Research & Innovation - Participant Portal


TOPIC : Building a water-smart economy and society

Topic identifier: CE-SC5-04-2019
Publication date: 27 October 2017
Focus area: Connecting economic and environmental gains - the Circular Econonmy (CE)

Types of action: IA Innovation action
Opening date:
14 November 2018
2nd stage Deadline:
19 February 2019 17:00:00
04 September 2019 17:00:00

Time Zone : (Brussels time)
  Horizon 2020 H2020 website
Pillar: Societal Challenges
Work Programme Year: H2020-2018-2020
Topic Description
Specific Challenge:

There is a growing demand for water from various economic activities and increasing stress on natural water sources. To secure water for our society, there is therefore a need to make available alternative water resources of various qualities and which are appropriate for different functions and multiple users, and to better exploit water resources and all the valuable substances that could be obtained through the wastewater treatment and reuse process. However, innovations in this domain remain fragmented and/or only experimented at small scales; testing and deployment in operational environments and at scales suitable for encouraging wider uptake is still missing.


Actions should demonstrate the feasibility of a 'water smart' economy and society in which all available water resources, including surface, groundwater, waste water, and process water, are managed in such a way as to avoid water scarcity and pollution, increase resilience to climate change, appropriately manage water-related risks, and ensure that all valuable substances that could be obtained from waste water treatment processes, or are embedded in used water streams, are recovered.

Actions should address only one of the following sub-topics:

a) Symbiosis between industry and water utilities: Actions should demonstrate resource-efficient solutions derived from the systemic exploitation of symbiotic inter-linkages between wastewater treatment in industry and by water utilities. These might address, for instance, the reuse of treated wastewater, the use of substances or energy derived from wastewater treatment, or might demonstrate the concept of dynamic allocation of the right quality of water for the right purpose, while ensuring health and safety. Innovative solutions do not need to be only technological, but may also encompass other types of innovation such as innovative governance and stakeholder engagement or business models in industrial environments.

b) Large scale applications with multiple water users at various relevant scales: Actions should test and demonstrate systemic innovation in real life, large scale operational environments. Actions should address multiple water users (urban, industrial, rural and agricultural) and various relevant scales (regional/national/international) for:

  • stimulating efficient and multiple use, recycling and reuse of water; recovery of energy and materials (such as nutrients, minerals, chemicals and metals) from water;
  • managing water demand and efficient allocation;
  • exploiting alternative water sources;
  • prevention of water pollution and degradation of the aquatic environment and soil; and
  • cost-effective and smart management of the water system and infrastructure.

As far as possible, the innovative solutions should include all of the above-mentioned activities. Actions should also consider: new marketing and financing concepts and strategies to maximise the multiple values of water and increase the attractiveness of the water sector for investors; new governance approaches and decision-making instruments for water managers; water systems vulnerability approaches and other sustainability assessments (e.g. footprint, Life Cycle Assessment).

The participation of social sciences and humanities, also addressing the gender dimension, is considered crucial to properly address the complex challenges of this topic, especially those related to human behaviour and attitudes towards water, the inter-linkages between policy and implementation, and acceptance of the solutions developed by both the public and other water users.

For both sub-topics, deployment of enabling digital solutions for the monitoring, control and optimisation of data and processes is also encouraged. Where appropriate, related regulatory and institutional barriers which prevent the wide application of developed innovative solutions should be addressed. Where technological innovation is concerned, TRL 5-7 should be achieved. To assure applicability and wide deployment of the innovative water technologies in different conditions (including different water resources, economic, social and regulatory settings) involvement of market take-up partners and/or end users from a wide range of different European regions is strongly encouraged, as well as SME participation.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 10 million and EUR 15 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected Impact:

The project results are expected to contribute to:

  • significantly reduced use of water from freshwater sources;
  • improved recovery and use of resources (materials and water itself), including energy;
  • mobilisation of water-related investments and synergies with other funding instruments.
  • the creation of new business opportunities and increased competiveness of EU industries;
  • supporting, as appropriate, the implementation of EU water policies, the transition to a more circular economy at different scales and economic and social conditions[1], water security, water use efficiency, enhanced resilience to climate change and achievement of the relevant Sustainable Development Goals;
  • the implementation of the objectives of the EIP Water and, where appropriate, supporting the implementation and evaluation of technology verification schemes, including the EU Environmental Technology Verification Pilot (ETV) programme.
Cross-cutting Priorities:

Socio-economic science and humanities
Open Innovation
Contractual Public-Private Partnerships (cPPPs)

[1]part of this topic contributes to the roadmap of the SPIRE cPPP.

Topic conditions and documents

1. Eligible countries: described in Annex A of the Work Programme.
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 2020 projects. See the information in the Online Manual.

2. Eligibility and admissibility conditions: described in Annex B and Annex C of the Work Programme.

Proposal page limits and layout: please refer to Part B of the proposal template in the submission system below.

3. Evaluation:

  • Evaluation criteria, scoring and thresholds are described in Annex H of the Work Programme.  
  • Submission and evaluation processes are described in the Online Manual.

4. Indicative time for evaluation and grant agreements:

Information on the outcome of evaluation (two-stage call):
For stage 1: maximum 3 months from the deadline for submission.
For stage 2: maximum 5 months from the deadline for submission.
Signature of grant agreements: maximum 8 months from the deadline for submission.

5. Proposal templates, evaluation forms and model grant agreements (MGA):

Innovation Action:

Specific provisions and funding rates
Proposal templates are available after entering the submission link below.
Standard evaluation form
General MGA - Multi-Beneficiary
Annotated Grant Agreement

6. Additional provisions:

Horizon 2020 budget flexibility
Classified information
Technology readiness levels (TRL) – where a topic description refers to TRL, these definitions apply

Members of consortium are required to conclude a consortium agreement, in principle prior to the signature of the grant agreement.

8. Additional documents:

1. Introduction WP 2018-20
12. Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials WP 2018-20
18. Dissemination, Exploitation and Evaluation WP 2018-20

General annexes to the Work Programme 2018-2020

Legal basis: Horizon 2020 Regulation of Establishment
Legal basis: Horizon 2020 Rules for Participation
Legal basis: Horizon 2020 Specific Programme

7. Open access must be granted to all scientific publications resulting from Horizon 2020 actions.

Where relevant, proposals should also provide information on how the participants will manage the research data generated and/or collected during the project, such as details on what types of data the project will generate, whether and how this data will be exploited or made accessible for verification and re-use, and how it will be curated and preserved.

Open access to research data
The Open Research Data Pilot has been extended to cover all Horizon 2020 topics for which the submission is opened on 26 July 2016 or later. Projects funded under this topic will therefore by default provide open access to the research data they generate, except if they decide to opt-out under the conditions described in Annex L of the Work Programme. Projects can opt-out at any stage, that is both before and after the grant signature.

Note that the evaluation phase proposals will not be evaluated more favourably because they plan to open or share their data, and will not be penalised for opting out.

Open research data sharing applies to the data needed to validate the results presented in scientific publications. Additionally, projects can choose to make other data available open access and need to describe their approach in a Data Management Plan.

Projects need to create a Data Management Plan (DMP), except if they opt-out of making their research data open access. A first version of the DMP must be provided as an early deliverable within six months of the project and should be updated during the project as appropriate. The Commission already provides guidance documents, including a template for DMPs. See the Online Manual.

Eligibility of costs: costs related to data management and data sharing are eligible for reimbursement during the project duration.

The legal requirements for projects participating in this pilot are in the article 29.3 of the Model Grant Agreement.

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Submission Service

To access the Electronic Sumission Service, please click on the submission-button next to the type of action that corresponds to your proposal. You will then be asked to confirm your choice of the type of action and topic, as these cannot be changed in the submission system. Upon confirmation, you will be linked to the correct entry point.

To access existing draft proposals for this topic, please login to the Participant Portal and select the My Proposals page of the My Area section.

Type of Action Innovation action [IA]
Topic Building a water-smart economy and society - CE-SC5-04-2019
Guidance on proposal submission: H2020 online manual
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