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Call: Socio-economic empowerment of the users of the sea

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
Socio-economic empowerment of the users of the sea
Description of call
"Socio-economic empowerment of the users of the sea"

Expected Outcome:

The successful proposal will contribute to fostering a sustainable, balanced and inclusive coastal development, supporting the implementation of the European Green Deal, incorporating a better understanding of the environmental, socio-economic, behavioural, cultural and demographic drivers of change. Conducted research activities and innovative results will empower people to act for change through education and upgraded skills, leading to positive long-term prospects, including jobs, for all including women, young people and vulnerable groups. Among several potential coastal sectors being addressed, the proposal will ensure inclusion of tourism, recreational and leisure activity development in coastal areas to respect long-term environmental carrying capacity, and social goals.

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

  • Better understanding of the environmental, socio-economic, behavioural, cultural and demographic drivers of change for users of the sea in coastal areas is taken into account by the policy making community.
  • Better understanding of the nature connectedness of coastal communities and preconditions, hurdles and success factors for social transition and nature-based social innovation inspired the policy making community to take measures.
  • Socio-economic resilience and well-being of coastal communities (including gender related) are measured, understood and enhanced through a properly developed and established link with coastal ecosystem services and cultural heritage.
  • Empowerment of coastal communities and sectors to innovate for the ecological transition and feel part of it, through a multi-actor approach.
  • Design of transition mechanisms and identification of the means to make necessary changes socially acceptable, that among others may include curiosity-driven citizen science initiatives and outcomes connected to specific societal and blue bioeconomy-related socio-economic challenges on coastal climate adaptation and mitigation, coastal pollution, coastal biodiversity, circularity and sustainability or other aspects of coastal (eco)tourism and cultural events etc.
  • Creation of a well-connected community, involving companies, local businesses, social innovators, private investors, researchers, citizens and policy makers, which will bring together on the one hand research actions and results and on the other implementation actions, new initiatives, and policy developments for their own companies or local communities.
  • Improved skills in ocean literacy education and awareness raising, social sciences, green skills and digital transformation to process and integrate large network input of gradually more ‘Green and Blue Literate’ citizens that are more engaged to take direct and sustainable action.
  • Contributions to Maritime Spatial Planning and Integrated Maritime Policy, including the Water Framework Directive and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.
  • Contribute to the UN SDG 1, SDG 2, SDG 3, SDG 5, SDG 10, SDG 11 and with a specific emphasis on UN SDG 14.


The multi- and trans-disciplinary proposals should undertake a thorough analysis of gaps in ocean literacy, marine environment connectedness like monetary and non-monetary values of the marine environment, socio-economic vulnerability and resilience (including gender-related) and preparedness for the social transition of coastal communities and stakeholders in order to advance understanding of the preconditions and success factors for social transition and nature-based social innovation. Proposals should deal with environmental and socio-economic challenges related to coastal climate adaptation and mitigation, coastal pollution, coastal ecology, coastal habitability and entrepreneurship, blue spaces and well-being, coastal (eco)tourism and cultural events, coastal food and energy production and consumption among others. Proposals should identify opportunities based on coastal ecosystem services and active engagement and participation of the users of the sea in designing, implementing and maintaining nature-based solutions (including monitoring activities on the performance and impacts of the solutions), taking into account cultural heritage aspects where relevant. SSH approaches should serve through a multi-actor approach to orient and contextualise coastal STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) activities related to the above-mentioned challenges in terms of social and economic impact as well as in terms of the deep impact of human behaviour, culture (including indigenous knowledge and practices) and history (including religion literacy) on all societal innovation and integrated sustainable coastal zone development and management. Proposals should engage or create appropriate multi-stakeholder platforms who should jointly evaluate cultural, societal and economic marine or coastal practices that are not compatible with sustainability principles, avoiding duplication with other projects, existing initiatives or platforms. They should jointly identify required cultural and societal changes for a sustainable use of the sea, design transition mechanisms and identify the means to achieve necessary changes. Attention needs to be given to different learning arrangements (e.g. multi-actor networks, producer-consumer association, hybrid innovative networks, territorial alliances, twinning approaches) as well as to innovative governance mechanisms at various levels, and their potential implications for social transition and nature-based social innovation. Activities should cover diverse types of coastal areas across the EU and Associated Countries and non-European (Black Sea and Mediterranean) countries. In line with the objectives of the EU Global Approach to Research and Innovation, proposals are strongly encouraged to include third country participants, especially those established in Black Sea and Mediterranean countries.

This topic should involve the effective contribution of SSH disciplines.

The involvement of sea-based businesses, and economic and local development bodies is required to implement the multi-actor approach (cf eligibility conditions). Engaging with managing authorities of European Structural and Investment Funds during the project would help increase implementation of the project outcomes and support further uptake.

Projects should build on existing knowledge and integrate results from multiple origins, including other EU, international or national projects. Some cooperation activities with projects financed under Destination ‘Biodiversity and ecosystem services’ and topics of the Green Deal Call could be included, as well as with relevant projects from other EU programmes or with relevant EU initiatives and thematic networks.

This topic should be linked to the Horizon Europe Missions Ocean, seas and waters and Adaptation to Climate Change including Societal Transformation, the Partnership for a climate neutral, sustainable and productive Blue Economy, the Biodiversity Partnership or other partnerships where relevant.

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.

The possible participation of the JRC in the project will consist of contributing to the analysis of patterns and practice of participation of local and urban communities into place-based ecosystems developing integrated sustainable development strategies and action.

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, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, Demographic Change, Migration, Art & Culture, Cultural Heritage, History, Media
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 6.00 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 6.00 million.
Typ of ActionResearch and innovation actions (RIA)
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.

The Joint Research Centre (JRC) may participate as member of the consortium selected for funding.
Submission Proposals must be submitted electronically via the Funding & Tenders Portal Electronic Submission System. Paper submissions are NOTpossible.

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