Mission-oriented Innovation Policy Observatory

The Mission-oriented Innovation Policy Observatory (MIPO) is an initiative by the Copernicus Institute for Sustainable Development, Utrecht University. The observatory’s objective is to enhance the understanding, monitoring and effective use of challenge-based innovation missions aimed at solving complex societal problems (related to e.g. the Sustainable Development Goals). To do so, the MIPO unites policy practitioners and scholars from innovation, transition and governance studies.

> Scope and activities
> Research agenda
> Events
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Scope and activities

Missions can be understood as a coordination mechanism for engaging stakeholders around a particular goal. The figure below highlights that missions emerge as a negotiated outcome between different interests, concerns and imperatives. Their impacts can yield changes in both the realm of innovation, as well as in (socioeconomic) systems of production and consumption in a societal domain. More details about the observatory’s view on the promises and challenges of missions can be found in our Position Paper.

MIPO framework, highlighting the core themes and dynamics of mission-oriented innovation policies (see Position Paper).

The MIPO provides a basis for characterizing, comparing and reviewing the governance and policy instrumentation of ambitious missions designed to solve selected complex societal problems, possibly combined with driving innovation-led growth. The observatory has a broad scope in terms of country, government-level and policy domain missions can pertain to, as long as they are currently active. MIPO researchers engage in in-depth and comparative analysis of cases suggested by practitioners dealing with governance or policy questions.

Research agenda

Researchers affiliated with the MIPO engage in self-initiated as well as commissioned research projects, both of a theoretical and empirical nature. Topics and research questions the MIPO is concerned with include, amongst others, the following:

  • Conceptualisation of missions and mission-oriented innovation policies (MIPs), based on definitions explaining how they relate to concepts like directionality of innovation support and transformative innovation policies, as well as to emerging policy concepts like the mission-orientation of the European Union Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.
  • Comparison of different types of missions and MIPs, on dimensions like the geographical scope of missions, their timespan, the wickedness of targeted problems/solutions, the attention for technological vs. institutional and behavioural solutions, the focus on transforming systems or optimizing them, the governance models used to prioritize and to select/legitimize solution directions, the arrangements of responsibilities, accountability, and learning efforts (including use of indicators), and the design and combination of actual policy instruments.
  • Reviewing policy adoption and effects: Monitoring and analysis of how ‘missions thinking’ is diffused and implemented within governments and on what accounts the missions and MIPs yield observable changes. Besides developing and applying an assessment framework, part of the reviewing is also the identification of best practices as well as success and fail factors.


The MIPO regularly organises events, webinars and workshops. Here, you can find upcoming events including links to more extensive information, and previous events including links to event summaries and reports. 

Future events

  • June 14-16 2023, Brighton. Special session EU-SPRI2023 conference: “Governance and policy processes for transformative research and innovation”

Previous events

  • January 17 2023, 09:00 – 13:00, Utrecht. Workshop on missions for addressing coordination challenges in agricultural transitions.
  • October 6-7 2022, Utrecht: MIPO-INTRANSIT research workshop 'Mission-oriented and transformative innovation policy research: what are the next steps?'.
  • June 1-3 2022: Eu–SPRI conference on ‘Challenging Science and Innovation Policy’, Utrecht. Various tracks on innovation policy and societal challenges.
  • January 20 2022, 15:00 – 16.30, online: Round table debate on ‘Governing industrial transitions’ (with JRC and INTRANSIT) on the TIPc Conference 2020.
  • August 25-27 2021: Eu-SPRI PhD Summer School on ‘Advancing Mission-oriented Innovation Policy’ (online). Read the Call for Participation (opens pdf in new tab, 140 kB).
  • September 17 2021, 09:30 - 12:00, online: Webinar/workshop Governing mission-oriented innovation policies, with OECD. Topic of the workshop was monitoring, evaluation & reflexivity of missions. Read the 'monitoring, evaluation & reflexivity of missions' workshop report (open pfd, 239 kB).
  • June 9-11 2021: Eu-SPRI Conference track on ‘Systems approaches for understanding and assessing the impact of directionality in challenge-led policy’. Paper presentations and discussion.
  • January 29 2021, 09:30 - 12:00, online: Webinar/workshop Governing mission-oriented innovation policies, with OECD. The workshop focused on 'implementation of mission policy’. Read the 'implementation of mission policy' workshop summary (opens pdf in new tab, 187 kB).
  • January 15 2021, 09:00 – 12.30, online: MIP(O)-TIP(C) seminar on the communalities and differences between mission-oriented innovation policies and transformative innovation policy.
  • September 18 2020, 09:30 - 12:00, online: Webinar Governing mission-oriented innovation policies with OECD, on 'coordination in missions'. Read the 'coordination in missions' workshop report (opens pdf in new tab, 196 kB).
  • August 19 2020, 12:00 - 13:30, ‘Dialogue session’ on the IST2020 Conference, in which scholars of different backgrounds will discuss what roles mission-oriented innovation policies can play in transformative governance and sustainability transitions.
  • May 15 2020, 09:30 - 12:00, online: Webinar Governing mission-oriented innovation policies with OECD. On May 15, the MIPO together with the OECD organised an online workshop on the governance of MIPs. In this workshop, which is intended to be the first of a series, participants from various countries were invited to discuss tensions involved in the process of ‘scoping and agenda setting’ when developing a mission. Read the 'scoping and agenda setting' workshop report (opens pdf in new tab, 254 kB).
  • February 20 2020, Utrecht. Workshop Governing mission-oriented innovation policies with ISI Fraunhofer. Aiming to improve our understanding of the potential and challenges of missions, the MIPO and ISI Fraunhofer organised a half-day workshop for a diverse set of academics and policy makers. A combination of presentations and discussions yielded valuable insights and relevant questions, on both the nature of mission-oriented innovation policies as well as practical experiences and tensions encountered when deploying them. Read the February 20 workshop summary by ISI Fraunhofer (opens pdf in new tab, 136 kB).


External expertise

Matthias Weber, Jonas Torrens, Laurens Klerkx

Dr. Matthias Weber
Austrian Institute of Technology

Jonas Colen Ladeia Torrens
Eindhoven University of Technology

Prof. Dr. Laurens Klerkx
Wageningen University


Academic studies


Policy briefs