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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 commissioned by the EU Commission (notably by Mariana Mazzucato, 2018 and 2020). Accordingly, 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 primarily define the basic requirements and characteristics of the Missions, the composition and task of the (advisory) Mission Boards and the following areas for future Missions:

  • Adaptation to climate change, including social change
  • Cancer
  • Healthy oceans, seas, coastal and inland waters
  • Climate-neutral and smart cities
  • Soil health and food

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

  • Conquering Cancer: Mission Possible (goals by 2030): save more than 3 million lives, achieve a fundamental understanding of cancer, optimise diagnosis and treatment, improve the quality of life of people with cancer and ensure equitable access to these measures across Europe.
  • A Climate Resilient Europe - Prepare Europe for climate disruptions and accelerate the transformation to a climate-resilient and just Europe by 2030 (objectives by 2030): Prepare Europe to cope with climate change, accelerate the transition to a climate-resilient future or build resilience capacities.
  • Mission Starfish 2030 – Restore our Ocean and Waters (Objectives by 2030): Cleaning up seawater and freshwater, restoring damaged ecosystems and habitats, decarbonising maritime industries.
  • 100 Climate-Neutral Cities by 2030 – by and for the citizens (objectives by 2030): Support and encourage 100 European cities in their systemic transformation towards climate neutrality or as experimental fields for other cities.
  • Caring for Soil is Caring for Life (objectives by 2030): 75% of EU soils are healthy and can provide essential ecosystem services (providing food and other biomass, supporting biodiversity, storing and regulating groundwater, mitigating the effects of climate change).

The above-mentioned Missions will go through an EU-funded preparatory phase by mid-2021 to prepare implementation plans with detailed objectives, implementation measures, investment strategies and performance indicators for each Mission. On this basis, the EU Commission is expected to decide in mid-2021 which Missions will be implemented.

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, 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.