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 concrete 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.

They support Commission priorities, such as the European Green Deal, Europe fit for the Digital AgeBeating Cancer and the New European Bauhaus. For instance, Mission Climate is already a concrete element of the new Climate Adaptation Strategy, Mission Cancer of the Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan and the Mission Soil is a flagship initiative of the Long-term Vision for the EU’s Rural Areas.

EU Missions 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. They also aim to mobilise and activate public and private actors, such as EU Member States, regional and local authorities, research institutes, farmers and land managers, entrepreneurs and investors to create real and lasting impact. Missions will engage with citizens to boost societal uptake of new solutions and approaches.

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.

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.

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 on 29th of September 2021.

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.

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.

What this EU Mission deals with

Life on Earth depends on healthy soils, but they are under threat all over the world

  • Soils are the basis of 95% of our food and other essential ecosystem services such as clean water, biodiversity and climate regulation. However, 60-70% of soils in the EU are considered to be “unhealthy”, making us more vulnerable to food insecurity and extreme weather events.
  • about 70% of agricultural land in the EU shows excess levels of nutrients with adverse effects on water quality and biodiversity
  • about 25% of land in Southern, Central  and Eastern Europe is at high or very high risk of desertification
  • the costs associated with soil degradation in the EU are estimated to exceed €50 billion per year

The mission will engage with people and create effective partnerships across sectors and territories to protect and restore soils in Europe and beyond. It will contribute to Green Deal targets relating to sustainable farming, climate resilience, biodiversity and zero-pollution.

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

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

The mission will

  • engage with people and create effective partnerships for soil protection and soil restoration across sectors and territories
  • contribute  to sustainable farming and forestry, healthy and safe food systems, climate resilience, biodiversity, zero-pollution, vibrant rural areas and other Green Deal ambitions
  • support the EU’s ambition to lead on global commitments, notably the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The mission aims at leading 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 laboratories 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

Making the EU 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 mandate of the first mission board ends in December 2021. A new call for interest will be launched in autumn 2021.

The mission area was also supported by an assembly that gathered a larger number of high-level experts. The assembly provided an additional pool of ideas, knowledge and expertise

The 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).

The report of the mission board served as a basis to develop a detailed implementation plan and to launch the mission A Soil Deal for Europe: 100 living labs and lighthouses to lead the transition towards healthy soils.

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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

  • 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


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