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Call for proposals: Circular Cities & New Circular Solutions

Call for proposals Closed

See the funded projects under this call for proposals

The Nordic Innovation call for proposals Circular Cities & New Circular Solutions is our two-fold effort to challenge Nordic cities, companies, public bodies, industries, NGOs and other stakeholders to team up for new high-impact projects and to develop new circular solutions.

Due to the current situation regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) Nordic Innovation has decided to postpone the deadline of the grants for joint Nordic events to ensure that everyone has a fair chance of submitting their proposal in time. The new deadline is 21 April 2020.

Nordic Innovation aims to accelerate the transition to a circular economy in the Nordic countries and further develop the Nordics as agile frontrunners within the circular economy. Furthermore, we are working concretely to help to achieve the Nordic Prime Ministers’ vision of making the Nordic region the most sustainable, integrated region in the world by 2030.

Nordic Innovation is seeking projects that have the potential to generate high-impact, clear and scalable results and substantial Nordic added value. Projects where joint Nordic circular innovation can provide solutions to local, regional and global challenges are encouraged.

The call for proposals covers the two following areas:

  • Circular Cities: Public-private collaboration & Nordic cities as frontrunners in circularity
  • New circular innovations, products, services and processes

The areas may overlap, but applicants should state the main area of their project in the application.

Join us in seeking a circular and sustainable future

Application deadline: 21 April 2020 at 13.00 CET
Funding decision: 27 May 2020
Kick-off: 26 August 2020 (save the date)
Total budget: NOK 15 million

Questions regarding the call for proposals

Read more about how to ask questions in the: application process and other requirements section below.


The Nordic Prime Ministers have decided on a new vision for Nordic cooperation. The Nordic countries are to become the most integrated, sustainable region in the world by 2030, emphasizing green (circular and biobased), competitive and socially inclusive societies. The Nordic countries have the strongholds needed to be frontrunners in the circular economy. However, there are still issues to resolve in order to reach the climate targets and Sustainable Development Goals, especially number 12 (Sustainable production and consumption) and 13 (Climate Change). The challenge is translating talk into action. There are many strategies, and this call is designed to enable cooperation actions that can turn these strategies into concrete solutions to help reduce the CO2 footprint, reduce and optimize material use, promote innovations and implement new business models. This call for proposals addresses two of the four action areas that currently make up Nordic Innovation’s Nordic Sustainable Business Transformation program.


The purpose of this call is to initiate the establishment of Nordic innovation projects, new Nordic partnerships, value chains and/or business models in the field of Nordic Sustainable Business Transformation – Circular Cities and New Circular Solutions. Nordic Innovation aims to accelerate the transition to a circular economy in the Nordic countries and further develop the Nordics as agile frontrunners within the circular economy. Furthermore, we are working concretely to help to achieve the Nordic Prime Ministers’ vision of making the Nordic region the most sustainable, integrated region in the world by 2030.


Total budget: Nordic Innovation has allocated NOK 15 million to this call for proposals. Funding may be sought for both small- and larger-scale projects (0,5-3 million).

• The funding will be given in the form of a grant.
• Nordic Innovation reserves the right not to use the entire allocated budget.
• Own contribution of minimum 50 % applies.

Project duration: Maximum 24 months, starting contractually latest June 2020. The planned kick-off for the projects is June 2020.

About the program and thematic scope of the call

Nordic Sustainable Business Transformation is about the transition to a circular economy in the Nordic countries. The term “circular economy” refers to dynamic systems, meaning there is no specific end point, but rather a process of transformation in resource management and closed material cycles. We seek a broad and new approach, where the aim is to transition to a circular economy. Nordic Sustainable Business Transformation is also about business development, innovation, entrepreneurship and value creation in this field.

Applicants seeking funding should aim to increase competitiveness in Nordic companies and boost the Nordic circular economy through achieving one or more of the following outcomes:

• Speedier transition to a circular economy in the Nordic countries.
• Strengthened Nordic ecosystems and value chains in the circular economy.
• Nordic cities and regions as frontrunners in shaping and implementing circularity.
• Development of new, innovative Nordic circular solutions.
• Increased global market opportunities for Nordic circular economy solutions.

The Nordic Sustainable Business Transformation program is cross-sectoral. Under this call for proposals, Nordic Innovation is seeking projects that have the potential to generate high impact, clear, scalable results and substantial Nordic added value. Projects where joint Nordic circular innovation can provide solutions to local, regional and global challenges are also encouraged. We seek circular projects that boost added value and spark innovation by combining and building on Nordic strongholds using existing or new circular solutions. This includes innovative Nordic circular concepts and solutions that are ready for global markets.

This call for proposals covers the two following areas:
Circular Cities: Public-private collaboration & Nordic cities as frontrunners in circularity
New circular innovations, products, services and processes

The areas may overlap, but applicants should state the main area of their project in the application.

Area 1: Circular Cities: Public-private collaboration & Nordic cities as frontrunners in circularity

Nordic Innovation aims to support projects that will help speed up the transition to the circular economy, and thus to more resource-efficient societies in the Nordic region. To adapt to and manage technological changes and future needs, Nordic Innovation is looking for projects that will bring about systemic change and collaboration, optimizing the way resources are owned and used – a system that considers users (both consumers and businesses), operators (of both physical assets and services), owners, financiers, as well as regulators. We wish to challenge Nordic cities, companies, public bodies, NGOs, regulators and other stakeholders to collaborate and develop concrete new solutions and processes in city and/or regional environments.

Typical areas of interest include but are not limited to: industrial and urban symbiosis, construction, city resource management & closed material cycles as well as Nordic circular city networks/ecosystems. The projects should lead to acceleration of the circular economy in the Nordics by creating new business opportunities and solutions.

Area 2: New circular innovations, products, services and processes

A transition to a circular economy requires new business models and innovative products and designs that make use of non-toxic materials that can be endlessly cycled.

Areas of interest include new circular materials, technologies, pilots and collaborations that have the potential to transform our societies. As such, the projects are to ensure that future production processes or innovations will reduce the environmental impact towards carbon neutrality, as well as boost the competitiveness of Nordic industry with regards to sustainable products, solutions and services. Proposed projects can span across all sectors. Projects should promote a Nordic society that is more circular, more resource-efficient, more climate- and environment-friendly, for the benefit of all Nordic citizens. We are seeking initiatives that would have potential for high-impact, clear results and scalability.


Speeding up the transition to a circular economy will require raising general awareness and communication of success stories. Projects should therefore include information and plans for communication and branding in their project plans as well as a plan for how they expect to leverage the results and impact of the project.

Who can apply?

Companies (SMEs and larger companies), public sector organizations (e.g. infrastructure owners, regulators, procurers, innovation ecosystems), cluster organizations, business networks or research institutions may apply. Please note that the involvement of industry and the direct benefit of the project for companies in the Nordic region will be part of the evaluation criteria.

We are looking for consortia that show ambition, complementary strengths, competence and experience with cross border activities. As we emphasize the significance of active participation of problem and technology owners, consultancies should not take the role as project owner or project leader.

Applicants seeking to build a strong Nordic base/consortium for future EU projects on the circular economy are also invited to participate in this call. Consortium partners from countries outside the Nordic region are welcome to participate, but only partners from the Nordic countries can receive funding from Nordic Innovation.

Only Nordic partners will count towards the requirement of participants from minimum three Nordic countries.

General eligibility criteria

Only projects that meet all the following general eligibility criteria will be eligible for funding:

• The project must include partners from minimum three Nordic countries, preferably as many Nordic countries as possible.

• The balance between the countries should be reasonable. - Nordic Innovation requires co-funding of minimum 50%, in the form of direct funding or in-kind contributions (working hours).

• The total share of any in-kind contributions must be reasonable and well-balanced. The co-funding requirement applies to the project as a whole and not individual partners. - The project period cannot exceed 24 months.

• Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 6 or higher: (if applicable)
TRL 1 – basic principles observed
TRL 2 – technology concept formulated
TRL 3 – experimental proof of concept
TRL 4 – technology validated in lab
TRL 5 – technology validated in relevant environment (industrially relevant environment in the case of key enabling technologies
TRL 6 – technology demonstrated in relevant environment TRL 7 – system prototype demonstration in operational environment
TRL 8 – system complete and qualified
TRL 9 – actual system proven in operational environment

• Only applications submitted through Nordic Innovation’s application portal will be accepted.

• All applications must be within the scope of this call.

De Minimis Aid obligations

It is a requirement that all grants from Nordic Innovation comply with the aid rules of the European Union and the Agreement on the European Economic Area (The EEA Agreement). However, organisations under The Nordic Council of Ministers were given new guidelines for State Aid as of 2019, and these apply a.o. to Nordic Innovation.

The support offered is granted in compliance with Commission Regulation (EC) No 1407/2013 on the application of Articles 107 and 108 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union to de minimis aid, published in the Official Journal of the European Union L 352 from 24.12.2013.

Grants from Nordic Innovation comes from the five Nordic governments and a Nordic undertaking is allowed to receive up to € 200,000 of de minimis aid from each of the Nordic Countries. Consequently, a Nordic company can receive up to 1,000,000 EUR over a rolling period of three fiscal years from Nordic Innovation under the de minimis regulation, given that the company has received no grants as De Minimis Aid prior to this grant.

Eligible costs

Working hours, travel costs, meeting costs, communication, external services. Nordic Innovation’s approved hourly rate: Read more on What We Support.

Nordic Innovation Standard Terms and Conditions of Contract

Ineligible costs

• Basic research
• Investments in individual companies
• Independent freelance activities
• Writing applications
• Costs for procurement of equipment
• Overtime costs
• Salary increases
• Indirect taxes and duties, including VAT
• “Return on capital employed”, including dividends and other distributions of profits
• Provisions for possible future losses and charges
• Costs related to any interests
• Provisions for doubtful debts
• Unnecessary or ill-considered expenses
• Marketing, sales and distribution costs for production and services
• Leasing costs (or part thereof) where the leasing arrangement has the effect of unnecessarily increasing the charge made to the project (e.g. where the cost without interest of the leased equipment is higher than if purchased).

Evaluation criteria

All applications/project outlines will be evaluated based on the following four criteria

A. Impact (30%)
• Business level: Nordic Innovation seeks projects with the potential to create high-impact for Nordic companies, in terms of business opportunities and sustainable growth, more innovation, entrepreneurship or access to new markets.
• Nordic level: Applicants should describe the Nordic added value of the project (why will it be advantageous to carry out the project at Nordic level as opposed to e.g. at national or local level).
• Societal level: Applicants must clarify how the projects will address joint societal challenges or relevant Sustainable Development Goals (e.g. 12, 13). The projects should also have a potential for positive impact for Nordic citizens – and beyond.
• Exit strategy: All applications must demonstrate how they intend to ensure the sustainability of the project results and impact creation after the project has ended.
• Visibility: Nordic Innovation will prioritise high-impact projects with a high potential for visibility. Describe how the project and its results will be disseminated or given visibility.

B. Quality and relevance (25%)
The project must show quality and relevance in regard to:
• Nordic Innovation’s mission: To contribute to sustainable growth, increased entrepreneurship, innovation and competitiveness for Nordic companies.
• The topic Circular Cities & New Circular Solutions as described in this call.
• Cross-sectoral innovation within the topic of circular solutions.
• Describe the concrete innovative result and the innovative aspects of the project (new concept, process, business model, product or service) – of relevance to the call text.
• Describe how the project addresses real market needs.

C. Competence and implementation (25%)
• The consortium must demonstrate necessary and relevant implementation capacity and competence. The role, competence and responsibility of all project partners must be described, including the key role they play in implementing the project and/or the results of the project. Short CVs (1/2 page) may be attached.
• The Nordic added value and synergies created through the consortium as a whole must be described.
• Project partners should preferably have experience with international cooperation projects.
• The project plan and management should be realistic, well-structured and clearly defined.
• The involvement of Nordic businesses and industries must be described.

D. Budget and value for money (20%)
• The total budget and cost structure must be reasonable, realistic and in line with the ambitions of the project.
• A high degree of own investment in the project will be assessed positively as it demonstrates commitment to the project.
• Is the project financially viable and does it provide good value for money?
• A budget template will be available on Nordic Innovation’s website. This must be attached to the applications.
• How will the project be financially viable after the support period from Nordic Innovation.

Application process and other requirements

All applications must be submitted via the application portal on Nordic Innovation’s website. All questions regarding this call for proposals will be answered through a Frequently Asked Questions - section on Nordic Innovation’s website. The answers will be uploaded continuously.

Deadline for asking questions is 5 March 2020.

Questions regarding this call may be submitted to: Marthe Haugland Hanna Törmänen

Evaluation procedure

All applications will be evaluated by 1) A Nordic Innovation team and 2) An external Nordic evaluation panel with representatives from both the private and public sector.
The final funding decision lies with Nordic Innovation. All proposals will be evaluated according to the evaluation criteria described in this call text.

Communication and reporting

Funded projects should always acknowledge the support of Nordic Innovation in external communication (media, presentations, websites etc.). Furthermore, Nordic Innovation’s logo must be visible in all communication material related to the project.

Communication material should as a main rule be based on the Nordic Council of Ministers' design manual unless something else is agreed upon in the final contract.

When using social media, Nordic Innovation (Twitter: @nordicinno #circularnordic and LinkedIn: Nordic-Innovation) should be tagged and mentioned.

A reporting template will be provided. Reporting will take place in accordance with the requirements of Nordic Innovation’s standard contract (What we support). Furthermore, Nordic Innovation will establish regular contact with the successful projects to ensure visibility and support. A communication plan for the project should be presented.


How to calculate the hourly rate?
If you use the formula provided – Gross salary x 0.12% you will end up with a figure which is the hourly rate you shall use in the project.
This figure (the hourly rate) will cover both actual salaries and all overhead.

To give a fictive example:
A person with 600.000 gross income per year:
600.000 * .12%
= 720 (The hourly rate used in the project)

If a person with 600 000 works 1 600 hours per year, the real cost per hour would be 375 (600 000 / 1 600).
720 – 375=

The difference between real cost and the hourly rate (345) is meant to cover all overhead.

Who is eligible to respond to the call?
Nordic actors are eligible for funding from Nordic Innovation. Partners from outside of the Nordics can participate in the projects as partners, however they must cover their own costs. Nordic Innovation requires a minimum of 3 Nordic actors in a project.

What does 50% own contribution mean?
Own contribution can be in-kind contribution (ie hours) or cash. Nordic Innovation’s part of the budget can maximum cover 50% of the costs (incl. hours and expenses).

Can the same teams apply with several projects?
The same team can apply for several projects under this call, however double funding for activities will not be accepted.

Are regions eligible under this call?
Both Nordic cities and regions are eligible under this call.

Is it possible to apply for an event under this call for proposals?
Stand alone events will not be funded under this call for proposals. Costs related to events that are part of a larger project can be funded as part of the project.

Since the funding in the call: Call for proposals: Circular Cities & New Circular Solutions is only covering 50%, I wonder if this funding can be combined with funding from ERDF – also 50%?
No, our grants can not be matched with other public funding sources, if this means that your own contribution percentage goes below 50%.
The remaining 50% has to be own contribution, but this can be provided in several ways, for example by in-kind hours (for approved rates see excel budget sheet in application), own financial contribution, payment from companies or third actors.

Does de-minimis apply to municipals and public actors?
State aid regulation applies to entities operating in a commercial market. As a general rule, public actors do not operate in a competitive market.

Is the use of non-Nordic subcontractors during the project allowed? (subcontracting purchased by the Nordic entity)
Purchasing a service from a non-Nordic company is allowed, can be ordinary part of the budget and can be counted as a regular cost, if this is relevant for the project. Please however see the overall evaluation criteria of the project.

Frequently Asked Questions

De minimis regulation – when, who and how?
Applicants who have received de minimis aid over the current year and the previous two fiscal years, must pay special attention to the rules. To confirm that you may to receive more funding, in accordance with the rules, you must declare the full amount of de minimis aid you have already received. A De Minimis Aid Declaration will be provided by Nordic Innovation to successful applicants.

All applicants are responsible for keeping track of de minimis aid received.

The following is not a comprehensive list of the possible forms of aid. However, it should give an indication of the most common forms of aid, which you may have been given over the relevant period. Potentially any assistance from a public body might be an aid in the sense of the EEA Agreement (and EU Treaty).

  • Grants from public bodies.
  • Loans from public bodies at favourable rates.
  • Loan guarantees from public bodies.
  • Differential tax benefits.
  • Monopoly licences or guarantees of market share.
  • Consultancy advice provided either free or at a reduced rate.
  • Training provided either free or at a reduced rate.
  • Purchase of public land or property at a less than market rate.

These types of aid may have been provided under de minimis (as de minimis aid) or under another Aid regulation. If you are in any doubt whether aid received was de minimis aid or about its value, please check with the organisation, which granted it.

Does my project fit?
if the purpose of your project matches one of the two topics of the call, you are good to go, provided that you meet the other criteria listed in the call for proposals. Within the framework we have provided, you will have the freedom to describe, explain, prioritise and build the project the way you find is the best to ensure the success of the project.

Do you want individual or organizational cvs and from whom?
Our request for CVs for project participants refers to individuals intended to be actively working in the proposed project. The background to our request is for us to get a better picture of the prerequisites for success in the proposed project.

Please explain how you calculate the hourly rate
Please read the document on Nordic Innovation’s approved hourly rate thoroughly. Hourly rate = gross salary (as stated on the pay slip) X 0,12. The outcome of the hourly rate in the for mentioned example, will be the equivalent of the real hourly cost and overhead. The approved hourly rate (including overhead) is limited upwards to a maximum of NOK 1.100. A project participant cannot exceed 1.850 working hours per year.

What do you mean by total project costs?
The total costs of the project = Nordic Innovation funding + own funding.

What is the difference between Project Owner and Project Leader?
The Project Owner is the legal entity (e.g., university, university college, research center, private enterprise) having the rights and obligations defined by the Contract towards Nordic Innovation. cf. Standard Terms and Conditions of Contract. The Project leader is the person who, on behalf of the Project Owner, is responsible for the professional implementation, progress, and completion of the Project in accordance with the Standard Terms and Conditions of Contract. The project leader will, in other words, be responsible for the day-to-day follow-up of and implementation of the project and will normally report to the project owner.

It is up to the consortium to decide on the division of roles. In some cases project owner and project leader may represent the same organization.

How secure does the co-financing need to be in the application stage?
The evaluators will be looking for strong implementation capacity and a realistic budget and cost structure – which will of course also include co-financing. If the co-financing is not secure, for some reason, it is important to explain why and to include mitigation measures.


Hanna Törmänen Innovation Adviser

Hanna Törmänen

Senior Innovation Adviser
Hanna has background in Nordic and international exports, public-private cooperation, project management and market analysis. Her focus at Nordic Innovation is to support Nordic businesses and ecosystems in their transition towards sustainable and circular business models.


Marthe Haugland - Senior Innovation Adviser

Marthe Haugland

Senior Innovation Adviser
Marthe combines her international experience with her knowledge of business development and innovation to promote Nordic cooperation within the circular economy. She belives Nordic cooperation can drive the systemic change and give Nordic companies a competitive edge going forward.

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