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Piloting innovative governance solutions to limit nitrogen and phosphorus emissions at the interface of rural/coastal and urban/industrial environments


In line with the overarching objective to bring N/P flows back within safe ecological and planetary boundaries and to achieve the deliverables of the European Green Deal and other relevant EU legislation, at regional level, this Innovation Action (Pilot) explores innovative governance solutions to support transferring resources and services between rural/coastal and urban/industrial environments while limiting N/P emissions and other emissions exacerbating pollution, biodiversity loss and climate change. N/P relevant materials and residues discarded in one environment may be a valuable resource in another context but are not always exploited due to systemic or structural barriers. Actions may include piloting incentives (regulatory, structural, financial, behavioural etc.), innovative supply and value chains and novel infrastructures or other governance solutions.

Proposals should

  • Develop novel or adapt existing governance models and test in an operational environment how these innovative tools and instruments will drive systemic change to promote circularity, environmental protection and closed N/P circles at the urban/rural interface.
  • Demonstrate these innovative governance models in geographically representative regional clusters throughout the EU and associated countries. A cluster may be formed by two or more regions/river basins, in EU and associated countries, with very similar characteristics in terms of territorial conditions or being neighbouring regions/river basins, which feature similar degrees of N/P emission pressures as well as physical, social and economic specificities and governance structures. All relevant stakeholders (local authorities, farmers and other rural stakeholders, urban/industrial actors, environmental protection organisations, academia etc.) should be involved.
  • Showcase how innovative governance models at relevant levels can contribute to achieving EU objectives, such as the targets of the farm to fork and biodiversity strategies on reducing fertiliser use by 20% and nutrient losses by 50% until 2050[[cf.]], by fostering ecologically responsible and sustainable use, recovery and exchange of N/P relevant resources, services and infrastructures between urban/industrial and rural/coastal environments while taking into account local specificities.
  • Identify opportunities to exchange N/P flows between both environments and demonstrate novel governance/structural approaches to fully exploit synergies that help bring these flows back within safe ecological boundaries by building on past and ongoing Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe projects that develop a regional N/P load target approach while keeping within safe ecological boundaries.
  • Implement innovative practices and technologies at different governance and stakeholder levels in order to promote increased dialogue and collaboration, to encourage behavioural change and public acceptance of recovered products as well as more effective problem-solving mechanisms.
  • Assess these novel governance approaches, develop guidelines and recommendations for all concerned stakeholders on how to best implement these novel governance approaches, disseminate results and best practice, and envisage regional twinning and mentoring schemes.
  • Review existing EU policies and contribute to designing harmonised, coherent and efficient policies and regulatory instruments that facilitate eliminating and preventing N/P pollution and conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the ecological and economic cost of non-action.

Applicants are encouraged to select different regional clusters per project and to diversify their proposed consortium by involving a wide range of relevant stakeholders, such as primary producers, representatives of administrations at different levels, actors from related industries, value chains, environment organisations, academia, citizens, etc. Proposals should further include a task dedicated to sharing methodologies and findings with projects funded within this topic.

This topic is part of the demonstration projects for the implementation of the European Commission’s Circular Cities and Regions Initiative (CCRI) and should be carried out in close cooperation with it.

Social innovation is recommended when the solution is at the socio-technical interface and requires social change, new social practices, social ownership or market uptake.

In this topic the integration of the gender dimension (sex and gender analysis) in research and innovation content is not a mandatory requirement.