Advancing the EU Soil Mission: NATI00NS' support and future pathways

07 August 2023

NATI00NS celebrates the achievements of the EU Soil Mission's initial two years and our contributions to its progress. Since the launch of our Horizon Europe project in November 2022, we have organised 43 national events across EU Member States and Associated Countries, attracting the interest of more than 2400 people concerning the EU Soil Mission open calls. About 500 people are exploiting our dedicated Matchmaking Platform to meet like-minded organisations to establish partnerships and consortia.

We have carried out a wide range of targeted activities, such as webinars and coaching sessions, together with the production and implementation of useful materials and tools, including thematic factsheets and a dedicated online helpdesk for applicants.

Benefitting from Horizon Europe funding, the five EU Missions act as conduits between EU policies and local involvement. Looking ahead to 2030, their focus spans critical arenas such as climate adaptation, cancer treatment, ecological restoration, urban resilience, and soil health.

Rejuvenating Europe's soil: the EU Soil Mission's drive towards soil health

The EU Soil Mission aims to establish 100 Living Labs and Lighthouses by 2030, addressing soil health in rural and urban contexts. About 60% of EU soils are unhealthy, compromising food production, biodiversity, and water regulation. Supported by the Soil Strategy for 2030, a Directive on Soil Monitoring and Resilience, and the EU Soil Observatory, the Mission bolsters soil protection. Aligned with a dozen EU Green Deal strategies, it receives backing from the LIFE program, Circular Bioeconomy Europe Joint Undertaking, PRIMA, and the EIC.

The Mission fosters soil education, amplifying the European Year of Skills. Synergizing with Member States' efforts, it's integrated into 18 out of 28 Member State Strategic Plans under the Common Agricultural Policy. Regional and local authorities develop Territorial Soil Management Agreements. The Mission advances harmonised soil monitoring, decontamination strategies, and climate-neutral value chains. The first Living Labs begin in 2024, while global partnerships extend its reach, collaborating with countries like Japan, USA, Canada, and African countries.

Supporting soil solutions: NATI00NS activities for Mission success

NATI00NS plays a pivotal role in facilitating the successful deployment of the EU Soil Mission, particularly during its initial 'induction and pilot' phase from 2021 to 2025. Serving as a dedicated messenger of the Mission, NATI00NS actively raises awareness among national and regional stakeholders, ensuring that vital information reaches those who can contribute effectively. It provides access to meticulously vetted capacity-building materials and relevant information, fostering informed discussions on optimal Living Lab setups tailored to address distinct regional soil needs.

NATI00NS provides support to potential applicants through a series of activities at national and trans-European level:

  • National Engagement Events to raise awareness of the Mission in all Horizon Europe eligible countries and inform and spur discussions with national stakeholders.
  • Matchmaking platform: The Soil Living Labs Online Matchmaking Platform helps interested stakeholders, potential call applicants, and upcoming Living Labs at national or regional level reach out and meet potential project partners for the creation of cross-regional or trans-national clusters of Living Labs for the calls.
  • National mentors: Mentors trained by NATI00NS offer coaching of applicants at national level. Potential living labs applicants will be invited to join individual coaching sessions, led by experts specialised in specific land uses and associated management issues, and skilled in the conditions that apply in the HE Soil Health Living Lab call.
  • Capacity Building webinars and e-learning materials: A series of webinars presenting information on Living Labs methodology, Mission criteria, best practices and recommendations, as well as on application process. Thematic factsheets were also developed to provide key information on Mission objectives, LL criteria and specificities for different land use types: agriculture, urban, industry, forestry.
  • Thematic Events addressing cutting-edge topics related to the Mission and directed to domain-specific communities which will be held online. These online events are transnational and participants will be able to dig deeper in the topics of soil health, agri-food innovators, business care, industrial land stewardship, urban and forest environments for all land types, but also to meet and connect with organisations from other countries who might be potential partners for developing project proposals.
  • Online Helpdesk: A digital platform with a dedicated FAQ section and personalised questions providing on-demand support to applicants involved in developing proposals.

We look forward to welcoming the first wave of Living Labs under the Mission in 2024, experimenting with innovative solutions in urban and rural areas.

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Advancing the EU Soil Mission: NATI00NS' support and future pathways