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Challenge Programme 2022 – Recycling for a Sustainable Society

Call opens
15 June 2021
Call closes
27 October 2021 2:00pm (CET)
Announcement of results
June 2022
Application guidelines


The purpose of the NNF Challenge Programme is to make substantial contribution to the development and strengthening of the Danish research environment, within research aimed to solve major challenges in global health, technology and sustainability. The Challenge Programme supports excellent researchers, that will establish and collaborate in a dynamic centre structure with a unifying vision and mission. The Programme provides long-term funding to enable scientific depth and focus and facilitate synergy between the research partners.

About the grant


DKK 30-60 million per grant



Career stage

Research Leaders (Established/Prof.), Research Leaders (junior/non-tenured), Research Leaders (Mid-career/Associate Prof.)


For grant inquiries
Camilla Stensgaard Andersson
Grant Manager
[email protected]
Henning Jørgensen
Senior Scientific Manager, Ph.d.
+45 3029 8468 [email protected]
Anastassia Khrouchtchova
Scientific Manager, PhD
+45 41727929 [email protected]

Research Theme 2022

The programme is a strategic effort targeting specific challenges within annually selected research themes. For the 2022 application call, the Challenge Programme is seeking to support the following research theme:

  • Recycling for a Sustainable Society

Linear use of resources for the production of food, chemicals, materials, energy and other goods drives depletion and pollutes the environment. Therefore, recycling of individual constituents or components present in waste or side-streams is essential to ensure sustainability and promote circular use of resources. 

This Challenge Programme is aimed at research for development of new bio-inspired methods and technologies for conversion, recovery and extraction of resources and raw materials from waste, residuals and side-streams. 

The research must be in-depth, preferably cross-disciplinary, and of fundamental character. The project can include all scientific disciplines but must have a clear element of biotechnology. The programme only supports methods, technologies or systems that enable continuous recycling of resources, not end-of-life applications. 

Non-exclusive examples include:  

  • Bioconversion of polymers, e.g. plastics and textiles, supporting circular use.
  • Recovery of nutrients for plant growth from waste, side-streams, soils, or water.
  • Extraction of carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, or micronutrients for human consumption from waste, residuals, and side-  streams.
  • Extraction of building blocks and elements for chemicals and materials from waste, residuals, and side-streams.

The call does not support recycling of C1 carbon compounds or solutions aimed at feed applications. 


The Challenge Programme supports excellent research leaders from 2-4 groups (main applicant plus 1-3 co-applicants).

The programme leader should be at least 75% employed at a Danish university, hospital or other non-profit research organization, that will be considered the host institution of the project. Levels of association of less than 75% at the Danish institution must be justified.

The research institutions of the co-applicants can be located in Denmark or abroad. The co-applicants should contribute significantly to the advancement of the project and should receive part of the funding.

Industry collaboration is possible, however, funding cannot be awarded to the industrial partner(s).


Each Challenge Programme application can request funding for up to approximately DKK 10 million per year for up to 6 years, for a total budget of DKK 30-60 million.

Application process

The application process will consist of two stages.

Stage 1: A short expression of interest will be evaluated by an international expert committee. The best applicants will be invited to submit a Stage 2 application.
Stage 2: An application with a detailed project proposal. The main applicant will be invited for interview with the international committee.

Please read Information and Guidelines for Applicantscarefully before initiating the application process. Additional and essential information is found in these guidelines.

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