The Five Missions of Horizon Europe

Missies en man op de maan projecten

As we wrote previously, at both the national and European level, there is a development towards mission-driven innovation policy. For Europe, this is taking shape in Horizon Europe, the successor to Horizon 2020. A series of reports has recently been published in which experts set out the five chosen missions.

What Is a Mission?

The term ‘mission’ often refers to the ‘man on the moon’ project. The European Commission does that too, but further says that a mission must respond to the need to solve an urgent social issue in a given time frame and with a certain budget. Missions must be challenging and inspiring, with broad societal relevance. Missions must bring different disciplines together and lead to systemic changes. Furthermore, missions must make it easier for citizens to understand the value of investments in research and innovation.

The Five Missions

The five missions are:

  • Climate (report: Accelerating the Transition to a Climate Prepared and Resilient Europe), with the objective of making Europe climate proof by 2030. The following themes are defined:
    • Preparing Europe (citizens, communities, and regions) for disruptions caused by climate change, such as heat waves, forest fires, droughts, floods, storms, and diseases;
    • Accelerating the transition to climate resilience by supporting 200 communities (villages and cities) and regions in co-creating visions and innovation pathways, and developing solutions;
    • Help build deep resilience by scaling up workable solutions via 100 demonstration projects.


  • Cancer (report: Conquering Cancer), with the goal of ensuring at least 3 million more people will survive cancer, live longer, and have a higher quality of life by 2030. The following themes are defined: 
    • Better understanding cancer, its risk factors, and impact;
    • Preventing what can be prevented;
    • Improving diagnostics and treatment;
    • Improving people’s quality of life during and after cancer treatment;
    • Ensuring equal access to treatment for all.


  • Cities (report: 100 Climate-neutral Cities by 2030 – by and for the Citizens), with the aim of realising 100 climate-neutral cities by 2030 (as part of the European Green Deal Strategy to make Europe climate-neutral by 2050). The following themes are defined: 
    • Supporting, promoting, and showcasing 100 European cities in their transformation to climate neutrality, turning these cities into experimental and innovation hubs for all cities;
    • Involving citizens, producers, consumers, and owners in a governance structure;
    • Developing and formalising a City Climate Contract through multi-level co-creation.


  • Oceans (report: Regenerating our Ocean and Waters by 2030), aiming for the full recovery and regeneration of Europe’s marine and freshwater ecosystems by 2030. The following themes are defined: 
    • Cleaning up marine and freshwater ecosystems, restoring their rich biodiversity and decarbonising the ‘blue economy’;
    • Promoting appreciation for the beauty of our waters, shores, and coasts, encouraging new explorations and discoveries;
    • Involving citizens in meaningful conservation actions, whilst demonstrating that small, daily choices can have a major impact on our entire water system (from source to sink).


  • Soil (report: Caring for Soil Is Caring for Life): By 2030, 75% of the soil will be healthy and capable of providing essential ecosystem services (such as biomass production, biodiversity, water storage and flow, and climate resilience). The following themes are defined: 
    • Developing living labs and lighthouses for a combination of research and innovation, training and advice, and the demonstration of good practice;
    • Monitoring both soil health and negative impacts, whilst mobilising investments and encouraging political change.


Horizon Europe starts in 2021—that is, already in six months’ time. Formally, the status of the reports is ‘interim report’, however, the contours of the new missions are clear. You can take advantage of this by already assessing which of the projects you want to carry out are in line with the missions, and starting to look for suitable partners.



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