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Financing the circular economy

The European Union is providing several funding programmes in order to support the transition to a circular economy, such as the European Structural and Investment Funds, Horizon 2020 and the LIFE programme.

See below for an overview of funding programmes at EU level
Overview of funding opportunities at Member States level

In addition, the European Investment Bank is providing finance and advice for circular economy projects through the European Fund for Strategic Investments and the “EU Finance for Innovators” (InnovFin) Programme.

Overview of the role of EIB in supporting the circular economy

Likewise, recognition of opportunities offered by circular economy businesses creating healthy portfolio to institutions and contributing to the transition towards a  circular and climate-neutral economy are increasingly attractive to the private sector.

Supporting the transition to a circular economy requires – among other things – redirecting capital flows towards sustainable investment. For the private sector, this means integrating environmental, social and governance factors into the investment decision-making process on top of economic ones. It also requires mobilising available public funding sources to make sure circular projects, whatever their technical readiness level, get the resources they need to unlock scalable solutions.

EU funding programmes and financing support

Horizon 2020 
Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020).

How to get Horizon funding
Funding and tenders for the circular economy
Report on circular projects funded by Horizon 2020

Regional policy support for the circular economy 
These investments can contribute to: more recycling, improved waste management, resource and energy efficiency, strengthening the bio-economy, novel solutions in product design, new business models and the creation of green jobs.

Cohesion policy programmes
Managing authorities
Open Data Portal
List of projects

Examples of circular economy projects funded with Regional Policy:

  • SYMBI, interregional project (partners in 7 Member States) supports the transition towards a circular economy through industrial symbiosis
  • Antwerp Circular South, engaging citizens at local level to co-create online and offline initiatives, experimenting with 'behavioural nudging' and using an alternative currency as incentive
  • Membrane-based composting facility in Tczew, Poland 

LIFE programme
The LIFE programme is the EU’s funding instrument for the environment and climate action created in 1992. The current funding period 2014-2020 has a budget of €3.4 billion.

Who can apply (sub-programmes for environment and climate action)
How to apply 
LIFE and the circular economy

Examples of circular economy projects funded with LIFE:

  • CIRCWASTE-Finland, aiming at implementing the Finnish National Waste Plan (NWP), will address bottlenecks to achieving national and EU targets in waste management, and help with 2016-2023 planning for resource efficiency and circular economy.
  • REPURPOSE Life Project promotes a culture of reuse in five housing estates in London, by supporting local social enterprises to create reuse hubs in redundant spaces in the heart of the estates.

Competitiveness for small and medium enterprises (COSME)
The programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises is improving access to finance for SMEs through two financial instruments: the Loan Guarantee Facility, and the Equity Facility for Growth.

COSME financial instruments for SMEs

Examples of circular economy projects funded with COSME:

  • EcoBirdy collects and recycles plastic to produce sustainable furniture for kids. The enterprise has also created a school programme for awareness-raising about plastic waste and recycling with kids.
  • The Worth Partnership Project creates and supports transnational collaborations between fashion designers, creative people, manufacturing enterprises (SMEs) and technology firms to develop design-driven and innovative products.

Global partnership: SWITCH Regional Programmes
The 'Switch to Green' flagship initiative, built upon the EU Switch regional programmes, brings focus on inclusive green economy for EU and partners.

Switch Africa
Switch Asia
Switch Mediterranean
Switch to Green