Monday, 26 February 2018

Are you Mission-orientated?

The new report ‘Mission-orientated Research & Innovation in the European Union – A problem-solving approach to fuel innovation-led growth’ is the result of an invitation from Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, to Professor Mariana Mazzucato of University College London to draw up strategic recommendations to maximise the impact of the future EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation through mission-oriented policy. The Commission is calling for feedback on the report, including suggestions for possible EU research and innovation missions. The chemical industry has already described three potential FP9 missions.

The report, which was published on 23 February, is the result of Professor Mazzucato’s reflections based on her research, with inputs through a consultation process with internal and external stakeholders of the European Commission. It seeks to find a way to direct innovation to solve the pressing global challenges of our time and bring together the triple objectives of smart innovation-led growth, inclusion and sustainability.

On receiving the report Commissioner Moedas said: "Mariana Mazzucato provides the Commission with a valuable vision at a crucial point in the drafting of the next EU research and innovation programme. Her report provides clear insight in how research and innovation missions can create impact with societal relevance and how to design and implement such missions. I believe this will be another important step in the evolution of how we invest in research and innovation at the European level.”

Mission opportunity
Missions could provide a massive opportunity to increase the impact of European research and innovation, grasp the public imagination and make real progress on complex challenges. The report is designed to assist policy makers in designing and implementing the European missions of the future, as well as nurture a new belief amongst EU citizens about what real collaboration across Europe can achieve.

On the launch of the report Professor Mazzucato said: "Innovation has both a rate and a direction. Missions provide a way to harness and direct the power of research and innovation, not only to stimulate economic activity and growth, but also to find innovative solutions to the most pressing challenges of our time. I hope that my input will be a valuable resource, so Europe can take a bold and visionary step forward.”

The report introduces the concept of missions in research and innovation, some criteria for mission selection, how missions could be implemented, their ability to engage with the public and describes three example missions: ‘100 Carbon Neutral Cities by 2030’, ‘A Plastic-Free Ocean’, and ‘Decreasing the Burden of Dementia’.

Five key criteria
The report recommends five key criteria for the selection of missions at EU level. Missions must:

  • Be bold and inspirational, with wide societal relevance
  • Be ambitious, but with realistic research & innovation actions
  • Foster cross-disciplinary, cross-sectoral and cross-actor innovation
  • Set a clear direction: targeted, measureable and time-bound
  • Require multiple, bottom-up solutions

In the report’s conclusions, Professor Mazzucato highlights Europe’s major strengths, not least among them our research and innovation system, and stresses the opportunity that the forthcoming FP9 programme offers the prospect to turn the societal challenges that we currently face into opportunities for change, for new forms of interactions, and for revived innovation-led growth.

For her, the key insight of the report is that missions are both a means of setting economic growth in the direction of where we want to be as a society and a vehicle we can use to get there.

Chemical missions
Building up on its positive experience in Horizon 2020 and its position as a front-runner in research and innovation, the European chemical industry has already put forward three ideas for missions to be included in FP9.

  • Low Carbon Industries to lead the societal transformation to a carbon neutral economy by reducing carbon footprints (negative impact factors) and increasing carbon handprints (positive impact factors),
  • Materials Up & Recycling that promotes a change of mind-set for industry and consumers, enhance eco-design, re-use and recycle leading to the elimination of waste in the long run,
  • Affordable and abundant low carbon energy for all providing a structural change towards use of renewable energy sources requiring breakthrough innovation in terms of technology, materials and business models to resolve variability and to match supply and demand.

Mission feedback sought
The Commission is calling on the public and research and innovation stakeholders for feedback on the report, including suggestions for possible EU research and innovation missions. The call for feedback can be accessed here.

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