Mission oriented research and innovation policy

Transitions and transformations

Finding solutions for complex societal challenges, such as ageing, the energy transition, climate change and digitalisation, requires a different approach. A mission-oriented research and innovation policy approach enables finding radical solutions to be accelerated. TNO conducts research on how large-scale and targeted missions are defined and how missions can be set up and managed.

In Europe there is a lot of interest in mission-oriented research and innovation policy (MO R&I). This is seen as the way to increase the impact of research and innovation, by creating the scale needed for breakthrough innovations and by accelerating the search for solutions to complex societal challenges. Mission-oriented R&I policy also offers the scope for actively engaging and involving citizens, for example in the selection of missions and their implementation.


The concept of mission-oriented research and innovation policy is not new. The NASA Apollo project of the US dating back to the 1960s is a classic example. The French 'Grand projects', such as the Concorde, is another example.

Missions are distinguished from today's challenge-driven policy by targeted, measurable objectives associated with a clear timeframe. Missions are often large-scale (in budget/resources) and require multidisciplinary and cross-sector collaboration to find radical solutions. Missions are best supported with a portfolio of policy instruments (both supply- and demand-oriented), aimed not only at correcting market failures but also towards co-creating and co-shaping new markets.

Societal challenges

A mission-oriented approach is especially geared for large, complex societal challenges such as ageing and climate change. Daring problems are served with solutions that require cross-sectoral and cross-disciplinary research and innovation, bottom-up rather than top-down. The urgency of finding solutions is increasing. With large-scale and targeted missions, in which various areas of expertise are brought together, and which can count on broad political and societal support the chances for finding solutions will increase.

Missions as part of 9th framework programme

The European Commission has appointed Professor Mazzucato as special advisor for the formulation of criteria for missions for the new EU Framework Programme (FP9). In preparation, TNO, as a partner of a European consortium, carried out two studies about the concept, its policy dimensions and needs and its possible impact for FP9.

Opportunities for the Netherlands

TNO’s Strategy & Policy department investigates how missions can best be set up and what opportunities this offers for the Netherlands. Based on examples, such as the Delta Programme, the portable artificial kidney and the Rotterdam Climate Initiative, and inspiring examples from Europe and elsewhere, TNO will identify success factors and lessons learned that are important for future initiatives.

We also look at ways in which citizens can be involved in decision-making. Emphasis will be placed on European developments and how the Netherlands can best position itself. The results of the research have been presented in the 2018 edition of “De Staat van Nederland Innovatieland”.

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