Research & Innovation - Participant Portal


TOPIC : Water in the context of the circular economy

Topic identifier: CIRC-02-2016-2017
Publication date: 14 October 2015

Types of action: IA Innovation action
Opening date:
10 November 2015
2nd stage Deadline:
08 March 2016 17:00:00
06 September 2016 17:00:00

Types of action: IA Innovation action
Opening date:
08 November 2016
2nd stage Deadline:
07 March 2017 17:00:00
05 September 2017 17:00:00

Time Zone : (Brussels time)
  Horizon 2020 H2020 website
Pillar: Industrial Leadership
Work Programme Year: H2020-2016-2017
Topic Description
Specific Challenge:

The European water sector has a prominent position in economy and society, but it is very diverse and fragmented. It needs to revolutionise the way public and private actors work together so as to address water-related challenges and seize on opportunities strengthening a demand-driven approach. A systemic approach, incorporating both the physical structure of the system and the rules governing the operation, performance and interactions of its components, could address those issues in an integrated manner. Such an approach should go beyond the pursuit of wastewater treatment and reduction of water use to inspire technological, organisational and social innovation through the whole value chain of water (i.e. water as a resource, as a productive input and as a waste stream), moving towards a circular economy approach.

More specifically, with an increasing global demand for food, feed and fibre, the demand for nutrients is growing. Although increasing food and biomass production necessitates a higher application of nutrients, current fertilisation practices use resources inefficiently. At the same time accumulation of nutrients is causing major environmental problems. The EU legislation is already aiming at regulating nutrient emissions to the environment but more can be done to encourage a transition to an efficient nutrient recovery and recycling. Water is the most used carrier of nutrients and, at the same time, an important resource itself. Water treatment management models and technologies have the potential to create new business opportunities for an extensive nutrient recovery and contribute to the circular economy. However, an extensive implementation of integrated nutrient recovery technologies and the use of the recovered nutrients at European level is still lacking and this is proposed to be addressed in the 2016 call for proposals.

In addition, today's water services aim mainly to save water and to improve its quality. However, water becomes more and more a scarce resource as a result of urbanisation, increased competition between various uses, economic sectors and extreme weather events. To deal effectively with these pressures, there is a need for improving water systems by considering the whole water-use production chain and by identifying solutions that enhance both the economic and environmental performance of the system. These innovative solutions should be in line with the objectives of the circular economy, contributing to the challenges of a depletion of raw materials (e.g. through the recovery of resources from waste water) and climate change (reducing energy needs or producing energy) and should be demonstrated at large scale. This is proposed to be addressed in the 2017 call for proposals.


Proposals shall address one of the following issues:

a) Demonstrating the potential of efficient nutrient recovery from water (2016): The objective of this topic is to implement large scale demonstration projects to tap the potential of nutrient recovery and to encourage the use of these nutrients throughout Europe. Projects should cover the whole value chain from recovery of nutrients to their recycling. The demonstration may involve recovery technologies implemented in any water sector (i.e. industrial, agriculture, or municipal). Treatment schemes should be optimised to allow better recovery rates and material qualities adapted to users’ needs and capacities. A life-cycle assessment approach should be used together with environmental and health risk assessment methodologies. New business models exploiting the benefits associated with nutrient recovery and recycling should also be implemented and tested. The proposals should include an outline business plan which can be developed further in the course of the project. Relevant legal, societal and market challenges affecting the recycling of recovered nutrients and their market uptake should be addressed. Involvement of social sciences and humanities disciplines is deemed necessary, for instance to address issues such as attitudes to and acceptance of recycled products. Prospective end-users need to be involved in the projects, informing them about the quality and safety requirements to be met by the products derived from nutrient recovery, thus ensuring the involvement of the demand side to increase market success. Proposals should include participation of industry partners from relevant sectors, and active participation of SMEs where relevant.

This topic supports the implementation of the EIP Water, addressing several priority areas such as water and wastewater treatment, including recovery of resources, and water reuse and recyling.

Where technological innovation is concerned, TRL 5-7 should be achieved.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 6 million and EUR 8 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

b) Towards the next generation of water systems and services – large scale demonstration projects (2017): The objective of this topic is to demonstrate innovative solutions at a large scale (i.e regions, cities and/or river basins), in line with EIP Water priorities and the objectives of the Water Framework Directive. Proposals should focus on developing the water services of the future, going beyond water supply sustainability addressing the different water value chains. They should integrate, for instance, the management of water resources and the provision of water services, expanding the re-use of treated waste water and the use of desalinated water (where appropriate), ensuring carbon neutral water services, and closing the water cycle by increasing the efficiency of wastewater treatment plants, including the recovery of energy and the re-use of chemicals and nutrients.

Projects should build on experience already gained in areas where integration of various aspects of water management and other economic and social activities is already taking place at different levels, with replication potential in other areas of Europe or at wider scale, thus demonstrating a real added-value at EU level. Successful projects should engage all relevant stakeholders, especially user communities, at an early stage in the co-creation process, bringing together technology push and application pull. This is also necessary to show the potential of using systemic eco-innovative approaches in water, to overcome related barriers and bottlenecks and to create new opportunities for jobs and growth in various regions and river basins. Participation of industry partners from relevant sectors is considered essential and the active participation of SMEs is encouraged. The application of new business models and new value chains is encouraged. The proposals should include an outline business plan which can be developed further in the course of the project. Where relevant, integrated environmental impact assessments and risk assessment of potential harmful substances should be considered. Relevant socio-economic issues, in particular, regulatory/governance issues, social behaviour and acceptability should also be addressed, requiring the participation of social sciences and humanities disciplines such as political sciences, economics, governance and business studies. To enhance the systemic approach and the transformation of water services toward a more circular economy approach, digital technologies and ICT tools should be also considered. Activities aiming at facilitating the market uptake of innovative solutions, including standardisation, should also be addressed.

Within the projects funded, additional or follow-up funding should be sought, be it private or public, so as to achieve a more effective implementation and deployment at larger scale and scope of the innovative solutions addressed. Additional funding sources could include relevant regional/national schemes under the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF), such as under the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), or other relevant funds such as the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA II). In these cases, contacts could be established with the funds' managing body during the duration of the projects. In case of relevance for the Research and Innovation Smart Specialisation Strategies, the project proposals could already indicate which interested regions/countries have been pre-identified. Please note, however, that reference to such additional or follow-up funding will not lead automatically to a higher score in the evaluation of the proposal.

Where technological innovation is concerned, TRL 5-7 should be achieved.

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

For both (2016 and 2017): Within the projects funded, possible regulatory barriers should also be addressed, as appropriate. In particular 'Innovation Deals' may be proposed. By 'Innovation Deal' an innovative better regulation instrument is understood, in the form of voluntary agreements with external stakeholders to identify and overcome regulatory barriers to innovative solutions that would enable policy or legislative objectives to be better achieved.

Expected Impact:

Projects are expected to contribute to:


  • decreasing the dependency on primary nutrient resources and increasing the supply security at European level;
  • reducing the adverse effects of nutrient emissions on the environment;
  • closing the water and nutrients cycles in the whole production and consumption value chain;
  • improving the quality of data on nutrient flows, thus providing important information for investments into the recycling of recovered nutrients;
  • creating new green jobs and industries around nutrient recovery and recycling, including exports;
  • creating new business opportunities for industry and SMEs in the EU, contributing to the exploitation of EU innovative solutions, and improving the competitiveness of European enterprises in the global market for eco-innovative solutions;
  • improving the policy and market conditions in Europe and globally for large scale deployment of innovative solutions;
  • providing evidence-based knowledge regarding the enabling framework conditions (such as the regulatory or policy framework) that facilitate a broader transition to a circular economy in the EU.


  • significant reduction of the current water and energy consumption at regional and/or river basin scale by closing the cycles of material, water and energy, using alternative water sources and supporting the transition towards smart water services;
  • interconnectivity between the water system and other economic and social sectors;
  • increased public involvement in water management;
  • increased citizen satisfaction with water services;
  • replication of new business models in other areas and replication of models for synergies between appropriate funding instruments at regional, national or European level;
  • closing of the infrastructure and investment gap in the water service sector;
  • creation of new markets in the short and medium term;
  • providing evidence-based knowledge regarding the enabling framework conditions (such as the regulatory or policy framework) that facilitate a broader transition to a circular economy in the EU;
  • implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG 12 'Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns' and SDG 6 'Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all', as well as the conclusions of the COP21 Paris Agreement[1].

[1]The Paris Agreement was adopted at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, in Paris on 12 December 2015.

Topic conditions and documents

Please read carefully all provisions below before the preparation of your application.

    described in part A of the General Annexes of the General Work Programme.

    Note also that 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 (follow the links to Australia, Brazil, Canada,
    ChinaHong Kong &Macau, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Taiwan).

    described in part B and C of the General Annexes of the General Work Programme.

    Proposal page limits and layout: Please refer to Part B of the standard proposal template.


    3.1  Evaluation criteria and procedure, scoring and threshold:

    The criteria, scoring and threshold are described in General Annex H of the work programme.
    The following exceptions apply:

    For single-stage and second-stage evaluations, the threshold for the criteria Excellence and Impact will be 4. The overall threshold, applying to the sum of the three individual scores, will be 12.

    The procedure for setting a priority order for proposals with the same score is given in General Annex H of the work programme. The following exceptions apply:

    Under 3 (a)
    Proposals are first ranked in separate lists according to the topics against which they were submitted (‘topic ranked lists’). When comparing ex aequo proposals from different topics, proposals having a higher position in their respective 'topic ranked list' will be considered to have a higher priority in the overall ranked list.

    Under 3 (b)
    For all topics and types of action, the prioritisation will be done first on the basis of the score for Impact, and then on that for Excellence.

    3.2 Submission and evaluation process: Guide to the submission and evaluation process


    Information on the outcome of two-stage evaluation:
          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.

    for the type of action under this topic

    Innovation Action:

    Specific provisions and funding rates
    Standard proposal template
    Standard evaluation form
    H2020 General MGA -Multi-Beneficiary
    Annotated Grant Agreement


    Horizon 2020 budget flexibility

    Classified information

    Technology readiness levels (TRL) – where a topic description refers to TRL, these definitions apply.

    Financial support to Third Parties – where a topic description foresees financial support to Third Parties, these provisions apply.


    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.

    - 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.


    Legal basis: Horizon 2020 - Regulation of Establishment

    Legal basis: Horizon 2020 Rules for Participation

    Legal basis: Horizon 2020 Specific Programme

    H2020 Work Programme 2016-17: Introduction

    H2020 Work Programme 2016-17: Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials

    H2020 Work Programme 2016-17: Cross-cutting activities (Focus Areas)

    H2020 Work Programme 2016-17: Dissemination, Exploitation and Evaluation

    H2020 Work Programme 2016-17: General Annexes


Additional documents

  • Flash Call Info CIRC 2016 TwoStage en
  • Flash Call Info CIRC 2017 TwoStage-Stage 1 en
  • Generalised Feedback after TwoStage-Stage 1 evaluation - CIRC-01b-2017 en
  • Flash Call Info CIRC 2017 TwoStage-Stage 2 en

Submission Service

No submission system is open for this topic.

Get support

H2020 Online Manual your online guide on the procedures from proposal submission to managing your grant.

Participant Portal FAQ – Submission of proposals.

National Contact Points (NCP) - 
contact your NCP for further assistance.

Research Enquiry Service
– ask questions about any aspect of European research in general and the EU Research Framework Programmes in particular.

Enterprise Europe Network
– contact your EEN national contact for advice to businesses with special focus on SMEs. The support includes guidance on the EU research funding.

IT Helpdesk
- contact the Participant Portal IT helpdesk for questions such as forgotten passwords, access rights and roles, technical aspects of submission of proposals, etc.

Clean Sky 2 National Contact Points
- Clean Sky 2 JU States Representative Group

Clean Sky 2 Helpdesk:

ECSEL National Contact Points
– consult Annex G of the ECSEL Work Plan

ECSEL Helpdesk:

IMI States Representative Group (SRG)
– contact you SRG member for assistance.

IMI JU IT Helpdesk
– for IMI2 topics contact the SOFIA IT helpdesk for questions such as forgotten passwords, access rights and roles, technical aspects of submission of proposals, etc.

– for compliance with ethical issues, see the Participant Portal and Science and Society Portal

European IPR Helpdesk
assists you on intellectual property issues

and CENELEC, the European Standards Organisations, advise you how to tackle standardisation in your project proposal. Contact CEN-CENELEC Research Helpdesk at

The European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for their recruitment

Partner Search Services
help you find a partner organisation for your proposal

IMI Partner Search Tool
helps you find a partner organisation for your proposal