EU commits €1bn of Horizon 2020 funding to circular economy until 2020

The European Commission (EC) has announced that it will allocate almost €1 billion in support of the circular economy in the European Union (EU) until 2020.

The €941 million (£828.3 million) funding comes as part of the final programme of work for the Horizon 2020 programme, a €77-billion (£68 billion) research and innovation funding programme running from 2014 to 2020.

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The final programme of work will cover the budgetary years of 2018, 2019 and 2020 and will dedicate a total of €30 billion (£26 billion) to critical topics such as migration, security, climate, clean energy and the digital economy.

Commenting on the announcement of the new funding, Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said: "Artificial Intelligence, genetics, blockchain: science is at the core of today's most promising breakthrough innovations. Europe is a world leader in science and technology and will play a major role in driving innovation. The Commission is making a concerted effort – including with the European Innovation Council which takes its first steps today – to give Europe's many innovators a springboard to become world leading companies."

The Work Programme will be underpinned by an impulse for market-creating innovation, with the first phase of a European Innovation Council (EIC) to come into effect to support innovative firms across any technology or sector to rapidly scale-up their businesses to European and global levels.

Funding the circular economy

The latest work programme lists ‘connecting economic and environmental gains’ through the circular economy as one of its flagship ‘focus areas’. This means mobilising Research and Innovation to support a raft of actions intended to make a strong contribution to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), climate action, resource efficiency, jobs and growth and industrial competitiveness.

These actions will include ‘climate action in support of the Paris Agreement (including cities’ and ‘greening the economy in line with the SDGs (including circular economy, water, raw materials, natural and cultural assets)’, ‘making the transition towards a circular bioeconomy’, ‘linking different industrial sectors and public bodies to enable industrial symbiosis’, and developing ‘more integrated value chains’.

With these actions in mind, the circular economy focus area hopes to achieve:

  • A much better use of resources, including energy and raw materials;  
  • Significant reductions in waste and pollution;
  • Sustaining and making use of natural cycles;  
  • Competitive advantages for existing businesses; and
  • Opportunities for new businesses, including disruptive innovation

Circular economy to get £495m of EU funding in 2016/17Actions will be taken as part of the EU’s Circular Economy Package (CEP), the final composition of which is currently being negotiated by the European Commission, Council and Parliament and will include a reuse and recycling target for municipal waste of between 60-70 per cent, a reuse and recycling target for packaging waste of between 65-75 per cent, and a limit of waste-to-landfill of 10 per cent.

The funding for this ‘big ticket’ challenge will be divided evenly over the next three years, with the circular economy receiving €342.7 million (£303 million) in 2018, €370 million (£327 million) in 2019, and €352 million (£311.3 million) in 2020.

In addition to funding for the circular economy, the final Horizon 2020 Work Programme will dedicate €3.3 billion (£2.92 billion) to securing a low-carbon, climate resilient future, €2.2 billion (£1.95 billion) for clean energy projects focusing on renewables, energy-efficient buildings, electro-mobility and storage solutions with €200 million (£176 million) to support the development of the next generation of electric batteries, €1.7 billion (£1.5 billion) to digitising and transforming European industry and services, €1 billion (£884 million) to support European security initiatives, €200 million (£176 million) to deal with the effects of the migrant crisis.

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