The 70 experts will be responsible for designing the large-scale, objective-driven research projects, which are seen as central to reframing Europe’s approach to tackling ‘grand challenges’ including climate change, soil erosion, sustainable food production and marine and freshwater pollution
The European Commission has named the 70 people who will design Horizon Europe’s research missions alongside the five board chairs announced on 4 July.
The missions have five themes: climate change; cancer; oceans and other natural waters; climate-neutral and smart cities; and soil and food. Each has a board of 15 people with one chair. The boards will act in an advisory role: the final decision on which missions go ahead is due to be made by the commission in consultation with a committee of EU member state delegates.
Those appointed to the boards include the prominent young Dutch entrepreneur Boyan Slat, who joins the oceans mission. Slat, who last week celebrated his 25th birthday, is CEO of the environmental organisation, The Ocean Cleanup, which he founded in 2013 to develop technologies for removing plastics from the sea. At age 14 he set the Guinness World Record for the simultaneous launching of water rockets, though his record has since been broken.
Also on the oceans board are former MEP Gesine Meißner of Germany’s Free Democratic Party and Lowri Evans, a Welsh eurocrat who until recently was director-general of the Commission’s economic growth department, DG Grow.
The smart cities mission board includes Swiss psychiatrist and balloonist Bertrand Piccard, who with his British teammate Brian Jones was the first to complete a non-stop balloon flight around the Earth. Piccard also leads the solar-powered aircraft project Solar Impulse with Swiss pilot André Borschberg; during March 2015-July 2016 the duo flew the first circumnavigation of the globe in a solar-powered fixed-wing aircraft.
Also joining the smart cities board are the former Viennese vice-mayor, Maria Vassilakou and Allan Larsson, who served as Sweden’s finance minister and as director general of the Commission’s employment and social affairs department. The board’s chair, announced on 4th July, is the former Warsaw mayor and law professor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz.
Belgian climatologist Jean-Pascal van Ypersele will join the mission board for adapting to climate change. A professor of environmental science at the Université Catholique de Louvain, van Ypersele received his PhD in 1986 for work on global warming, and went on to serve as a vice-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change from September 2008 to October 2015.
Another Belgian, Marine Piccart, will join the mission board for cancer. Piccart is president of the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer and head of chemotherapy at the Institut Jules Bordet, a general hospital in Brussels that specialises in cancer. Also joining the board is Estonian geneticist Andres Metspalu, who is director of the Estonian Genome Centre at the University of Tartu.
Joining the mission board for soil health and food is Carmon Vela, who served as Spain’s research minister under Mariano Rajoy. Vela is a biochemist who has worked on the study of allergies and the development of vaccines for African swine fever. She is director general of Inganesa, a company that manufactures diagnostic tools for animal health and food safety.
The full list of 75 board members, including the five chairs announced on 4th July, can be found here.