The European Union today revealed proposed objectives for its much-hyped “missions,” which will concentrate research funding on tackling problems in five broad areas: cancer, adapting to climate change, carbon-neutral cities, healthy waters, and soil health. The missions could receive hundreds of millions of euros per year from Horizon Europe, the forthcoming 7-year, €81 billion research program, and additional funds from other EU programs.
The five reports published today contain the recommendations of the advisory boards charged with designing the missions, made up of scientists, politicians, entrepreneurs, and other luminaries. Each proposes long-term goals and more detailed interim targets, which the European Commission will review before making its final decision.
But it is still unclear how the missions will be organized and managed, and what their budgets will be, casting some doubt on whether they will be ready by the January 2021 start of Horizon Europe. The “fundamental challenge” is “how you go from the big targets to the operationalization,” says Jan Palmowski, secretary-general of the Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities. He suspects some mission grant calls will be launched on time, but “we will only really see what they will look like in their entirety after 2 or 3 years.” Nevertheless, Palmowski argues the plans are “remarkably well advanced,” considering politicians didn’t agree on the five topics until March 2019.