Following the presentation of the European Green Deal in December 2019 and the publication of its new industrial strategy Making Europe's businesses future-ready: A new industrial strategy for a globally competitive, green and digital Europe in March 2020, the European Commission has recently launched a large European Green Deal call under the aegis of the Horizon 2020 programme for research and innovation. 

The Green Deal call aims to support with €1 billion the research and innovation projects in:

  • eight thematic areas reflecting the key work streams of the European Green Deal:

    • Increasing climate ambition: cross-sectoral challenges
    • Clean, affordable and secure energy
    • Industry for a clean and circular economy
    • Energy and resource-efficient buildings
    • Sustainable and smart mobility
    • Farm to fork
    • Restoring biodiversity and ecosystem services
    • Zero-pollution, toxic-free environment

  • three horizontal areas on strengthening knowledge; empowering citizens; and international cooperation:

    • Strengthening our knowledge in support of the European Green Deal
    • Empowering citizens for transition towards a climate neutral, sustainable Europe
    • Accelerating the clean energy transition and access in partnership with Africa

A survey recently conducted by the Policy Learning Platform among its users’ community has identified the circular economy transition as one of the most relevant topics for policy makers dealing with SME competitiveness. This topic is addressed in the call area 3 Industry for a clean and circular economy, with clear expectations  and opportunities  for policy makers and other regional stakeholders.

The call especially highlights that 'a circular economy concept should be a central component in local and regional economies, which have a suitable scale for closing resource loops, creating sustainable circular ecosystems and designing participatory community-based innovation schemes.' It is also 'essential that the transition to a sustainable, resource-efficient and circular economic model also delivers on social objectives and contributes to sustainable human development'.

In this context, the EC is looking for proposals aiming at implementing and demonstrating circular systemic solutions for the territorial deployment of the circular economy (including the circular bioeconomy) in one 'circular territorial cluster' (e.g. public administrations and utilities; private sector services and industries, including small and medium enterprises (SMEs), scientific and innovator communities; financial intermediaries; civil society, including citizens and non-governmental organisations and philanthropy).

Ideally each cluster should have a Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP) in which the proposed systemic solution is embedded. The implemented systemic solutions should also help to create critical mass for public and private investments and public procurement and should contribute to overcoming market failures. They could test public-private partnership models, interregional cooperation mechanisms and multilevel funding synergies useful for de-risking business investments. They should improve consumers’ understanding and acceptance of circular and climate-neutral services and products. Proposals should also explore synergies with other funds, including Cohesion Policy funds, the Just Transition Fund and InvestEU, hereby showing pathways to market uptake.

Deadline for the submission of proposals is 21 January 2021.

European Commission’s Circular Cities and Regions Initiative 

Supporting the implementation of circular economy solutions at local and regional scale

Proposals funded under this topic will form part of the demonstration projects for the implementation of the European Commission’s Circular Cities and Regions Initiative (CCRI) and must be carried out in close cooperation and coordination with it. The CCRI is part of the new Circular Economy Action Plan and aims to support the implementation of circular economy solutions at local and regional scale. The CCRI will be implemented in the coming months. In addition to the projects selected in the call, the CCRI will also implement a Coordination and Support Office, in charge of coordination and support activities

For the members of the Interreg Europe community involved in circular economy and support to SMEs, this will be a very interesting space for meeting and exchanging with other policy makers on the state of the art of circular economy in Europe.

Image credit: Photo by Scott Webb from Pexels