1C Technology assessment

Anticipation on societal embedding of nanotechnology aims to bridge the gap between the world of science and innovation on the one hand and societal (including broader economic) aspects on the other hand. This is a practical challenge for nanoscientists, technologists, industry, policy makers and societal actors. It is also a challenge for understanding and research, where contributions from different disciplines are necessary, often in interdisciplinary collaboration.

The programme encompasses science and technology studies, innovation studies, evolutionary economics, marketing and communication studies, political science, governance studies, law and ethics. There will be interesting complementarities with ‘risk’ studies which anticipate on health, safety and environmental effects. These complementarities will be actively pursued.

The programem will do frontier research, for example in new ways of assessing potential effects of nanotechnology developments and their embedding in society. Socio-technical scenario methods, drawing on “endogenous futures” and co-evolution of technology, society and ethics are one important approach. Another example of frontier research is the study of various “soft” law and de facto governance approaches, which may eventually link up with the study of public and stakeholder perceptions of nanotechnology which feed into perceptions of legitimacy of governance and regulation.

The relevance of the programme relates to different audiences: nanoscientists and other inhabitants of the world of nanotechnology including industry; policy makers and perhaps also politicians and opinion leaders (and media); civil society actors. The programme will actively pursue interactions with the first audience, nanoscientists and other inhabitants of the world of nanotechnology, and exploit opportunities to reach the other audiences.

The programme consists of three clusters:

  • Cluster A studies the dynamics of scientific and technological developments and inquires into their sectoral and institutional embedding and impacts (economic and otherwise) in society.
  • Cluster B starts with society, and includes public perception and public engagement with nanotechnology developments.
  • Cluster C focuses on governance questions that are urgent for regulatory and ethical embedding of nanotechnologies

Back to theme 1: Risk analysis and technology assessment


Programme Director:
Prof. dr. ir. Harro van Lente (Maastricht University)