What are EU Missions?

EU Missions are a new way to bring concrete solutions to some of our greatest challenges. They have ambitious goals and will deliver tangible results by 2030. 

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. 

EU Missions are a novelty of the Horizon Europe research and innovation programme for the years 2021-2027.

What this EU Mission deals with

The main goal of the Mission 'A Soil Deal for Europe' is to establish 100 living labs and lighthouses to lead the transition towards healthy soils by 2030.  

Life on Earth depends on healthy soils. Soil is the foundation of our food systems. It provides clean water and habitats for biodiversity while contributing to climate resilience. It supports our cultural heritage and landscapes and is the basis of our economy and prosperity.  

However, it is estimated that between 60 and 70% of EU soils are unhealthy. Soil is a fragile resource that needs to be carefully managed and safeguarded for future generations. One centimetre of soil can take hundreds of years to form, but can be lost in just a single rainstorm or industrial incident. 

It is time to act so that future generations inherit clean, productive and resilient soils.  

The Mission leads the transition towards healthy soils by  

  • funding an ambitious research and innovation programme with a strong social science component 
  • putting in place an effective network of 100 living labs and lighthouses to co-create knowledge, test solutions and demonstrate their value in real-life conditions 
  • developing a harmonised framework for soil monitoring in Europe 
  • raising people’s awareness on the vital importance of soils 

The 8 Mission objectives

  1. reduce desertification  
  2. conserve soil organic carbon stocks  
  3. stop soil sealing and increase re-use of urban soils  
  4. reduce soil pollution and enhance restoration   
  5. prevent erosion  
  6. improve soil structure to enhance soil biodiversity  
  7. reduce the EU global footprint on soils  
  8. improve soil literacy in society  

The Mission will support the EU’s ambition to lead on global commitments, notably the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and contribute to the European Green Deal targets on sustainable farming, climate resilience ,biodiversity and zero-pollution. It is also a flagship initiative of the long-term vision for rural areas.  

Soil is a precious resources, but it is threatened all over the world. The EU #MissionSoil is a plan to heal our soil together.

Mission living labs and lighthouses

Living labs are places where to experiment on the ground. Soil health living labs will  be partnerships between multiple partners and different actors, like researchers, farmers, foresters, spatial planners, land managers, and citizens who come together to co-create innovations for a jointly agreed objective. Living Labs will be established at territorial, landscape or regional scale, with several experimental sites covered underneath. 

This is an innovative way to do research and innovation: in a Living Lab, experimentations happen in real-life conditions, operating with end-users i.e. commercial farms or forest exploitations, real urban green parks or industrial sites, and other actors such as NGOs or local authorities. This is key to make sure that research and innovation find solutions to societal challenges and challenges that land managers face on the ground. 

Lighthouses are single sites, like a farm or a park, where to showcase good practices. These are places for demonstration and peer-to-peer learning. Here good practices are tested or in place and can be showed to inspire other practitioners to move towards sustainable land management. In addition, in lighthouse sites, researchers work together with land managers to ensure that research responds to concrete needs encountered in the field.

Get involved

A new call for experts to join the Mission Board, with the role of advising on the implementation of the Mission is open until 02 February 2022. 

The Missions Work Programme 2021 amendment was adopted on Wednesday 15 December. The calls are available on the Funding and Tenders Portal.   

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AGRI-SOIL-MISSION-BOARD@ec.europa.eu

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