EU Missions: It’s time to be bold

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Mariya Gabriel is the European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth.

We are all becoming increasingly aware of the urgency to act and find solutions to extreme weather events that are becoming all the more frequent. This summer, the floods, and forest fires that devastated several regions of Europe served as a painful reminder that climate change is real and will affect us all.

Mariya Gabriel is the European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth.

On the other hand, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us how vulnerable we are to health risks, both individually and as a society. But there are other conditions that also impact us all, regardless of age, for example cancer.

As a Commissioner, I feel that it is time for action. The European reaction to the pandemic and the natural disasters must boldly mobilise the best of our knowledge and combine it with our willingness to tackle them. This must be complemented with large measures of solidarity, coordinated action and a critical role for independent science. As a part of its response, the Commission has launched the Horizon Europe Missions to tackle very urgent challenges within society that need research and innovation.

Complex challenges require a coordinated effort across the board and the only beneficial result is one that has a positive, measurable impact. These efforts must have clear goals and a timeframe to achieve them. They must include mobilisation of public and private actors, such as the EU Member States, regional and local authorities, research institutes, entrepreneurs and public and private investors. Stakeholders must reach out to local communities and engage with citizens to ensure societal uptake of these new solutions and approaches. The whole process must put people at the steering wheel of policy.

We are launching five missions to achieve five aims by 2030 on Adaptation to Climate Change, including Societal Transformation. The first mission will support at least 150 European regions and communities to become climate resilient by 2030.

We are also starting the Mission on Cancer to improve the lives of more than 3 million people by 2030 through prevention, and cures, and to help those affected to live longer and better.

As part of the package, we also plan to launch a Mission to Restore our Ocean and Waters by 2030. This mission will protect 30% of the EU’s sea area, restore marine ecosystems, and protect 25.000 km of free-flowing rivers.

The 100 Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities Mission has the main objective to support at least 100 cities to become climate-neutral by 2030 and pave the way for all other cities to follow suit by 2050.

A Soil Deal for Europe is the main focus of another Mission; to create 100 living labs and lighthouses to lead the transition towards healthy soils by 2030.

All these missions actively support our top priorities, such as the European Green Deal, Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, and the New European Bauhaus. They are designed to do things differently. They propose a new role for research and innovation, combined with a coordinated, cross-sectoral, all-in approach and a better relationship with citizens.

Research and innovation are a clear starting point for missions, laying the foundation to achieve results. Missions are a key novelty of Horizon Europe, the EU’s new research and innovation programme. However, their scope goes beyond that of a single research project – they will operate as a portfolio of actions across sectors, demonstrating, scaling up, and replicating solutions adapted to local circumstances. They aim to boost spin-offs and encourage private investments.

The Missions propose a new relationship with citizens to rethink how they can help shape, implement and monitor the policies that will make a positive difference in their lives. Missions will make it easier and more attractive for people to get involved, including social innovation and citizen science. This is a way of putting the vision of the Conference on the Future of Europe to practice.

We, the European Commission, will mobilise all relevant instruments and resources to pursue the missions’ objectives. The active involvement of the Member States, regions, local authorities, researchers, innovators, the private sector, citizens, civil society and investors is a key for success. EU missions are about what we can do together to shape the future we want to live in. They are our collective responsibility towards the future of our peoples and our planet.

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