To speed up a successful transition to a circular society a focus on the interface between cities and their surroundings is essential. Systemic circular solutions contribute to the sustainable development of urban-rural areas. This transition is hampered by an increasing tension between urban and rural areas. The challenge is to close cycles regionally, connecting cities and rural areas. This call is part of the Circular Society programme and meant to initiate new collaborative research or support scaling up existing collaborations within this research theme. The deadline is 28 April, 5 pm.

Smart circular innovations can promote urban-rural (social) cohesion and regional economic activities, while lowering different kinds of emissions and resource scarcity at the same time. Closing cycles at the interface between city and its surroundings can only be successful with an integral technology-nature-society approach. Taking planetary boundaries as a precondition, technical approaches need to be integrated with social inclusion and justice to offer real durable circular solutions for society. We aim to develop that approach.

Our ambition with this call is to support innovative ideas and perspectives on developing circular and inclusive cities in connection with their surrounding rural areas and stimulate internal and external collaborations. We bring together researchers from various knowledge disciplines, dealing with technical design, AI & data science, spatial planning, regulation, biological, chemical and physical processes, health and ecology and last-but-not-least, social processes, including insurance of inclusiveness, economics, logistics, and behavior.

Circular challenges

Four circular challenges in urban-rural zones and their cross connections that are addressed:

  • Connecting humans and nature in circular – nature based – solutions
  • Regional circular services
  • Closing nutrients and water cycles
  • Circular materials and energy

Within Circular Society the theme Urban-Rural Circularity (URC) has recently been defined. The theme integrates earlier research on ‘circular inclusive cities’ and requests further discussions with researchers and stakeholders. We have formulated an initial version of the background of URC. To be found below.


The money may be used for extending research time of existing staff (financing substitution of teaching), activities such as (but not limited to) consortium building, organizing stakeholder/dissemination events as well as for hiring temporary researchers. The maximum budget is 30k€ (max 4 grants foreseen) per proposal.


We welcome interdisciplinary research ideas, involving academic staff from at least two and preferentially all four institutions. The proposals will be evaluated by a panel with members of at least three alliance partners on research quality, impact potential, and added value of the collaboration. We aim for a quick evaluation of the proposals and a decision by 9 May.

For more information find our Terms and Conditions below.


Deadline for submission is 28 April, 5 pm. Please send your proposal to



Please contact Kirsten Hollaender for more information.

To facilitate matchmaking and help you connect with researchers from our institutions, we have also created a TEAMS environment. You are welcome to join and post and share your (initial) ideas.