Research & Innovation - Participant Portal


TOPIC : High-quality organic fertilisers from biogas digestate

Topic identifier: CE-SFS-39-2019
Publication date: 27 October 2017
Focus area: Connecting economic and environmental gains - the Circular Econonmy (CE)

Types of action: IA Innovation action
Opening date:
16 October 2018
Deadline: 23 January 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:

Public policies in China and in several EU Member States have promoted the use of anaerobic digestion to treat organic wastes and to generate renewable energy. This has resulted in the production of considerable volumes of digestate as by-product, which could raise an environmental concern, prove costly and represent an inefficient use of biomass. The most straight-forward option for placing a value on digestate is to use it as an organic fertiliser and soil amender. However digestate is not highly appreciated by farmers as a soil treatment due to its significant shortcomings. These may include, amongst other things and depending on the feedstock source, potential risks of water pollution through leaching, soil contamination, or a threat to human health by food contamination. Furthermore, digestate is difficult to manage due to its fertilising properties, format and high water content.


Projects shall develop treatment technologies to convert digestate into a suitable fertiliser or soil amender. They could focus on a specific digestate type or develop a flexible process covering a variety of digestates. These treatments shall (i) reduce risks linked to biological and chemical hazards (including AMR) to acceptable levels, (ii) improve fertilising properties and (iii) address issues related to format, formulation and handling. Proper solutions must be sought for the liquid phase to avoid pollution.

The fertiliser developed must be suitable for direct use, or for mixed formulation with other fertilisers. Field tests must be implemented over an appropriate period of time to assess its agronomic properties, as well as its effect on the environment (including greenhouse gas emissions), and on food safety. Projects shall focus on technologies that could be deployed in a decentralised manner, at a relatively small scale. Such technologies shall achieve a technology readiness level (TRL) 6-7 by the end of your project. A comprehensive impact assessment (economic, environmental and social) of the business model shall be carried out, and policy recommendations shall be provided to boost its deployment.

Proposals shall ensure solid collaboration between agro-food actors, technology providers, research centres, end-users (farmers and farmers associations), and public administration. Projects shall perform a thorough analysis of the state of the art, and demonstrate that your proposed activities go beyond this state and do not overlap with past or ongoing research.

Proposals shall include a task to cluster with other projects financed under topic RUR CE-08-2018/2019/2020 and — if possible — with other relevant projects in the field funded by Horizon 2020, including under the Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU). Proposals shall promote balanced research and innovation cooperation between the EU and China. China-based entities that will participate in joint projects with European partners under Horizon 2020 have also the possibility to apply for funding under the Chinese co-funding mechanism.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of up to EUR 5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude the submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts. Contributions for Chinese participants will come in addition and will be made available by China.

Expected Impact:

Projects are expected to provide the technologies needed to develop commercial fertilisers based on biogas digestate. This will help to:

  • replace conventional, non-renewable mineral fertilisers, hence reducing external dependence and risks related to depletion;
  • reduce the environmental impacts linked to the inadequate management of biogas digestate, and to the production of fossil-based fertilisers;
  • develop new business models in rural areas, that are synergised with existing ones, creating value from digestate.

In the long term, this shall contribute to a more circular, resource-efficient and sustainable agro-food sector, and create wealth and quality jobs in rural areas.

Projects shall also contribute to increasing the innovation capacities of participating organisations, and to strengthening scientific and industrial collaboration between the EU and China.

Cross-cutting Priorities:

International cooperation

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. SME instrument: described in the Work Programme part "European Innovation Council (EIC)".


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


3. Evaluation:

4. Indicative time for evaluation and grant agreements:

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

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):

Research and Innovation Action:

Specific provisions and funding rates
Standard proposal template
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
9. Food security, sustainable agriculture and forestry, marine and maritime and inland water research and the bioeconomy 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 High-quality organic fertilisers from biogas digestate - CE-SFS-39-2019
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