At Veltha, we are proud to be part of a European community which recognises the need for a Green Deal; a blueprint to modernise the EU’s economy and society and reorient them towards a more ‘just and sustainable future’. To achieve this, the European Commission has promised funding to find solutions focused on these principles. The next research and innovation program, “Horizon Europe” is dedicating a significant proportion of its funding towards meeting Green objectives. Alongside many other stakeholders in the circular economy research field, we celebrate principles enshrined by this cause. Nonetheless, in the recent invitation for feedback on the call, we identified a number of criticisms aimed at specific areas of the project outline. We base this feedback on our dedication to maximise the value produced by existing research already funded by the Union, as well as the important need to implement, with immediate effect, policies that provenly create circular economies and sustainable societies.

In Area One, ‘increasing climate ambition and Green Deal impact with cross-cutting solutions’, we welcome the recognition of the need to address the climate crisis from many different angles; it also understands that creating a sustainable Europe will increase the health and happiness of European citizens. However, we take issue with Topic Three, ‘climate-resilient innovation packages for EU regions’. This proposal supports ‘the development of innovation packages’ to identify and upscale ‘the most promising solutions’ for climate adaptation.

While we commend the ethic of this topic, we contend that much of this research already exists. Veltha is one of many organisations funded by the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme. Of the 300 plus projects already underway, many focus on the pressing solutions needed to tackle the climate crisis, including the technical and policy mechanisms needed to ensure EU cooperation and success in this area. The SCREEN project produced a set of tools and methodologies for EU collaboration and identification of circular value chains, which it introduced to eight EU regions. Another pilot will involve 25 EU regions in a dedicated digital platform in the project DIGIPRIME (Digital Platform for Circular Economy in Cross-sectorial Sustainable Value Networks). 

Henceforth, we recommend that the Council’s proposals focus on the coordination and implementation of existing research. We believe that this would help both extend the impacts of relevant projects already completed, and more importantly, provide a quicker pathway to a climate-resilient world. 

We offer a related line of feedback to Area Three, ‘industry for a clean and circular economy’ and the language used in Topic Two, ‘demonstration of systemic solutions for the territorial deployment of the circular economy’. The concept of ‘circular economy’ is both complex and diverse; it is not reducible to a singular definition or a lone plan of action (as implied in the sentence phrasing). Circular economy solutions, therefore, require constant analysis and consequent adaptation when and as they are applied to cross-regional and multi-sectoral value chains. We echo again that this research is ongoing, in many different formats, including through the SCREEN and DIGIPRIME projects noted above. We encourage the Commission to support these existing proposals, such as SCREEN’s policy lab, and to take a leading role in implementing the solutions already available.

We encourage the Commission to take into account this feedback, as well as the concerns of all our research partners (we were one of 6000 organisations to respond to the call). However, we look forward to taking part in this innovation, creating the new world that a Green Deal will bring.