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Call: Grasping rural diversity and strengthening evidence for tailored policies enhancing the contribution of rural communities to ecological, digital and social transitions

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Programme
Acronym HORIZON-CL6-COMMUNITIES
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 [[https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/european-green-deal_en]] and digital strategy [[https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/europe-fit-digital-age/shaping-europe-digital-future_en]], 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
Call
Grasping rural diversity and strengthening evidence for tailored policies enhancing the contribution of rural communities to ecological, digital and social transitions
Description of call
"Grasping rural diversity and strengthening evidence for tailored policies enhancing the contribution of rural communities to ecological, digital and social transitions"

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 improving the understanding of the environmental, socio-economic, behavioural, cultural and demographic drivers of change in rural areas. Stronger evidence on which to build their strategies and initiatives 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.

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

  • more evidence-based, place-based, integrated and tailored policies, strategies and governance frameworks at local, regional, national and EU levels to drive the sustainable transition of rural areas and communities, building on the specific outcomes below;
  • a refined understanding by policy-makers and rural actors of the diversity of rural situations, and of the challenges and opportunities associated with megatrends, potential major shocks and upcoming transitions, in particular climate, environmental and social challenges, to tailor policy interventions to local realities;
  • a refined understanding by policy-makers and rural actors of functional characteristics of territories, functional relations between rural places and other rural and/or urban places within a territorial continuum and the importance of these relations for sustainable development, to design synergistic approaches favouring a networked and interlinked development; and
  • a refined assessment by policy-makers of the impact of all current and upcoming policies on rural communities (rural proofing), including sectoral or thematic policies (such as climate, energy, mobility, digitalisation, health and social inclusion), or policy frameworks designed to accompany sustainability transitions in general, to tailor interventions to maximise possibilities for rural communities to contribute to and benefit from these transitions.

Scope:

The EU aims to lead just digital, economic and ecological transitions that will leave no one behind. Close to one third of EU citizens live in rural areas, which represent 83% of the EU territory and supply the whole of society with essential goods and services. These broad figures hide a variety of situations, challenges and opportunities regarding the aforementioned transitions that the current evidence base insufficiently captures.

The design of positive governance frameworks and policy interventions for rural communities is hampered by i) the lack of conceptual frameworks that properly grasp the role of rural areas and communities in sustainable development and sustainability transitions; ii) a lack of data on several aspects at the right geographic scale, in particular on climate and environment performance and on social challenges, quality of life and well-being. The lack of data at the right geographical scale (local in many cases) is hampered by the technical and economic difficulties of finer data collection.

Proposals should explore innovative and out-of-the box ways to describe and characterise rural areas or various forms or degrees of rurality in multi-dimensional ways, screening a wide range of possible (including new) data sources going beyond conventional indicators such as population density and settlement configuration. They should analyse national and other definitions and approaches and engage with stakeholders to understand their perspectives on rurality. Proposals should define and describe functional linkages between various localities and territories and explore and develop ways to apply functional geography approaches to rural areas (e.g. developing the concept of functional rural area), learning from past work and failures on such approaches. Trade-offs in selected approaches should be analysed in regional and national contexts highlighting geographical differences.

Proposals should screen and benchmark the performance and cost efficiency (infrastructure needs, ease and frequency of updates etc.) of data collection methods and technologies including new ones (e.g. digital technologies, geolocation and geospatial techniques, crowd sourcing, citizen science) that could be used to collect the necessary rural data at the local level across a majority of EU Member States and Associated Countries in Europe, at affordable costs and select viable options for testing these options. They should strengthen rural evidence and rural data collection, documentation and access, in particular in the environmental, climate and social fields by generating data and designing, testing and implementing methods to:

  • calculate climate and environmental indicators for rural communities, including rural dwellers and secondary-homers;
  • upgrade socio-economic (including culture) assessment, analysis, monitoring and evaluation tools (stats, indicators, including the measurement of well-being, quality of life and attractiveness including gender and age differences);
  • assess resilience to major threats, with particular emphasis on resilience and vulnerability factors under the COVID-19 pandemic.

This should result in enriched, upgraded and regularly updated platforms, data and indicators mapping, describing and monitoring economic (including sectors, jobs and income), social (including quality of life and well-being) and environmental (including climate mitigation and adaptation and energy) characteristics of rural areas and communities at sub-regional, local or functional levels, contributing to relevant actions of the long-term vision for rural areas in this domain. The analysis carried out should help to grasp the diversity and specificity of rural places in the EU and Associated Countries, their inter-relations, their preparedness for transitions, major shocks and megatrends, their capacity to take advantage of these trends in adaptive and resilient ways.

Proposals should benchmark climate and environmental policies and existing frameworks to describe and measure well-being, quality of life and attractiveness, assess their relevance for rural areas and communities and make recommendations for adapting these frameworks. They should in particular propose innovative schemes to reach climate neutrality by 2050 while taking advantage of the ecological transition and preserving ecosystems (nature-based solutions), landscapes etc. Finally, they should support rural proofing by developing tools completing those already existing on territorial impacts (e.g. under the EU Better Regulation), to assess the impact of EU policies and programmes on rural areas and communities.

Proposals must implement the multi-actor approach, bringing together from the start multiple types of scientific expertise in both hard sciences (e.g. climate, energy, and environment) and social sciences and humanities (e.g. geography, sociology, behavioural sciences, policy, foresight) together with a variety of rural community representatives. This topic should involve the effective contribution of SSH disciplines. Projects outputs should be scalable at least to the EU as a whole, hence they should be developed using data from a representative diversity of rural contexts across the EU. Proposals should strengthen evidence on rural areas and communities in a multi-dimensional way (proposals focused on one particular sector -e.g. primary production- or dimension of sustainability would not be considered as addressing the challenge appropriately). Proposals should engage with both national authorities and rural communities on their understanding of rurality and on project developments. Proposals should foresee a task to work jointly with other projects funded under this topic and with the European Commission, its common agricultural policy networks and other relevant networks (e.g.: future Farm Sustainability Data Network (FSDN)) and projects (including research projects) contributing to building rural evidence.

The possible participation of the JRC in the project will consist of connecting project activities to on-going work on integrated territorial strategies and or various domains mentioned in the topic to ensure complementarities and synergies, in particular advising on the data collection methods to be tested and on filling-in data gaps at high spatial granularity (NUTS3, LAU or grid levels). The contribution is framed on the context of the Knowledge Centre for Territorial Policies.

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
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.
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 7.00 and 7.50 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 15.00 million.
Typ of ActionResearch and innovation actions (RIA)
Funding rate100%

The proposals must use the multi-actor approach.

The Joint Research Centre (JRC) may participate as member of the consortium selected for funding.

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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