Societal challenges such as climate change, the ageing population, energy security and others have become major determinants for research promotion in recent years. While some years ago most research programmes at European as well as at national level were structured by research themes or disciplines, the trend is now to design research programmes in such a way as to contribute to meeting major societal challenges. Such programmes are usually interdisciplinary and often cover the entire innovation chain from fundamental research to demonstration. A typical element of challenge-driven research is that it is funded with public money, since it is in the public interest to find solutions to societal challenges. Industry often plays a role in such programmes, but does not – and should not - define their objectives. A major part of the current EU Research Framework Programme “Horizon 2020” is dedicated to societal challenges. Also at national level many challenge-driven programmes have been set up. Positioned between investigator-driven basic research and industry-driven research, challenge-driven research has established itself as a major pillar of research policy in Europe.