Environmental sustainability and circularity criteria for industrial bio-based systems
Successful proposals will support bio-based industries, traders and researchers and innovators, to assess and trace the environmental impacts and circularity of industrial bio-based systems in order to enable responsible production and to steer innovation in the industrial bio-based systems in the EU. Project outcomes will contribute to enhancing circular bio-based systems to operate according to planetary boundaries, replacing fossil-based systems and their carbon footprint, mitigating climate change, restoring biodiversity and protecting air, water and soil quality along supply chain of biological feedstock and industrial value chains, in line with the 2030 climate target plan, the EU zero pollution action plan and the communication on sustainable carbon cycles.
Projects results are expected to contribute to the following expected outcome:
- Standardisation of methods assessing the environmental impacts on soil, water and air quality, biodiversity and climate, and the circularity along the value chains of bio-based products for international trade at EU and global scale.
- Methods to assess the environmental sustainability and the circularity of low TRL bio-based technologies.
- Orientations for research and innovation programmes in the bio-based sectors. Scope :
The environmental sustainability and circularity assessment of industrial bio-based systems is instrumental to guarantee and monitor that they are developed in a way they can contribute to the just green transition of the EU economy away from a linear fossil-based system. On one hand, the method for such assessment, applied to high TRL bio-based solutions, would represent an instrument for policy makers and for investors, to support the deployment of and to leverage investments in the best performing bio-based sectors. On the other hand, the assessment of the environmental sustainability and circularity of low TRL, cutting-edge bio-based technologies is important to understand the potential of emerging technologies to contribute to the just green transition, also compared to the more mature technologies. Such knowledge would have an impact on the programming of R&I support initiatives, to save resources and move faster towards the scaling-up of the most promising bio-based technologies, including focussing on the potential environmental hotspots of the emerging technologies.
The assessment of the environmental sustainability and circularity should benefit to the greatest extent possible from existing methodologies and indicators, which can be adapted if needed. Methods and indicators should use the available environmental observations efficiently.
To deliver on the expected outcome, proposals should:
- Identify the range of high TRL industrial bio-based systems in the Union to be analysed in the project. Industrial bio-based systems within the scope of this topic do not include food, feed, biofuels, bioenergy and cultural and recreation sectors;
- Improve existing and/or develop new methods to assess environmental impacts of the selected industrial bio-based systems on climate, biodiversity, land use and water resources as priorities, but also on soil, water and air quality. Assessments should consider the life cycle perspective. The impact on climate should include the both the greenhouse gas emissions and the carbon removal potential of bio-based systems. The analysis should include trade-offs, for example between direct and indirect land use and land use change impacts and the carbon storage and substitution effect of bio-based products and provide an overall assessment of the environmental sustainability of the systems within the scope;
- Improve existing and/or develop new metrics of circularity of industrial bio-based systems based on the application of the cascading approach of biomass use, the resources efficiency, and effectiveness on a life-cycle perspective (i.e. durability, reuse, repair, remanufacturing and recycling patterns of bio-based products), other circular aspects;
- Analyse trade-offs and synergies with economic and social objectives (including geographical distribution aspects, urbanization pressures, etc.) and with competing and adjacent economy sectors in the bioeconomy (e.g. food and feed, biofuels and bioenergy) as well as with the fossil-based industrial systems;
- Collect and analyse the (range of) best available industrial bio-based systems within the Union in terms of environmental and circular performances, to build a set of benchmarks or references with best performances for similar industrial systems;
- Include the environmental sustainability and circularity of bio-based products, as assessed through the methods developed under the project, in existing certification scheme at EU and global scale, to enable international trade of certified sustainable bio-based products;
- Consult stakeholders on the applicability of proposed certification schemes, also to improve the societal readiness adaptation in terms of acceptability and uptake of innovations by society;
- Develop and disseminate guidelines for targeted stakeholders on the assessment methods and the enhanced certification schemes developed in the project;
- Perform a preliminary analysis and improvement of the methods for the assessment of environmental sustainability and circularity performances of bio-based supply and value chains adapted to very low TRL bio-based technologies through: i) a review of the “prospective” LCA approaches and applications to bio-based and fossil-based technologies, with a focus on the environmental sustainability and circularity assessment approaches and tools. This task would lead to improve understanding and classifying the main challenges of prospective LCAs, e.g., comparability of results, input data availability, uncertainties/robustness, etc.; ii) the adaptation of the “prospective” LCA approaches to very low TRL bio-based technologies, including via modelling approach; iii) modelling the tests to validate the developed methods on a range of low TRL technologies and processes, including in relevant environments for future R&I projects; iv) including the analysis of potential synergies and trade-offs with economic and social objectives;
- Develop and disseminate guidelines to targeted stakeholders on the assessment of environmental sustainability and circularity performances of bio-based supply and value chains adapted to very low TRL bio-based technologies.
Consortia of applicants should involve LCA experts and researchers in the bio-based technologies, bio-based industries, trade bodies, consumers’ organisations and any relevant stakeholder along the value chain of industrial bio-based systems.
Where relevant, proposals should seek links with and capitalise on the results of past and ongoing EU funded projects, including under the Circular Bio-based Europe JU and other partnerships of Horizon Europe.
This topic requires the effective contribution of SSH disciplines and the involvement of SSH experts, institutions as well as the inclusion of relevant SSH expertise, in order to produce meaningful and significant effects enhancing the societal impact of the related research activities.
Specific Topic Conditions :
Activities are expected to achieve TRL 5 by the end of the project – see General Annex B.
 See for example HORIZON-CL6-2021-ZEROPOLLUTION-01-07: International and EU sustainability certification schemes for bio-based systems.
 See for example CBE JU2022.S1. Developing and validating monitoring systems of environmental sustainability and circularity: collection of best practices and benchmarks
- Admissibility conditions: described in Annex A and Annex E of the Horizon Europe Work Programme General Annexes
Proposal page limits and layout: described in Part B of the Application Form available in the Submission System
- Eligible countries: described in Annex B of the Work Programme General Annexes
A number of non-EU/non-Associated Countries that are not automatically eligible for funding have made specific provisions for making funding available for their participants in Horizon Europe projects. See the information in the Horizon Europe Programme Guide .
Other eligibility conditions: described in Annex B of the Work Programme General Annexes
Financial and operational capacity and exclusion: described in Annex C of the Work Programme General Annexes
Evaluation and award:
Award criteria, scoring and thresholds are described in Annex D of the Work Programme General Annexes
Indicative timeline for evaluation and grant agreement: described in Annex F of the Work Programme General Annexes
- Legal and financial set-up of the grants: described in Annex G of the Work Programme General Annexes
- Specific conditions: described in the [specific topic of the Work Programme]
Standard application form — call-specific application form is available in the Submission System
Standard evaluation form — will be used with the necessary adaptations