The divertor target plates are the most thermally loaded in-vessel components in a fusion reactor where high heat fluxes are produced on the plasma-facing components (PFCs) by intense plasma bombardment, radiation and nuclear heating. For reliable exhaust of huge thermal power, robust and durable divertor target PFCs with a sufficiently large heat removal capability and lifetime has to be developed. Since 2014 in the framework of the preconceptual design activities of the EUROfusion DEMO project, integrated R&D efforts have been made in the subproject ‘Target development’ of the work package ‘Divertor’ to develop divertor target PFCs for DEMO. Recently, the first R&D phase was concluded where six (partly novel) target PFC concepts were developed and evaluated by means of non-destructive inspections and high-heat-flux fatigue testing. In this paper, the major achievements of the first phase activities in this subproject are presented focusing on the design rationales of the target PFC concepts, technology options employed for small-scale mock-up fabrication and the results of the first round high-heat-flux qualification test ... mehrcampaign. It is reported that the mock-ups of three PFC concepts survived up to 500 loading cycles at 20 MW/m² (with hot water cooling at 130 °C) without any discernable indication of degradation in performance or structural integrity.