats allowing their wide dissemination in the EU and beyond. They should be developed, tested and validated taking into account the specific needs of various types of rural actors (including women, young people, entrepreneurs, community-leaders, elderly etc.) in various types of rural areas (e.g. close to cities, remote etc.) and cover a wide variety of important aspects of rural life that rural communities may want to innovate on (e.g. energy, mobility, education, services, health, climate, environment etc.). Proposals focusing on one type of activity or sector (e.g. primary production) would not be considered as addressing the challenge appropriately. Synergies may be developed with other actions targeting community-based innovations in specific domains, innovation support or education and training.

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
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: 30 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 5.00 million.
Typ of ActionCoordination and Support Actions (CSA)
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.

Due to the scope of this topic, legal entities established in all member states of the African Union are exceptionally eligible for Union funding.
Legal entities established in non-associated third countries may exceptionally participate in this Coordination and support action.
Submission Proposals must be submitted electronically via the Funding & Tenders Portal Electronic Submission System. Paper submissions are NOTpossible.

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