What are EU missions?

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 for the years 2021-27.

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 Recovery Package, the European Green Deal, Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan as well as the Sustainable Development Goals.

A wide range of studies and reports informed this approach.

EU missions will

  • be bold, inspirational and widely relevant to society
  • be clearly framed: targeted, measurable and time-bound
  • establish impact-driven but realistic goals
  • mobilise resources on EU, national and local levels
  • link activities across different disciplines and different types of research and innovation
  • make it easier for citizens to understand the value of investments in research and innovation

Areas where there will be missions

Making missions happen

Commission approach and mission management

In February 2021, mission managers were appointed in the European Commission to lead EU missions and be their public face.

Matthew Baldwin

Deputy Director-General at Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport (DG MOVE)
Mission manager for the area of climate-neutral and smart cities

Patrick Child

Deputy Director-General at Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD)

Mission manager for the area of cancer

Bernhard Friess

Director at Directorate General for Maritime Affairs Fisheries (DG MARE)

Mission manager for the area of healthy oceans, seas coastal and inland waters

Clara de la Torre

Deputy Director-General at Directorate General for Climate Action (DG CLIMA)

Mission manager for the area of adaptation to climate change including societal transformation

Nathalie Sauze-Vandevyver

Director at Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development (DG AGRI)

Mission manager for the area of soil health and food

The mission managers are working closely with the deputy mission managers, most of whom are based in Directorate General for Research and Innovation: John Bell (Missions Climate and Oceans), Rosalinde Van der Vlies (Mission Cities), Peter Wehrheim (Mission Soil), and John F. Ryan (Mission Cancer) from Directorate General for Health and Food Safety.

5 mission boards were formed to help specify, design and implement missions for Horizon Europe. Their formation was the result of an open call for expressions of interest.

The new call for expressions of interest for Mission Board members, which is planned to be launched in autumn 2021, follows the first Mission Boards which were set in 2019. Each mission board consists of up to 15 experts coming from fields like innovation, business, science, civil society, communications and media. The new Mission Boards will play a vital role in advising on the implementation of the Missions, building on the work of the first phase Mission Boards.

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

The Commission engaged with citizens in a continuous process for the design, monitoring and assessment of the missions.

More about mission board chairs, lists of board and assembly members

5 missions proposed by the mission boards

At the European Research & Innovation Days (22-24 September 2020), each mission board presented their proposals to the European Commission for possible EU missions.

The mission boards discussed with stakeholders as well as citizens, listening to their expectations and needs through a series of events across EU countries.

5 possible missions proposed by the mission boards:

  • Conquering Cancer: Mission Possible
    Targets by 2030: more than 3 million more lives saved, living longer and better, achieve a thorough understanding of cancer, prevent what is preventable, optimise diagnosis and treatment, support the quality of life of all people exposed to cancer, and ensure equitable access to the above across Europe.
  • A Climate Resilient Europe - Prepare Europe for climate disruptions and accelerate the transformation to a climate resilient and just Europe by 2030
    Targets by 2030: prepare Europe to deal with climate disruptions, accelerate the transition to a healthy and prosperous future within safe planetary boundaries and scale up solutions for resilience that will trigger transformations in society.
  • Mission Starfish 2030: Restore our Ocean and Waters
    Targets by 2030: cleaning marine and fresh waters, restoring degraded ecosystems and habitats, decarbonising the blue economy in order to sustainably harness the essential goods and services they provide.
  • 100 Climate-Neutral Cities by 2030 - by and for the citizens
    Targets by 2030: support, promote and showcase 100 European cities in their systemic transformation towards climate neutrality by 2030 and turn these cities into innovation hubs for all cities, benefiting quality of life and sustainability in Europe.
  • 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).

When will missions begin? 

A preparatory phase began in November 2020, where plans with detailed actions, investment strategy and performance indicators have been developed. At the end of this phase, the missions implementation ilans were assessed against a set of robust criteria.

A project group of Commissioners discussed the missions implementation plans in July 2021. They gave broad support and instructed the Commission to move forward for all 5 missions with the concrete preparation of the implementation phase, which remains subject to a final decision on its launch in September 2021.

A mini work programme of actions is included in the first Horizon Europe Work Programme, to lay the foundations for the later full implementation. This missions-specific part includes a small number of actions with a budget of up to €5 million for each mission as well as horizontal actions. The work programme is expected to be updated with a set of R&I actions still in 2021. Europeans will continue to be engaged throughout the implementation.

How to get involved

The Commission wants to co-create missions and Horizon Europe initiatives with citizens and stakeholders.

Stakeholders will be able to get involved via actions presented in the upcoming work programme.

We need broad participation from the public to make sure missions are relevant and make a real difference. This feedback will affect how missions are designed and implemented.

People will be invited to

  • participate in online discussions and polls on social media
  • attend citizen events and specialised conferences to discuss the focus of missions
  • participate in a range of other activities as the missions evolve

Throughout the summer of 2020, the Commission together with partners held 10 citizen engagement events to collect proposals from the public for the 5 EU missions. 2 sessions per mission were organised in 10 different European countries. Citizens could also upload their ideas on a digital platform.

The reports summarise these contributions, which fed into Mission Board reports presented in September 2020.

Follow our social media below to stay up-to-date and find opportunities to participate as missions evolve over the coming years.

Overview of events