Create 100 living labs and lighthouses to lead the transition towards healthy soils
Horizon Europe will incorporate, as a new element, research and innovation missions. One of these five selected mission areas is on soil food and health. Soil degradation is driven by unsustainable human activities related to management practices in forestry and agriculture, pollution from industries and urbanisation, as well as processes in the food chain and food waste. As the Mission Board points out in its interim report, soil is a fragile resource that takes a long time to renew which makes the challenge of restoring and promoting soil health a priority.
Mission 'A Soil Deal for Europe,' will create a shared research and innovation vision that will accelerate Europe's trajectory towards sustainable soil management and restoration as part of a wider, green transition in rural and urban areas. The mission aims to create 100 living labs and lighthouses to lead the transition towards healthy soils by 2030, where soil health is defined as 'the continued capacity of soils to support ecosystem services,' according to the implementation plan published in September 2021.
In September 2021, the European Commission published this factsheet on the Mission, renaming it as the 'Soil Deal for Europe' Mission.
There are eight specific objectives to the Mission, each comes with a series of measurable goals to be achieved:
- Reduce land degradation
- Conserve and increase soil organic carbon stocks
- No net soil sealing and increase the reuse of urban soils
- Reduce soil pollution and enhance restoration
- Prevent erosion
- Improve soil structure
- Reduce the EU global footprint on soils
- Increase soil literacy in Member States.
ERRIN input & regional dimension
To maximise the impact of the mission, research activities will be adapted to local and regional conditions. Knowledge will be co-created in living labs that will address specific needs for soil health. These living lands will form regional clusters with the objective to spur co-innovation at both landscape and watershed levels.
The mission also aims to focus on mobilising and creating an enabling environment for sustainable soil management throughout the EU looking at public policies, investments, citizen engagement, and information campaigns, where the regional and local levels are crucial to achieve long-lasting impact. The activities carried out within the mission will also have clear links to regional and urban climate adaptation policies and actions.
In February 2021, ERRIN's Bioeconomy Working Group organised an info session on the Mission, during which members took a particular interest in the development of the lighthouse demonstrators.
The WG continues to follow the Mission and is preparing an info session on the Mission to take place in November.