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17th Oct 2021

EU launches five new research missions for 2030 agenda

  • 'We can only tackle our biggest problems with a collective effort rooted in research and innovation,' said EU commissioner Mariya Gabriel (Photo: EC - Audiovisual Service)
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The European Commission unveiled on Wednesday (29 September) five new research missions to deliver on major challenges by 2030 - fighting cancer, climate-change adaptation, oceans restoration, smart cities and soil pollution.

But the ambition of some of them has been watered down, compared to the experts' previous proposals.

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The missions will receive up to €1.9bn until 2023 under the EU research programme Horizon Europe to achieve concrete goals through research projects and policy measures.

The EU Commission said that they will boost new solutions, operating "as a portfolio of actions involving different instruments, business models and public and private investments at EU, national, regional and local levels".

The missions concept was first proposed by former research commissioner Carlos Moedas and further developed by economist Mariana Mazzucato.

They are based on the proposals of five dedicated teams of experts, created in 2019, who have been working since to identify feasible and concrete targets for climate and health challenges to be achieved by 2030.

"The response to the coronavirus pandemic has shown that we can only tackle our biggest problems with a collective effort rooted in research and innovation," said EU commissioner in charge of research and education Mariya Gabriel.

The mission on climate-change adaptation aims to accelerate the transformation of 150 EU regions to "become climate-resilient" by helping them find investments and innovative solutions to manage potential climate risks.

Similarly, another initiative attempts to support at least 100 selected cities to become climate-neutral over the next decade.

The mission on oceans and waters seeks to improve the monitoring of oceans pressures to restore marine ecosystems, building on the EU target to protect 30 percent of the EU seawater and 25,000 km of free-flowing rivers.

Meanwhile, the mission on cancer aims to improve the lives of more than three million people by improving prevention solutions - which is seen as a reduced ambition, compared to the experts' proposal of trying "to save" three million lives in the next decade.

That is also the case for the mission covering soil pollution.

Top experts, led by former Dutch agriculture minister Cees Veerman, suggested that at least 75 percent of soil should be healthy for food production by 2030.

But the final target agreed by the EU commission is to create 100 so-called "living labs" (to test solutions on the ground) and "lighthouses" (to showcase good practice) over the next decade.

Meanwhile, Brussels acknowledges that up to 70 percent of EU soils are currently in an unhealthy state.

The EU Commission is expected to evaluate the state of the missions and their future financial needs no later than 2023.

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