When business meets the environment

Funding areas

While all sectors are potentially eligible for funding under the Eco-innovation initiative, certain activities have been singled out as priority areas because of their considerable impact on the environment and their potential contribution to meeting the EU's own environmental objectives. These priorities may change from one year to another. Priorities currently covered include recycling, building products, food and drink, water and green business.

Materials Recycling

Almost 3 billion tonnes of waste were generated in the EU 27 in 2006, and the rate is increasing at rates comparable to economic growth. Improvement in the way waste is managed in the EU is therefore urgently needed.

The initiative aims to:

  • Implement waste sorting and treatment methods to improve the quality of recycling materials such as construction, industrial, household, electrical and electronic waste;
  • Encourage the design of innovative products using recycled material and facilitate material recycling;
  • Multiply business innovations that strengthen the competitiveness of the recycling industries.

Eco-innovation projects can tackle all forms of waste, from industrial to agricultural. The recycling plant to be built by the ECOMETRE project will recover nickel from industrial waste heading for landfill. The FERPODE project makes organic fertiliser from hen manure and vegetable extract.

Sustainable building products

The building sector has a huge environmental impact and the EU job market depends heavily on the construction sector. Buildings and construction consume a lot of natural resources and generate a lot of waste. The sector uses more than 50% of all materials extracted from the earth and generates more than 450 million tonnes/year of waste in the EU. Managing and disposing of old buildings is also problematic.

Full development of the market for sustainable construction is necessary to tackle the impacts.

Eco-innovation aims to encourage the use of:

  • Environmentally-friendly construction materials and innovative manufacturing processes;
  • Construction products and related processes that reduce consumption of resources, embodied carbon and production of by-product wastes.

ECBP is bringing (or will bring) an innovative wooden floor adhesive onto the market that does away heavy metals and volatile organic material.

Food and drink sector

The European food and drink industry is the largest manufacturing sector in the EU, generating 13% of the EU manufacturing sector turnover and employing over four million people. However, improvement in innovation expenditure and in the environmental performance of production and consumption of food and drink products are needed in order to increase the competitiveness of the sector.

The initiative hopes to achieve:

  • Innovative products including new packaging solutions that reduce environmental impact and maximise resource efficiency;
  • Cleaner and more efficient processes that reduce waste and increase materials recycling and recovery;
  • Improved water management processes that reduce the use of water across the food and drink supply chain;
  • Innovative products, processes and services reducing environmental impacts of consumption of food and drink.

The BRITER-WATER project treats waste water from fruit juice and dairy industries applying intensified bamboo based phytoremediation on-site in a cost-effective and eco-friendly manner. The reduction of sewage sludge, an unavoidable by-product of the treatment of waste water from the meat and dairy industry, is the main aim of the WASTERED project. A new product will reduce the sludge produced and stabilize the biological treatment process at different sites in Germany, Poland and Spain.


Water is essential not only for direct uses, but also for ensuring the integrity of ecosystems and the goods and services they provide to humans. As freshwater depletion and pollution is becoming increasingly problematic, it is crucial to boost the market uptake of innovative solutions to improve water efficiency and water quality in different sectors. In the specific context, projects focussing on water efficiency should reduce water consumption by at least 30%.

Eco-Innovation wants to support:

  • Water efficient processes, products and technologies, especially water-free processes;
  • Water and wastewater treatment: solutions that offer greater efficiency and reduced environmental impact;
  • Smart distribution systems aiming at saving water, chemicals, energy and materials.

Greening business

Small businesses need support to help them reduce their environmental impact while remaining competitive. With 20 million small firms representing 99 % of businesses, SMEs are a key driver for economic growth in the EU. It is important to assist them in adapting to the challenges of climate change and to seize the business opportunities that arise from this process.

The initiative is encouraging:

  • Innovative products that will decrease environmental impacts and use less resources;
  • Greening of production and clean production processes, including industrial symbiosis;
  • Substitution of materials by materials with reduced environmental impacts and higher resource efficiency (e.g. bio-based products), substitution of scarce materials and increased use of secondary raw material;
  • Gradual innovation by introducing re-manufacturing mechanisms and innovative repairing services with substantial environmental benefit.

Eco-label products are going online - the Eco-label e-store is creating a B2B online store for products that conform to the EU's and other accredited eco-labels. Focusing on cleaner production, BISCOL produces a new type of bio-dyes for the textile industry by replacing high polluting chemicals with biological compounds, and by reducing energy consumption of the dyeing process.

Have a look at our projects database EU Eco-innovation Action Plan

Last update: 08/01/2015 | Top