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Moving towards a circular economy through industrial symbiosis

Specific challenge: Growing prosperity leads to the extraction and use of more resources and to the production of more waste. The EU is committed to implement the principles of the waste hierarchy, which implies the prevention of waste, its reuse and recycling where it is not prevented, and its energy recovery as sub-optimal option. This calls for eco-innovative solutions and resource-efficient products, processes and services, and their uptake which will be facilitated by new sustainable lifestyles and consumption behaviour.

Industrial symbiosis, whereby different actors derive mutual benefit from sharing utilities and waste materials, requires large-scale systemic innovation with the aim of turning waste from one industry into useful feedstock for another one. The management of waste material flows coming from different sectors calls for reliable and harmonised data for the estimation of composition, patterns of supply and quantity of wastes generated over the year(s), in order to achieve reliable and predictable feed-stocks of secondary raw materials for industrial plants. Industrial symbiosis needs ample coordination between a variety of stakeholders, such as industry, research, civil society organisations, public authorities and policy makers, and an increased awareness of producer responsibility for waste production, which is essential in consideration of the central role of businesses in the economic and societal transformation.

Industrial symbiosis has been identified by the SPIRE PPP as one of the solutions to be addressed to achieve more efficient processing, resource and energy efficient systems for the process industry.

Scope: Proposals should aim to demonstrate and analyse, with a life cycle perspective, innovative processes and services, including organisational and management systems and business models, or a combination thereof, that increase product life-spans, enable product and material reuse, recycling, recovery, with an upgrading cascading approach for recovered materials and products, and reduce generation of waste along product chains in different production processes as well as reduce the utilisation of feedstock materials and the emission of harmful substances. Proposals may also address design for repairability and recyclability, and should either focus on a specific production value chain, or have a cross-sectoral approach establishing industrial symbiosis leading to closed-loop processes, or combine both.

Proposals should give a significant role to SMEs, as far as possible. Opportunities for social innovation, encouraging more sustainable consumption behaviour and lifestyle change, and involving civil society, should be considered, with appropriate attention to the gender dimension and to the barriers to raising awareness of eco-innovative solutions and their market, household and community penetration.

Systemic and cost-effective solutions will benefit from innovative ICT solutions for waste traceability, waste material flow management, and the estimation of the availability, composition and quality of waste.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 8 and 10 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: Measurable reduction of waste generation and resource use in the medium term. Significant gains in productivity against the state of the art for waste treatment plants and in material and energy efficiency, with reduction of greenhouse gas and other pollutants emissions in the short term. Contribution to standards validated by industrial players and identification of best available techniques and emerging techniques under the Industrial Emissions Directive. Significant increase in European and global market up-take and replicability of eco-innovation solutions, measured by qualitative and quantitative indicators, contributing to an important reinforcement of the eco-industry landscape in Europe in the short term, and to the adoption of more sustainable consumption behaviour and lifestyle in the medium term. Support, where appropriate, to the implementation and evaluation of technology verification schemes, also from a gender perspective, including the EU Environmental Technology Verification Pilot (ETV) programme[1]. Support to the implementation of the roadmap of the SPIRE PPP.

Type of action:Innovation actions