What are missions and mission areas?

EU missions are commitments to solve some of the greatest challenges facing our world like fighting cancer, adapting to climate change, protecting our oceans, living in greener cities and ensuring soil health and food. 

They are an integral part of the Horizon Europe framework programme beginning in 2021.

Each mission will operate as a portfolio of actions – such as research projects, policy measures or even legislative initiatives - to achieve a measurable goal that could not be achieved through individual actions.

EU missions will contribute to the goals of the European Green Deal, Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan as well as the Sustainable Development Goals.

When will missions begin?

A preparatory phase began in November 2020, and will last a maximum of 12 months. Plans with detailed actions, investment strategy and performance indicators will be developed during this phase.

At the end of it, missions will be assessed against a set of robust criteria. Once approved, missions will get fully up and running. Europeans will continue to be engaged throughout their implementation.

What this mission area deals with

The importance of soil health and food

Land and soil are essential for life on Earth. They supply the food we grow and eat, as well as other goods such as feed, textiles, or wood.

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

Soil is a highly dynamic and fragile system - and it is a finite resource. It can take up to 1,000 years to produce 1cm of soil.

Soil is facing pressures from an increasing population that demands more land for production, settlement and industries. It is also heavily affected by climate change, erosion and sea level rises. Approximately 33% of our global soil is 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 soil to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Results will have a direct impact on the success of the European 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 has been engaging with citizens in a process for the design the missions. This engagement will continue during the implementation phase, including 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).

Get involved

The Mission Board for Soil health and food is seeking examples of evidence of management practices which can deliver significant improvements to soil health over the short, medium and long term. Participate to the Call for evidence of management actions which improve soil health by submitting your contribution by 12 March 2021.

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

Let's play

DownloadPDF - 491.5 KB
DownloadPDF - 482.5 KB
DownloadPPT - 8.1 MB

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

  • November 2020

    The mission enters preparatory phase

  • 1st and 2nd quarter of 2021

    Preparation of mission implementation plans, followed by Commission decision on full implementation phase

  • 3rd and 4th quarter of 2021

    Launch of the missions in full implementation phase; updated Horizon Europe Work Programme for EU missions


DownloadPDF - 501.3 KB