Horizon Europe: Mission development gets underway

Horizon Europe: Mission development gets underway

Joel Baker

14 June 2019

From January 2021, the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation framework programme will be replaced by the successor programme, Horizon Europe

One of aspect of Horizon Europe which has attracted most discussion in Brussels is the implementation of a ‘Mission-oriented’ approach. Missions will be initiatives which aim to achieve concrete, measurable and eye-catching R&I goals – a theoretical example might be ‘100 carbon-neutral cities by 2030’.

By setting a clear direction of travel for European R&I, the European Commission hopes to encourage further investment in solving some of the greatest issues facing European society. The intentionality and clear direction of Missions aim to provide greater impact for this R&I investment.

With the EU institutions having agreed a Common Understanding  on most of the regulatory framework of Horizon Europe – although not yet the budget – in March, the process of developing Missions is gearing up to begin in earnest.

On 13 May the Commission published a call for applications from experts to join the five Mission boards: fifteen-member advisory bodies for each of the ‘Mission areas’ confirmed in the Common Understanding:

  • Adaptation to climate change including societal transformation
  • Cancer
  • Healthy oceans, seas, coastal and inland waters
  • Climate-neutral and smart cities
  • Soil health and food

The Commission has received 1,700 applications for the boards – over 20 per post on average – and the volume of last-minute applications led to the deadline being extended from 11 to 16 June.

The Mission board chairs will be appointed by early July, and interviews for the other board members are planned over the summer.

Credit: Lard Plougmann

Credit: Lard Plougmann

One key aim of Missions since their inception has been citizen and stakeholder engagement. As well as being attention-grabbing objectives which clearly communicate the aims of EU R&I policy, one of the original hopes was that Missions would be decided on through a process of consultation and co-creation involving citizens.

With the Strategic Plan for Horizon Europe – including the Missions – scheduled to be ready by February 2020, this vision for a citizen-generated set of Missions is no longer practical. So, how will be Missions be decided following the appointment of the boards?

The EU’s Member States hold the purse strings, so naturally will have a significant say. The Commission is already consulting them and will continue to do so over the summer and autumn.

But stakeholders will still get the chance to have their say. The first European Research and Innovation Days (24-26 September) are being held to bring together actors from across the R&I landscape to discuss the future di1rection of EU R&I policy. Day 2 will include one 90-minute session per mission area, during which delegates will be invited to provide input into the development of missions.

There will also be an open public consultation, probably online. While this will be of special interest to R&I organisations, it will be open to all citizens.

The timings of this consultation are not certain. It could take place over the summer, potentially allowing two or more months for stakeholders to make submissions. But given the Commission’s desire to make the R&I Days a showcase of stakeholder engagement, it will probably be held after these, from late September to late October. This also opens up the option to include the missions in the broad consultation on the third draft of the Horizon Europe Strategic Plan.

Following the consultations, the Mission boards will present proposed Missions to the Commission and the Horizon Europe Programme Committee, who will then select the Missions which will be included in the first work programme – probably one per Mission area, at first. The Member States select civil servants to represent their views on the Programme Committee, providing another avenue of influence for national governments.

Credit: Guilhem Velut

After that, the selected Missions will be included in the final Strategic Plan, ready to be signed off by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union in an Implementing Act in the first quarter of 2020.

There’s not yet any reliable indication of what Missions will be proposed and selected. But the stage is set for a new and even more visible stage of EU R&I policy.

Registration for the European R&I Days (24-26 September 2019) is open here. 


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