1.1 Background: Mission-driven Innovation Policy

With the renewed top sectors policy, the Mission-driven Innovation Policy, the government wants to use the innovative strength of the top sectors to tackle societal challenges. The top sectors focus on cross-sectoral collaborations between science, applied research, companies and civil society organisations. The Mission-driven Innovation Policy focuses on four themes: Energy transition and sustainability, Agriculture, water and food, Health and healthcare, and Security.

In order to take targeted and joint steps in tackling the societal challenges, concrete, measurable goals and ambitions have been formulated: the missions. Missions focus on the challenges and function as a point on the horizon. Based on the missions, the top sectors developed six Knowledge and Innovation Agendas (KIAs) that form the basis for programming groundbreaking research. In addition to the four mentioned themes, agendas have been developed for the overarching theme Social Earning Capacity and for the Key Enabling Technologies, including the key enabling methodologies outlined here. This last KIA thus provides the means to tackle the challenges mentioned in the other five mission-driven agendas.

Missions require major social change processes The missions focus on realising social and economic change processes. It is about the realisation of a complex whole of closely intertwined interventions[1], systems and institutions. This requires not only research and innovation, but also accompanying measures, such as legislation and regulations, and education aimed at behavioural change. There is no one-size-fits-all solution: missions differ and each mission requires a specific policy mix and approach.

The creation of missions requires a multidisciplinary, cross-sectoral and multi-stakeholder approach, which not only makes use of new technology, but also pays attention to psychological and social, organisational, ethical and cultural aspects. The knowledge to address these aspects is developed in disciplines such as innovation sciences, public administration and business administration, psychology, law, philosophy, behavioural sciences, economics and anthropology. There is an increasing need to apply that knowledge from the social sciences and humanities in formulating and realising the social missions.

These missions provide new contexts in which this social form of innovation must take place. The successful examples of previous major interventions, such as the Delta Works and the offshore wind farms, cannot be translated directly into the currently desired changes in their specific contexts. In addition, changes like these rarely take place as a linear process and the challenges are surrounded by uncertainties and ambiguous information. The missions require a transition strategy[2] in which policy processes and innovation processes are deployed in the right way and at the right time. Without making a choice or going into the exact nature of such a coherent strategy, we can state that instruments are needed to develop widely supported interventions, accelerate or scale up new solutions within such a strategy, and to realise system changes and breakthroughs.

[1] Here we mean interventions in the most generic sense, as a collective term for all possible outcomes of a change or design process, such as products, services, infrastructure, facilities, measures, etc.

[2] Such transition strategies logically connect the steps required to achieve a transition and thus give direction to the use of instruments. Some of these strategies will be discussed in Chapter 8 on System Change.

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