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Missions are a funding policy concept, in which research and innovation measures are geared towards meeting societal challenges and achieving ambitious but realistic goals. The following research policy expectations, in particular, are associated with this type of funding approach:

  • Scientific steering effect: Missions are intended to steer research processes in specific directions and thereby contribute to a targeted approach to societal challenges.
  • Social visibility and acceptance: Missions should make the value of research (as well as the investments required for it) more visible and comprehensible to society through participatory elements of programme planning and implementation.

Missions in Horizon Europe

The introduction of Missions is one of the key innovations of Horizon Europe and has been supported by expert reports (notably by Mariana Mazzucato, 2018 and 2020) commissioned by the EU Commission . According to these, Missions are not a stand-alone funding instrument, nor are they limited to research and innovation measures. They are intended to generate political support across sectors as well as in dialogue with the public, to bring about societal changes and thus (within a defined time horizon: for example 10 years) to lead to measurable solutions.

The Regulation and the Horizon Europe Specific Programme already define the basic requirements and characteristics of the Missions, the composition and task of the (advisory) Mission Boards.

The following five EU Missions that are the result of a preparatory process finalised in autumn 2021 will be implemented over the coming years:

  • Adaptation to climate change

  • Cancer

  • Restore our Ocean and Waters

  • Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities

  • A Soil Deal for Europe

Development of the Missions

The Mission Boards set up by the EU Commission in 2019 presented their proposals for possible Missions at the European Research and Innovation Days in September 2020 (after a consultation phase of several months with both the stakeholders and the public).

Based on this, implementation plans with detailed objectives, implementation measures, investment strategies and performance indicators were drawn up for each mission. On 29 September 2021, these implementation plans were published alongside a Commission communication, which marked the official launch of the EU Missions.

A combination of different funding and policy measures is envisaged to implement the Missions:

  • Calls primarily in the "Global Challenges and Industrial Competitiveness" pillar of Horizon Europe (but also in other European or national programmes) or active portfolio management of funded projects.

  • Coordination with other Horizon Europe programme areas and other EU or national funding programmes with regard to their contribution to the achievement of the mission objectives

  • Identification of policy and legislative measures to achieve mission objectives

  • Coordination with comparable programmes in countries outside the EU

There is no fixed or dedicated budget for the Missions. For calls in Horizon Europe aimed at the implementation of the Missions (which are published in a separate part of the Work Programme), an initial cap of 10 percent of the budget of the programme pillar "Global Challenges and Industrial Competitiveness" is foreseen in the first three years of Horizon Europe. The EU Commission assumes that, in addition to funding from Horizon Europe, public and private investments at European and national level will also be decisive for the implementation of the Missions.

On 6 September 2022, the European Commission has announced the membership of the renewed Mission Boards which will support the implementation of the Missions until 2025.