One of the megatrends of our time, you might say, is the definition of missions as a means to reach a larger goal, or to meet a grand challenge. Defining a mission as “a thematic challenge formulated as a partial objective within a grand challenge”, performing mission-oriented research becomes a holistic approach in which all parts of the value chain, from fundamental through applied research to innovation and education, are addressed across the classical disciplines and utilizing knowledge from all areas of science.
In Horizon Europe, five missions have already been identified to solve the grand challenges of cancer, climate adaptation, healthy seas, soil health and climate neutral cities. More will follow in time. In Denmark, four so-called “green missions” have been identified to meet the grand challenge of the green transition: CCUS, Green fuels, Sustainable agriculture, and circular plastic economy. In both Horizon Europe and Denmark, these missions will be the frameworks in which actions are launched – actions being funded research, innovation, and implementation actions – directed towards the identified grand challenges.
At AAU Energy we have explored new ways to develop our approach to research. We have identified thematic challenges and partial objectives that lie within our research areas, and where we can contribute to solving the grand challenge. As a result, we have defined seven missions: six technical research missions – and a seventh on education, knowledge transfer, and training. Our missions focus on the green transition, in particular those elements of this that involve energy.
- Circularity and Carbon Capture: improved circular economy and carbon capture in the energy sector
- Digital transformation and AI: Enabling the next leap in digital transformation and AI for smart and resilient energy systems
- Energy efficiency: Achievement of higher efficiency in energy components and systems
- Renewables and energy islands: Ensuring renewable energy generation and energy islands for fossil free energy production
- Electrification and energy integration: Towards fossil-free green transition via sustainable electrification, storage and integration of energy systems
- Sustainable fuels: Achieving fossil free fuels for transport and industry by sustainable fuels, chemicals and PtX
- Knowledge transfer and education: Reducing knowledge gap between researchers and society by establishing dedicated methods for knowledge transfer and education to obtain awareness and understanding of the green transition
Mission 7 is a bit special, hence the “6+1” formulation. It is not a research mission, but rather a mission for teaching, training and disseminating to different target groups such as students and PhD students in a global sense using online platforms, professionals from industry, students from primary and high-schools getting them interested in the engineering aspects and green transition – even working with new teaching techniques for our own students within digitalization, PBL and the LeadENG and Megaproject frameworks here at AAU. It could also be a way of including this type of activities in research applications.
These missions form a set of common overarching goals for our research groups, each with their different competences and areas that inspire to greater collaboration and synergy externally as well as internally for students and staff, as well as making it easier for external partners and stakeholders to engage with us in collaborative efforts. With our missions, it becomes clearer as to what parts of the green transition we can and want to have a positive impact upon, and how the AAU Energy missions align themselves with Danish and European missions, as well as the UN Sustainable Development Goals. By having a mission that explicitly focuses on education and training, we also make it clear that we are dedicated to educating new and training seasoned professionals to meet the requirements of the future – giving them the tools to have real impact in their time. As we launch our missions, it is with the strong ambition and belief that they allow us to be an even stronger and better contributor to the green transition with the energy challenges that lie ahead, and a preferred partner for stakeholders within the field of energy in collaborative research and innovation.