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Research and innovation

Circular economy strategy

What a circular economy means, how research and innovation will help deliver on the circular economy action plan and investment opportunities

What does a circular economy mean?

A circular economy means rejecting the linear take-make-waste economy and adopting a regenerative model: using processes that restore, renew or revitalise their own sources of energy and materials and wasting as little as possible.

Moving to circularity requires novel materials and products with new design, new technologies and production processes. Using less material to get the same or higher utility from products is an important part of the shift to circularity. High impact materials like concrete will need to be replaced with low impact ones such as ones made of renewable bio-based resources.

But it's not just about materials, innovation in new business and governance models is just as important.

Whole value chains and material flows must become circular. Digital innovation will be key to making this happen.

Information on products' environmental performance can empower consumers, who will drive the demand for sustainable solutions. Value chain information will facilitate circular collaboration and increase efficiency.

Research and innovation is crucial to fill knowledge gaps and develop specific technological solutions.

Delivering on the circular economy action plan

The EU's next research and innovation programme Horizon Europe will help speed up the transformation to a circular economy and deliver on the EU's circular economy action plan.

Horizon Europe will support large-scale systemic solutions and regional demonstration projects such as the circular cities and regions initiative.

It will focus on important material streams and sectors highlighted in the action plan, including plastics, construction, electronics, and textiles.

Investment opportunities

Mature innovation needs to reach the market. The circular bioeconomy investment fund and other financial instruments will de-risk investment into market applications.

Financial support for circular innovation will be available in the InvestEU, European Structural and Investment Funds and the Recovery and Resilience Facility.