Questions and answers: EU missions

(Source: European Commission)

What are EU missions?

Missions are a new, ambitious instrument to tackle some of our main challenges. They set clear goals to be achieved in a specific timeframe. They will deliver impact by putting research and innovation into a new role, combined with new forms of governance and collaboration, as well as by engaging citizens.

Missions are a novelty of the Horizon Europe research and innovation programme. Taking research and innovation as their starting point, EU missions set out bold, concrete and measurable targets in a well-defined timeframe to deliver tangible outcomes for all Europeans. They are a coordinated effort by the Commission to pool the necessary resources in terms of funding programmes, policies and regulations, as well as other activities to achieve their objectives. They also aim to mobilise and activate public and private actors, such as EU Member States, regional and local authorities, research institutes, entrepreneurs and investors to create real and lasting impact. A critical element of missions will be to engage with citizens to boost societal uptake of new solutions and approaches.

Why are missions necessary?

The climate and health crises we face mean that we must join forces in new and innovative ways. We need to build on the same team spirit and readiness to cooperate that Europe showed during the COVID-19 pandemic and the natural disasters affecting many parts of the continent this summer. Continuing with the status quo is not an option. We need a bold and ambitious policy that sets clear goals to shape the future we want to live in.

EU missions start from the idea that complex societal challenges require a coordinated effort across Europe to deliver on five main social challenges by 2030. They support the ambitious priorities of this Commission and recognise that we need to go beyond the existing instruments at our disposal.

How will missions contribute to EU priorities?

EU missions will support Europe’s transformation into a greener, healthier, more inclusive and resilient continent. They aim to bring tangible benefits to people in Europe and engage Europeans in their design, implementation and monitoring.

Missions are designed to contribute to the Commission’s key policy priorities, such as the European Green DealA Europe fit for the digital ageEuropean Health UnionAn economy that works for people and the New European Bauhaus. For example, Mission Climate is already a concrete element of the new Climate Adaptation Strategy, Mission Cancer of the Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, and Mission Soil of the Long Term Vision for Rural Areas.

Which missions are being launched?

The Commission is launching five missions to deliver the following aims:

1. Adaptation to Climate Change: support at least 150 European regions and communities to become climate resilient by 2030.

This mission will turn the urgent challenge of adapting to climate change into an opportunity to make Europe resilient, fair and prepared to deal with climate disruptions, such as extreme weather, wildfires and infectious diseases. The mission will support European regions to be prepared for the inevitable changes and extreme events, and share experiences and solutions to prevent loss of lives and livelihoods.

2. Cancer: improving the lives of more than 3 million people by 2030 through prevention, cure and for those affected by cancer including their families, to live longer and better.

The mission will support Member States, regions and communities on cancer control, even more so in light of the disruptive effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. It will enhance understanding of cancer, boost prevention, optimise diagnosis and treatment, improve quality of lives of patients and their families and ensure equitable access to care across Europe. The mission will put citizens, including patients, at the centre of research and innovation, and research and innovation at the centre of policy development.

3. Restore our Ocean and Waters by 2030

Man-made climate-driven changes are putting our ocean and waters and consequently our societies at a serious risk. The mission’s new, systemic approach will address the ocean and waters as one and play a key role in achieving climate neutrality and restoring nature. The mission will protect aquatic ecosystems and biodiversity by protecting 30% of the EU’s sea area as well as restoring marine eco-systems and 25.000 km of free flowing rivers, prevent and eliminate pollution by reducing plastic litter at sea, nutrient losses and use of chemical pesticides by 50% and make the blue economy climate-neutral and circular with net-zero maritime emissions.

4. 100 Climate neutral and smart cities by 2030

Producing more than 70% of global CO2 emissions, cities play a pivotal role in achieving climate neutrality by 2050. Through Climate City Contracts that closely involve citizens, at least 100 cities will be supported in their ambition to become climate-neutral by 2030. They will lead in climate and digital innovation and they will demonstrate solutions that will enable all other cities to follow suit by 2050.

5. A Soil Deal for Europe: 100 living labs and lighthouses to lead the transition towards healthy soils by 2030

Life on Earth depends on healthy soils, but they are under threat, making us more vulnerable to food insecurity and extreme weather events. The mission will engage with people, create effective partnerships across sectors and territories to protect and restore soils. It will contribute to Green Deal targets relating to sustainable farming, climate resilience, biodiversity and zero-pollution.

How do missions differ from traditional research and innovation policy?

EU missions propose a new role for research and innovation. Research and innovation sets out their direction to achieve results, but the scope of the missions goes far beyond that of a single research project. The portfolio of research and innovation actions will include basic and applied research across sectors and domains. It will also put emphasis on demonstrating and scaling up solutions, adapting them to fit local circumstances.

For example, the Adaptation to Climate Change mission plans to make available €100 million for large-scale demonstrations to address major climate induced hazards, such as flooding, fitted to local circumstances. The Cancer mission plans to establish a novel joint governance model to ensure a systematic and effective integration of research, innovation and policy developments on cancer in Europe. The Ocean and Waters mission will create a network of lighthouses at sea and river basin scale to implement the mission and expand the networks of marine protected areas. In the Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities mission, selected cities will involve their citizens in drawing up ‘Climate City Contracts’ to help reach climate neutrality by 2030. And with the Soil Deal mission people will be stimulated to participate in citizen science initiatives to collectively improve soil health.

How will missions be governed?

EU missions bring about new forms of governance. Societal challenges need a systemic response that cuts across the artificial boundaries of policies, programmes and different levels of governance. The missions start with a concrete and achievable objective and will rally all actors – different levels of government, researchers and innovators, small and large businesses, investors and civic society – behind them.

For example, the Cancer mission plans to establish a novel joint governance model to ensure a systematic and effective integration of research, innovation and policy developments on cancer in Europe.

What is the role of citizens in EU missions?

EU missions bring the EU closer to all Europeans, as they are part of the solution. They will engage people at the European, regional and local level in designing our future together, putting them at the steering wheel of policy-making and putting the vision of the Conference on the Future of Europe into practice.

Citizens have been involved in the co-design of missions, and the Commission is committed to engage them throughout the missions’ lifecycle, such as participating in projects and assessing the missions’ results. This co-creation is not limited to consultation, but it broadly refers to building close relations through listening, giving feedback and taking action. In addition, social innovation and citizens’ science have enormous potential to contribute to achieving mission objectives. For example, in the Climate- Neutral and Smart Cities mission, selected cities will involve their citizens in drawing up ‘Climate City Contracts’ to help reach climate neutrality by 2030. Citizens will be actively involved during the implementation, building ownership and legitimacy of the actions launched by the local authorities.

How were the missions prepared?

Five Mission Boards gathering top experts were formed to help specify, design and implement missions for Horizon Europe. Based on their proposals handed over to the Commission in September 2020, five missions were identified in the Horizon Europe Strategic Plan.

In October 2020, the Commission validated the five proposed missions. They entered a preparatory phase to develop five detailed implementation plans including objectives, intervention logic and indicators for measuring performance. The Commission assessed these plans against specific criteria and gave a go-ahead to the launch of the missions today.

How long will a mission last?

A mission should last as long as is needed to accomplish its objectives. There is no fixed duration, but they should deliver a stream of benefits with final results expected to be achieved around 2030, given the likely ambition and scale of EU missions.

How will missions be implemented?

EU missions are now launching into their full implementation phase. The first Horizon Europe work programme for 2021-22, published in June 2021, includes a set of actions that lay the ground for the implementation of missions. It will now be updated with a full research and innovation agenda by the end of this year.

In parallel, missions will engage with participating regions, cities and organisations as well as citizens. For missions to be successful, they need to mobilise and activate public and private actors, such as EU Member States, regional and local authorities, research institutes, entrepreneurs and investors to create real and lasting impact. A critical element of missions will be to reach out to local communities and engage with citizens to boost societal uptake of new solutions and approaches.

What is the budget for missions?

There is no set budget for each mission; this will be determined by the size of the challenge. Missions are expected to draw in funding from various sources and levels including national and regional.

Concerning the research and innovation component, the Horizon Europe legislation stipulates that during the first 3 years of the programme, a maximum of 10% of the annual budget of Pillar II (Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness) shall be programmed through specific calls for implementing the missions. In specific terms, this means that the Commission will make €1.9 billion available from the Horizon Europe programme for the period 2021-23 in order to start the implementation of the five missions.

The financial contribution of each Horizon Europe cluster towards each mission for the first three years was determined following analysis of the specific R&I needs for each mission and how these relate to the priorities covered by the clusters. The budget for further years will be determined in parallel with a review in 2023 of the mission’s progress, as was specified by the Horizon Europe legislation.

How will missions support innovation and growth?

The EU missions by their very nature support innovation and change. In particular, concerning technological innovation, they will encompass activities from a broad range of Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) with other forms of complementary measures such as adopting new standards or regulations, or developing new policy instruments to correct market failures. EU missions will crowd-in funding and private investments towards existing innovative markets, but also will spark the creation of new markets for European sustainable growth, improving the daily lives of Europeans.

For More Information

Press release: Commission launches EU missions to tackle major challenges


Communication on EU missions

Implementation Plans for the EU Missions

EU missions website

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