What are missions and mission areas?

Partly inspired by the Apollo 11 mission to put a man on the moon, the European research and innovation missions aim to deliver solutions to some of the greatest challenges facing our world. They are an integral part of the Horizon Europe framework programme beginning in 2021. 

Individual missions will be chosen from the 5 mission areas that were identified during the negotiations of Horizon Europe.

What this mission area deals with

The importance of soil health and food

Land and soils are essential for all life-sustaining processes on our planet. They are the basis for the food we grow as well as for many other products such as feed, textiles, or wood.

Soils also provide a range of ecosystem services which are important for clean water, supporting biodiversity or for cycling nutrients and regulating climate.

Soils are highly dynamic and fragile systems - and they are a finite resource. It can take up to 1,000 years to produce 1cm of soil.

Soils are facing pressures from an increasing population with demands on land for production, settlement and industries. Soils are also heavily affected by climate change, erosion and sea level rises. Approximately 33% of our global soils are degraded and in the EU, erosion is affecting 25% of agricultural land.

Aims of missions in this area

A mission in the area of soil health and food will provide a powerful tool to raise awareness on the importance of soils, engage with citizens, create knowledge and develop solutions for restoring soil health and soil functions.

This will allow full use of the potential of soils to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Results will have a direct impact on the success of the new European Commission’s Green Deal and its ambition to progress on climate, biodiversity and sustainable food.

Making the mission happen

Commission approach and composition of mission board

The Commission will engage with citizens in a continuous process for the design, monitoring and assessment of the mission.

To do this, a mission board was formed to help specify, design and implement a mission for Horizon Europe. Its formation was the result of an open call for interest.

The mission board consists of 15 experts coming from innovation, research, policymaking, civil society, farming, private sector and relevant organisations.

The mission area also has an assembly that gathers a larger number of high-level experts. The assembly provides an additional pool of ideas, knowledge and expertise that will be actively called upon to contribute to the success of the missions.

Possible mission proposed by the mission board

At the end of June 2020, the mission board produced an interim report proposing concrete targets and a timeline for a possible mission.

The interim report was the basis for further discussion and engagement with Europeans to make sure that the proposed mission is relevant and will make a real difference. In addition to the numerous communication and citizen engagement events in which the Mission Board participated, inputs were collected through a survey on the mission area Soil health and food that received more than 2,500 contributions from December 2019 to September 2020.

The final recommendations of the mission board were handed over to the European Commission at the European Research & Innovation Days 22-24 September 2020.

The proposed mission:

Caring for Soil is Caring for Life
Targets by 2030: at least 75% of all soils in the EU are healthy for food, people, nature and climate. The proposed mission combines research and innovation, education and training, investments and the demonstration of good practices using “living labs” (experiments and innovation in a laboratory on the ground) and “lighthouses” (places to showcase good practices).

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Find opportunities to participate in events related to the mission area soil health and food.

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More information





  • End of June 2020

    The Mission Board produces a draft report proposing concrete targets and timelines

  • June – September 2020

    Citizen engagement events

  • 22-24 September 2020

    The final recommendations of the Mission Board are handed over to the European Commission at the European Research and Innovation Days


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