Missions for sustainability: New approaches for science and society
Global societal challenges and the corresponding ecological, social and economic crises require far-reaching social transformations for which there are hardly any comprehensive solutions so far. Developing suitable solutions to these challenges cannot be based on the work of individual sectors and fields of action alone, but requires close cooperation between science, politics and society – at different levels and across diverse policy fields.
Mission-oriented research and innovation, as it is framed by scholars e.g. Mazzucato, 2018; Jütting, 2020 and Hekkert et al., 2020 aims to address these grand societal challenges through bold, inspiring objectives, and to direct a broad portfolio of inter- and transdisciplinary research activities toward their achievement within a fixed timeframe. Thereby, it brings together a wide range of action and policy fields e.g. healthy soils, climate adaptation, climate-neutral cities, ocean restoration and cancer.
However, the design and implementation of mission-oriented R&I also raises new questions e.g. in terms of governance and responsibility, normativity and social learning, as well as trade-offs and the navigation of complexity. How should the approach evolve as it becomes adopted across a widening range of sustainability challenges and policy fields?
Missions in Practice
Within its Horizon Europe framework the EU Commission has formulated so-called "Mission Areas" focusing on five challenges in a cross-programmatic and trans-disciplinary manner: Climate change adaptation, climate-neutral smart cities, soil health and nutrition, healthy waters (oceans, seas, coastal and inland), and cancer prevention/therapy.
The German government’s High-Tech Strategy 2025 similarly aims to increase the innovation momentum with the help of mission-oriented research and innovation policy. As a new instrument, these missions are intended to strengthen interdepartmental cooperation in research and innovation policy and effectively implement research results into practice.