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Circular bio-based business models for rural communities


Based on an established agro-food system[[Agro-food system’ shall be understood here as a characteristic combination of farming activities and first transformation or conditioning of the farming outputs. In coastal areas, this may include fisheries, aquaculture and first processing of their products.]], proposals shall consider a variety of additional bio-based processes and end products that could be integrated into the system, and that are viable on a small scale (farm to rural community level). The TRL of the technologies considered can vary at the start. The project shall test and demonstrate the combination of these in a circular configuration. The integrated system shall achieve a TRL 6-7.

Proposals can target any combination of non-food bio-based outputs, but projects focussing mainly on bio-fuels or bio-energy are not eligible. The choice of feedstock sources shall avoid negative effects on food security[[E.g. by focusing on agricultural waste and/or dedicated crops on marginal/abandoned lands or through multi-cropping strategies.]]. Proposals shall focus on a single agro-food system that should be common in Europe and offer high replication potential, and can be combined with sustainable management of natural areas[[E.g. forestry or paludiculture (cultivation of marshlands).]] and/or use of marginal lands. A complete assessment (economic, environmental and social) of the integrated system shall be carried out. The project shall include a business plan[[The business plan should take into account, among other things, the marketability of the end-products]], and a set of policy options and recommendations.

Proposals shall fall under the concept of the 'multi-actor approach'[[See definition of the 'multi-actor approach' in the introduction to this part of the work programme.]], ensuring solid collaboration between relevant actors such as farmers or farmers associations, agro-food industry (including small businesses), technology providers, research centres or public authorities. Proposals should include a task to cluster with other projects financed under this topic, under topic CE-SFS-36-2020 and – if possible – with other relevant projects in the field that are funded by Horizon 2020 (including under the BBI JU).

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of up to 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.

To boost the development of a bio-based economy in Europe, there is a need for business models that can be replicated easily in a variety of locations and contexts, with relatively low levels of investment, risk and technical sophistication. A wider range of rural entrepreneurs needs to get involved in the emerging bio-based business sector, including farmers, forest owners, their associations, and small rural business. This will help to diversify and revitalise the economy and create quality jobs in rural areas. Local and regional authorities need to do more to support the bio-economy in their respective territories. They should therefore have a range of options to choose from and be able to select the approach that best suits local needs and assets. As a key part of a circular economy, the bioeconomy needs to close loops to make the most efficient possible use of biomass under market and logistical constraints, and to ensure the sustainability of business models.

Proposed activities will expand the range of business models available to entrepreneurs and local authorities by developing circular and sustainable business models with large potential for replication in areas with unexploited resources, at a relatively low cost, risk and with low levels of technical complexity. This will help to:

  • expand and diversify the sector by mobilising a wider range of players in the bio-based economy, including small businesses, farmers, forest owners and their associations;
  • develop regional and local bio-based models adapted to the wide variety of contexts found in the EU, including rural and remote areas and outermost regions;
  • ensure adequate recovery of nutrients and organic matter, and their reuse in agriculture.

In the longer term results consolidate a diversified, circular and climate-friendly bio-based sector that harnesses regional assets, provides quality jobs and opportunities in rural areas and revitalises rural economies.