Horizon Europe is the EU’s key funding programme for research and innovation. Read more about the Horizon Europe programme here.
This call aims to empower a green transition towards healthy soils by developing solutions in a co-creative manner and involving actors in real life settings.
Activities under this topic respond directly to the goal of the Mission ‘A Soil Deal for Europe’ of setting up 100 living labs to lead the transition to healthy soils by 2030.
They support the specific objectives of the Mission ‘A Soil Deal for Europe’ dealing with urgent soil health challenges (see in particular specific objectives 1 to 6 and 8).
Activities should thereby contribute to meeting the European Green Deal ambitions and targets, such as those related to food and nutrition security, climate, biodiversity, environment and rural areas.
Project results are expected to contribute to all of the following outcomes:
While more research is needed to restore and maintain healthy soils in the EU, an important barrier still encountered to accelerate the transition towards a climate-neutral and green European Union is the gap between science and practice, between knowledge and implementation. The Mission ‘A Soil Deal for Europe’ proposes a novel approach to research and innovation in the area of soil health, including the implementation of living labs. Living labs have the potential to empower a green transition towards healthy soils by developing solutions in a co-creative manner and involving actors in real life settings at territorial level to achieve large-scale impact.
Nowadays, there exist various definitions and conceptualizations of living labs. However, three components are recognizable within the now well-established living labs research concept, which include (a) co-creation with a large set of stakeholders, (b) carried out in real-life settings and (c) involving the end-users. For the purpose of the Mission ‘A Soil Deal for Europe’, Soil health living labs are defined as “user-centred, place-based and transdisciplinary research and innovation ecosystems, which involve land managers, scientists and other relevant partners in systemic research and co-design, testing, monitoring and evaluation of solutions, in real-life settings, to improve their effectiveness for soil health and accelerate adoption”.
Living labs are collaborations between multiple partners that operate and undertake experiments on several sites at regional or sub-regional level. Individual sites could be e.g. farms, forest stands, urban green or industrial areas, enterprises and other entities, where the work is carried-out and monitored under real-life conditions, regardless of the land size, tenure (land ownerships) or the type of economic activity.
Lighthouses, in contrast, are defined as “places for demonstration of solutions, training and communication that are exemplary in their performance in terms of soil health improvement”. They are individual, local sites (one farm, one forest exploitation, one industrial site, one urban city green area, etc.) that either can be part of a living lab or be situated outside a living lab.
According to the Mission Implementation Plan, living labs involve partners from different backgrounds, disciplines and/or sectors and are composed of 10 to 20 experimental sites. However, depending on the specific context (e.g. the land use(s), the soil health challenge(s) addressed), applicants can propose living labs with fewer experimental sites. By working together on themes of common interest, the various partners involved in a living lab will be able to replicate actions and solutions, compare results, exchange good practices, validate methodologies and benefit from cross-fertilisation within a local/regional setting.
More specifically, each of the funded projects should:
In line with the nature of living labs, proposals must implement the multi-actor approach. The list of stakeholders will vary depending on features specific to each living lab and can involve different types of actors such as researchers, land owners or land managers, industry (e.g. SMEs), public administrations, representatives of civil society (e.g. consumers, environmental NGOs). Care should be taken to describe the capabilities and roles of the different partners involved in the project, depending on their area of expertise. For example, while some partners may lead the conceptual work and coordinate the work within and across living labs, others may focus on carrying-out experiments, providing advice, testing and validating innovative solutions, or be involved in outreach activities.
To be eligible for funding, applicants must be established in one of the following countries:
Unless otherwise provided for in the specific call conditions, only legal entities forming a consortium are eligible to participate in actions provided that the consortium includes, as beneficiaries, three legal entities independent from each other and each established in a different country as follows:
The total indicative budget for the topic is EUR 36.00 million.
The Commission estimates that an EU contribution of around EUR 12.00 million would allow these outcomes to be addressed appropriately.