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Programme: Horizon Europe - Cluster 6 - Destination 3: Circular Economy and Bioeconomy Sectors

Horizon Europe - Cluster 6 - Destination 3: Circular Economy and Bioeconomy Sectors
Type of Fund Direct Management
Description of programme
"Horizon Europe - Cluster 6 - Destination 3: Circular Economy and Bioeconomy Sectors"

This destination and its topics target climate-neutral circular and bioeconomy transitions, covering safe integrated circular solutions at territorial and sectoral levels, for important material flows and product value chains, such as the textile, electronics, plastics and construction sectors, as well as key bioeconomy sectors such as sustainable bio-based systems, sustainable forestry, small-scale rural bio-based solutions, and aquatic value chains. With this approach, the destination supports the European Green Deal, and other European initiatives such as the Industrial Strategy, SME Strategy, Circular Economy Action Plan, Bioeconomy Strategy, Biodiversity Strategy, Farm to Fork Strategy, Textile Strategy, Plastics Strategy, the Action Plan on Critical Raw Materials, and the Forest Strategy.

More specifically, the focus on circularity [[In synergy with Horizon Europe Clusters 4 and 5, in particular, Cluster 4 dealing with industrial and technological aspects and raw materials supply, including construction with lower environmental footprint, through modularisation, digital technologies, circularity and advanced materials, while Cluster 6 has a systemic approach across sectors including civil society, covering the whole value chain: including technological, business, governance and social innovation aspects.]] aims at less waste and more value by extending the lifetime and retaining the value of products and materials. It supports a sharing, reusing, and material-efficient economy, in a safe way, and minimises the non-sustainable use of natural resources. The cascading use of materials and innovative upcycling of waste to new applications is encouraged. The safe and sustainable use of biomass and waste [[EU Waste Framework legislation:]] for the production of materials and products, including nutrients, can reduce Europe’s dependence on non-renewable resources, cut GHG emissions, offer long-term circular carbon sinks and substitutes to fossil-based and carbon-intensive products, and reduce pressures on biodiversity and its wide range of ecosystem services. The potential of biological resources goes beyond biomass processing into renewable products. It includes the use of organisms and their parts in “green” (i.e. more environmentally friendly) bio-based industrial processes. Marine and land-based biotechnology can provide new sustainable and safe food and feed production methods, greener industrial products and processes, new health-related products, and can help characterise, monitor and sustain the health of marine and terrestrial ecosystems. The potential of marine resources and biotechnology will contribute to the coming “blue economy”, accelerating the transition towards a circular and climate-neutral economy that is sustainable and inclusive. The concepts of the circular economy, bioeconomy and blue economy converge and altogether provide an opportunity to balance environmental, social and economic goals, with their sustainability ensured by the life cycle assessment approaches.

Acknowledging the multiple benefits of circularized material/substance and energy flows, such circularity however has to be achieved in a safe, non-hazardous way without (re-)connecting epidemiological pathways or introducing pathogen/toxin enrichment cycles when involving biogenic materials. Established circularized material/substance flows have to be complemented with accompanying research in their safety and non-hazardous to health, society, economy and nature. In addition, a local and regional focus [[In synergy with Horizon Europe Cluster 4, with focus on the industrial dimensions; and Cluster 5, covering cross-sectoral solutions for decarbonisation (including on community level), whereas Cluster 6 targets systemic regional and local (i.e. territorial) circular and bioeconomy approach.]] is crucial for a circular economy and bioeconomy that is sustainable, regenerative, inclusive and just. Innovative urban and regional solutions and value chains can create more and better quality jobs and help our economies rebound from the COVID-19 crisis.

A systemic and science-based circular transition with the help of research, innovation and investments will address all issues from material selection and product design via resource efficiency along the value chain to an optimised after-use system, incorporating reuse, repair and upgrade, refurbishment, remanufacturing, collection, sorting and new forms of recycling and upcycling also to improve the waste cycle management. It will tackle all barriers and mobilise all key stakeholders. The development of definitions, taxonomies, indicators and targets will inform and support policy and decision making. The use of advanced life cycle methods such as the European Commission Product Environmental Footprint (PEF), data and information will enable economic actors, including consumers, to make sustainable choices. The development and deployment of specific technological and non-technological circular solutions, including new business models, will cover intra- and inter-value chain collaboration between economic actors. The development of a working after-use system for plastic-based products, incorporating reuse, collection, sorting, and recycling technologies will provide insights into the transition towards a circular economy for key material flows including plastics. The Circular Cities and Regions Initiative (CCRI)[[]] under the European Circular Economy Action Plan will expand the circular economy concept beyond traditional resource recovery in waste and water sectors and support the implementation, demonstration and replication of systemic circular solutions for the transition towards a sustainable, regenerative, inclusive and just circular economy at local and regional scale. Water use will be tackled from a circularity perspective, aiming at pollution prevention, resource efficiency and business opportunities.

Bio-based innovation lays the foundations for the transition away from a fossil-based carbon-intensive economy by encompassing the sustainable sourcing, industrial [[In synergy with Horizon Europe Clusters 4, 5 (including their European Partnerships), whereas Cluster 4 targets industrial dimension (including digitisation and circular and climate neutral / low carbon industry, including developing bio-integrated manufacturing), and Cluster 5 covers cost-efficient, net zero-greenhouse gas energy system centred on renewables (including R&D necessary to reduce CO2 emissions from the power and energy-intensive industry sector, solutions for capturing, utilisation and storage of CO2 (CCUS), and bioenergy and other industrial sectors), while Cluster 6 covers the research and innovation based on sustainable biological resources (bioeconomy sectors), in particular for new sustainable feedstock development and through the development of integrated bio-refineries).]] [[In synergy with the European Partnership on Circular Bio-based Europe (CBE), under Horizon Europe Cluster 6.]] and small scale processing and conversion of biomass from land and sea into circular bio-based materials and products with reduced carbon and environmental footprint including lower impacts on biodiversity and long-term circular carbon sinks in sustainable products substituting carbon-intensive ones, with improved end-of-life including biodegradability in specific natural as well as controlled environments. It also capitalises on the potential of living resources, life sciences and industrial biotechnology for new discoveries, products, services and processes, both terrestrial and marine. Bio-based innovation can bring new and competitive economic activities and employment to regions and cities in the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, revitalising urban, rural and coastal economies and strengthening the long-term circularity of the bioeconomy, including through small non-food bio-based solutions. Furthermore, targeted and well-tailored investments can increase and diversify the income of primary producers and other rural actors (e.g. SMEs).

To enable the bio-based innovation, environmental objectives and climate neutrality will build on a robust understanding of environmental impacts and trade-offs of bio-based systems at the European and regional scale, including the comparisons to similar aspects on the fossil and carbon-intensive counterparts. Systemic impacts of bio-based systems on biodiversity and its wide range of ecosystem services as well as how we restore and use them, need to be assessed, and negative impacts avoided in line with the “do no harm” principle of the European Green Deal. Implementing sustainable and just bio-based value chain requires symbiosis across primary production and industrial ecosystems in regions, Member States and Associated Countries and improved environmental performance of products, processes, materials and services along value chains and life cycles.

The multifunctional and sustainable management of European forests as well as the environmentally sustainable use of wood and woody biomass as a raw material have a crucial role to play in the achievement of the EU’s climate and energy policies, the transition to a circular and sustainable bioeconomy as well as the preservation of biodiversity and the provision of ecosystem services such as climate regulation, recreation, clean air, water resources and erosion control among many others. Furthermore, forestry and the forest-based sector offer important opportunities for wealth and job creation in rural, peripheral and urban areas. The condition of European forests is increasingly threatened by a growing number of social, economic and environmental and climatic pressures. The European Green Deal and the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 recognise that the EU’s forested area needs to improve, both in quality and quantity, for the EU to reach climate neutrality and a healthy environment. The multifunctionality and the sustainable forest management under rapid climate change will be enabled through a variety of approaches, including the use of intelligent digital solutions, enhanced cooperation in forestry and the forest-based sector as well as the establishment of an open-innovation ecosystem with relevant stakeholders.

Aquatic biological resources and blue biotechnology are crucial to delivering on the Green Deal’s ambition of a ‘blue economy’, which alleviates the multiple demands on the EU's and the Associated Countries’ land resources and tackles climate change.

The immense marine and freshwater biodiversity both faces and offers solutions to multiple challenges such as climate, biodiversity loss, pollution, food security, green products, and health but remains largely unexplored. Unprecedented advances in the biotechnology toolbox (e.g. -omics, bioinformatics, synthetic biology) have triggered an increased interest in the potential of aquatic bioresources. Further research and innovation will be key to unlocking the value of the marine and freshwater biological resources available in Europe, including its outermost regions by learning from the functioning and processes of aquatic living organisms to provide a sustainable products and services to the society, whilst avoiding systemic impacts on biodiversity. Algae biomass is becoming increasingly important not only as food but also as a sustainable source of blue bioeconomy products such as pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and speciality chemicals. Although only a small fraction of marine microbial diversity has been characterised to date, advances in genetic and sequencing technologies are opening new avenues for the understanding and harnessing marine microbiomes such as for the biodiscovery of new products and services for the environment and society.

Expected impacts

Proposals for topics under this destination should set out a credible pathway to developing circular economy and bioeconomy sectors, achieving sustainable and circular management and use of natural resources, as well as prevention and removal of pollution, unlocking the full potential and benefits of the circular economy and the bioeconomy, ensuring competitiveness and guaranteeing healthy soil, air, fresh and marine water for all, through better understanding of planetary boundaries and wide deployment and market uptake of innovative technologies and other solutions, notably in primary production (forestry) and bio-based systems.

Specifically, the topics will target one or several of the following impacts, for circular economy, bio-based sectors, forestry and aquatic value chains:

  • Regional, rural, local/urban and consumer-based transitions towards a sustainable, regenerative, inclusive and just circular economy and bioeconomy across all regions of Europe based on enhanced knowledge and understanding of science, in particular regarding biotechnology-based value chains, for all actors, including policy makers, to design, implement and monitor policies and instruments for a circular and bio-based transitions.
  • European industrial sustainability, competitiveness and resource independence by lowering the use of primary non-renewable raw materials and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other negative environmental footprint (including on biodiversity), enabling climate-neutrality and higher resource efficiency (e.g. by circular design, improved waste management, cascading use of biomass) along and across value chains, developing innovative and sustainable value-chains in the bio-based sectors, substituting fossil-based ones, increasing circular practices in textiles, plastics, electronics and construction, developing recycling technologies and industrial symbiosis, increasing circular bio-based systems from sustainably sourced biological resources replacing carbon-intensive and fossil-based systems, with inclusive engagement of all stakeholders;
  • Improved consumer and citizen benefits, including in the rural settings by establishing circular and bio-based systems based on sustainability, inclusiveness, health and safety; reaching a significantly higher level of involvement of all actors (manufacturers, retailers, consumers, public administration, primary biomass producers etc.);
  • Multi-functionality and management of forests in Europe based on the three pillars of sustainability (economic, environmental and social);
  • Enlarged potential of marine and freshwater biological resources and blue biotechnology to deliver greener (climate-neutral circular) industrial products and processes, and to help characterise, monitor and sustain the health of aquatic ecosystems for a healthy planet and people.

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.

In addition to the impacts listed above, topics under this destination will address the following impact areas of the Horizon Europe Strategic Plan for 2021-2024: “Climate change mitigation and adaptation”, “Enhancing ecosystems and biodiversity on land and in waters”, “A resilient EU prepared for emerging threats”; “Inclusive growth and new job opportunities”; “Industrial leadership in key and emerging technologies that work for people”.

Link Link to Programme
Thematic Focus Clustering, Development Cooperation, Economic Cooperation, Research & Innovation, Technology Transfer & Exchange, Climate, Climate Change, Environment & Biodiversity, Circular Economy, Sustainability, Natural Resources, Agriculture & Forestry, Fishery, Food, Consumer Protection, Capacity Building, Cooperation Networks, Institutional Cooperation
EU Macro-Regions
Adriatic and Ionian Region, Alpine Region, Baltic Sea Region, Danube Region
Funding area EU Member States
Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)
Origin of Applicant EU Member States
Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)
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.

The JRC, international European research organisations and legal entities created under EU law are deemed to be established in a Member State other than those in which the other legal entities participating in the action are established. Applications for ‘Training and mobility’actions and for ‘Programme co-fund’ actions may be submitted by one or more legal entities, provided that one of those legal entities is established in a Member State or an Associated Country. Applications for ‘Coordination and support’ actions may be submitted by one or more legal entities, which may be established in a Member State, Associated Country or, in exceptional cases and if provided for in the specific call conditions, in another third country. Applications for ‘Pre-commercial procurement’ actions and ‘Public procurement of innovative solutions’ actions must include as beneficiaries a ‘buyers’ group’. This group must consist of a minimum of two independent legal entities that are public procurers, each established in a different Member State or Associated Country and with at least one of them established in a Member State.

Eligible applicants Education and Training Centres, Federal State / Region / City / Municipality / Local Authority, Research Institution, Lobby Group / Professional Association / Trade Union, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, SMEs (between 10 and 249 employees), International Organization, Microenterprises (fewer than 10 employees), NGO / NPO, Public Services, Other, National Government, Start Up Company, University, Enterprise (more than 250 employees or not defined), Association
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.
Type of Funding Grants


Published on 17.10.2021

Hubs for Circularity European Community of Practice (ECoP) platform (Processes4Planet Partnership)

Link to Call

Published on 17.10.2021

Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) approaches

Horizon Europe - Cluster 5 - Destination 1: Climate sciences and responses for the transformation towards climate neutrality

Link to Call
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