The design and implementation of mission-oriented innovation policies

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The European Union (EU) is embarking on five missions guiding Horizon Europe, the next EU research and innovation programme for 2021-2027.

The European Commission organised Info-Days for the EU Missions on the 18 and 19 January 2022 to inform potential applicants about the new topics included in the EU Missions work programme 2021 (the recording and presentations can be found here).

The five missions aiming to address some of the greatest challenges facing our society are:

Missions are bold and inspirational with clear objectives that are time-bound, realistic, measurable, and targeted. Rooted in research and innovation, they aim to tackle societal challenges with systemic solutions, leading to societal transformations and social impact. Missions will help deliver key EU policy priorities such as the European Green Deal, Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, NextGenerationEU, the EU Industrial Strategy, and A Europe fit for the Digital Age. The strategic plan 2021-2024 defines the key strategic orientations for the first four years of Horizon Europe. It sets out the research and innovation priorities to support a sustainable recovery and further accelerating the twin green and digital transitions.

The five missions provide top-down directionality and bottom-up implementation where local and regional policymakers will have an important role to play. The Horizon Europe Work Programme 2021-2022 – Missions provides the list of calls where a regional approach is often taken to mobilise all actors - EU Member States, regional and local authorities, research institutes, investors and citizens to create real and lasting impact (see Implementation Plans for the EU Missions).

The concept of missions and mission-oriented innovation policies is also increasingly adopted at the regional levels through the Smart Specialisation Strategy (S3) and the recent shift towards Smart Specialisation Strategies for Sustainable and Inclusive Growth (S4+). However, the new policy concept also brings new design and implementation challenges. The OECD has published a report on the design and implementation of mission-oriented innovation policies: A new systemic policy approach to address societal challenges that provide guidance to national and regional policymakers.

As a result, regional policymakers could participate in the Horizon Europe Work Programme 2021-2022 – Missions and find missions that are aligned with their S3. This will require regional policymakers to also devise policy actions within their S3 that follow a mission-oriented innovation policy agenda.

The design and implementation of mission-oriented innovation policies must follow three dimensions:

  • Strategic orientation – Legitimacy, Directionality, Intentionality, Flexibility;
  • Policy co-ordination – Horizontality, Verticality, Intensity, Novelty;
  • Policy implementation – Policy mix consistency, Fundability, Evaluability, Reflexivity (OECD).

The concept of mission-oriented innovation offers regional policymakers the opportunity to experiment and create bold innovation policies and to learn from good practices from regions across the European Union. Interreg Europe Policy Learning Platform offers a space for learning and knowledge exchanges on mission-oriented innovation approaches with our story on Grand Challenges: The New Mission-Oriented Innovation Frontier, our policy brief on open, social, and responsible innovation, and our webinar on mission-oriented innovation policies.

Read the OECD report on the design and implementation of mission-oriented innovation policies: A new systemic policy approach to address societal challenges

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Innovation