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 design and demonstrate integrated and replicable approaches to protect and restore natural lake ecosystems and their biodiversity.
Project results are expected to contribute to all of the following expected outcomes:
Natural lakes are understood for the purposes of this Work Programme as natural inland bodies of standing surface freshwater or brackish water. There are more than 500 000 natural lakes larger than 1ha in Europe. There were over 2 800 lakes in the EU with bad or poor ecological status and over 8 000 lakes with moderate ecological status in 2018. The main pressures affecting the ecological status of European lakes are hydro-morphological pressures, pollution, in particular from chemicals and nutrient enrichment, water abstraction and climate change impacts. Nutrient enrichment results in algal blooms influencing the ecological status of these waters as well as their use for drinking and recreation.
Proposals under this topic are expected to show how their activities and results will achieve the Mission objective 1 - Protect and restore marine and freshwater ecosystems and biodiversity, in line with the timeframe of the Mission phases, i.e.: by 2025 for the ‘development and piloting’ phase and 2030 for the ‘deployment and upscaling phase’.
The proposals should design and demonstrate integrated and replicable approaches to protect and restore natural lake ecosystems and their biodiversity that result in a significantly improved ecological and chemical status and maintain it in the long-term. The integrated approaches should cover physical and biochemical elements and address in an integrated way all main pressures on the lake ecosystem, (e.g.: water level regulation, water extraction, agriculture, soil pollution, aquaculture and navigation, main source of pollution, barriers to connectivity, pressures on biodiversity, including invasive alien species). Proposals should also consider threats and risks associated to climate change and pressures on biodiversity.
The demonstration activities should combine measures and solutions to reduce pressures and stressors, to restore and protect the lake ecosystem and its biodiversity, in particular using effective nature-based and circular-biobased solutions in the lakes, along shorelines and across their catchments to reduce use of chemicals and retain nutrients. The demonstration sites should be located on natural lakes with a surface area exceeding 1 km2.
To address the impact-driven approach of the Mission and the nature of Innovation Actions, proposals are expected to work with and engage at least 3 ‘associated regions’ to showcase the feasibility, replicability and scalability of the solutions developed within the projects in other areas. ‘Associated regions’ are understood as areas with ecosystems that can benefit from the demonstration activities (e.g. in the context of this topic, regions with another natural lake located in EU Member States and/or Associated countries) and/or less-developed regions, with the need to build capacity to implement the innovative solutions to restore freshwater ecosystems. The proposals should ensure that the 'associated regions' are located in Member States/Associated countries other than those that are part of the project consortium. The involvement of 'associated regions' that have not yet participated in Mission projects is encouraged. The partners will proactively reach out to the 'associated regions' to enable them to follow closely the project and its demonstration activities. The projects should continuously share their outcomes and knowledge with those ‘associated regions’ and provide them with technical assistance to build capacity and to implement natural lake restoration and protection solutions in their territory to contribute to achieve the Mission objectives. The technical assistance to the ’associated regions’ should include advice to the prepare roadmaps, plans and projects to restore and protect natural lakes, to address possible barriers and show the feasibility of implementing innovative solutions.
Proposals should outline the selection process of the third parties to which financial support would be granted based on principles of transparency, objectivity and fairness, in accordance with part G of the general annexes to this work programme.
The projects should support data and knowledge sharing through and as well benefit from the Ocean and Water Knowledge System to foster cross-regions, pan-European approaches. An European Digital Innovation Hub (EDIH) on Natural lakes – at interregional/transnational level – could be envisaged.
The proposals are expected to integrate actions within basins and across lake catchments that support social and economic transitions towards sustainable, inclusive and long-term management of the restored and protected ecosystems. These should include natural, social, economic and cultural elements and business models for generating revenue from the restored and protected ecosystems. For that purpose, demonstrations should involve local business communities, in particular SMEs, investors and other business stakeholders.
Training, upskilling and communication activities towards stakeholders, including regional and local authorities from the ‘associated regions’ should be included in each proposal. Local actors, including where appropriate, the European Solidarity Corps and Mission Citizen Assemblies, should be involved in ecosystem restoration and protection activities and any actions for social and economic transitions towards sustainable inclusive and long-term management of the restored ecosystems, using activities like citizen science to encourage involvement and stewardship of lakes and their catchments.
To be eligible for funding, applicants must be established in one of the following countries:
See the full list in the General Annexes.
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 12.00 million.
The Commission estimates that an EU contribution of around EUR 4.00 million would allow these outcomes to be addressed appropriately.