ICRA receives 1,376,650.92 EUR from the Horizon Europe programme to launch four water projects

Horizon Europe, the European Union's framework programme for research and innovation for the period 2021-2027, will allocate €1,376,650.92 to the Catalan Institute for Water Research (ICRA). The funding will be distributed among four ICRA projects that will last between two and four years.

The ICRA is part of the Catalan Research Centres (CERCA), an institution that is in the top ten of the best funded by the European programme, with 81 million euros, in second position between the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (149 M€) and Max Planck Society (71 M€). Horizon Europe promotes initiatives to combat climate change, contribute to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals and boost EU competitiveness and growth.

The ICRA projects that have obtained Horizon Europe funding areTwinning For Smart Water- Thinking And Rethinking Wastewater Management In Circular Economy Frame (SmartWaterTwin) with funding of €249,677.50; Functionalized low-cost graphene sponge electrodes for sustainable water treatment - Elisabeth Cuervo (FOCUS4PFAS), funded with €165. 312.96 euros; Dynamics of communities and Evolution of Antibiotic Resistance in Wastewater-Marie Rescan (DEAR-Waste) with 181,152.96 euros, and Innovative Tools To Control Organic Matter And Disinfection Byproducts In Drinking Water (intoDBP), a coordinated project with a total budget of 3,994,707 euros of which 780,507.50 euros are for ICRA, which also has the role of coordinator.

ICRA projects: circular economy, health and sustainability in water management

Jelena Radjenovic, recently recognised with the National Research Award for Young Talent 2021, is the principal investigator (PI) of SmartWaterTwin, one of the two projects that the ICRA is starting on 1 September 2022. This project aims to contribute to "thinking and rethinking" the circular economy in the water sector. It aims to boost knowledge and excellence in research in the field of sustainable wastewater treatment and management by increasing the scientific and technical capacities of extension institutions. It thus aims to respond to a demand for innovative solutions from the water treatment sector in Serbia, which is currently inadequate even in large cities (Belgrade, Novi Sad) and will have to cope with an unprecedented demand for water due to increasingly frequent and intense droughts in this part of Europe. The project, which is part of the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans, aims to change the perception of wastewater. The SmartWaterTwin research will run until 31 August 2025.

Also on 1 September, the DEAR-Waste project starts, with Carles Borrego as principal investigator. The aim of DEAR-Waste is to better understand the dynamics of bacterial communities in wastewater collectors with a special focus on the evolution of antibiotic resistance, establishing these urban waste sinks as a model to study the dynamics and evolution of wastewater microbiota. The project adopts an interdisciplinary approach (analytical chemistry, microbial ecology, environmental genomics, statistical time series analysis and modelling) to quantify how environmental complexity and species interactions in sewage modulate the evolution of antibiotic resistance. The expected duration of the project is until the end of August 2024.

intoDBP is a project that is scheduled to start on 1 December this year and will run until the end of 2026, and it is the one with the largest budget of the four projects. Directed and coordinated by Maria José Farré, it focuses on watershed protection, transformative drinking water treatment and real-time monitoring to combat the effects of climate and global change. In particular, intoDBP studies pollution and risks related to disinfection by-products (DBPs) and will work on implementing and validating cross-cutting tools in four complementary case studies in three European countries (Spain, Cyprus and Ireland). Its intention is to foster the rapid adoption of the products on a European and global scale, thus strengthening Europe's position and role in the global water market. In addition, the project will engage society through surveys to analyse exposure to DBPs, collect data on watershed protection initiatives, and seek to raise awareness and promote sustainable consumer behaviour, such as reducing consumption of bottled water.

The last of the ICRA projects funded by the Horizon Europe programme will start on 1 July 2023 and close in mid-2025. It is FOCUS4PFAS. Also with Jelena Radjenovic as PI, it focuses on addressing the challenge of toxic, carcinogenic and bioaccumulative perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the water cycle. FOCUS4PFAS aims to develop low-cost graphene sponge electrodes tailored for efficient electrosorption/adsorption and subsequent electrochemical degradation of PFASs. FOCUS4PFAS will provide new opportunities for decentralised wastewater treatment, reuse and source control of contaminated waste streams.

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