Nanotechnology research and innovation can benefit from being open to the public. Early and continuous engagement is key to sustainable, desirable and acceptable innovations, in which R&I is aligned with the values, needs and expectations of society. Industry is one of the most important stakeholders during the co-creation process. On the one hand, industry is often the developer of an innovations or product that raises the discussion between stakeholders. On the other, industry is often the enactor to follow up on the co-created socially robust research or product design suggestions. To support you to become more responsive to societal needs and values, GoNano developed various tools and guidelines that can be found below.
Industry and businesses proved difficult to reach for the co-creation events, but the industry representatives who joined the stakeholder workshops appreciated the initiative in the end. The outcomes of the overall co-creation process demonstrate how bringing stakeholders with different backgrounds together may lead to relevant discussions and insights for research and product development.
The Founder of the Artificial pancreas mentioned:
‘One discussion was about the ownership or property of the patient data that comes from the patient device, this was vert helpful. This was a topic we were discussing internally, but it is good to place it in a broader perspective. And there are some new aspects we hadn’t thought of. In that respect, the foundation of the innocation has improved’
For more detail, see the video of the first stakeholder workshop at the University of Twente, The Netherlands.
GoNano figured that to encourage industry to include co-creation and stakeholder engagement as part of your innovation processes, more compelling examples are required that clearly demonstrate the added value for your innovation processes and developments. Hence, GoNano first explored best practices in co-creation by way of a literature survey and in-depth interviews with co-creation practitioners and researchers across Europe as input for the overall co-creation design. Five organisations were interviewed in depth and represented the co-creation best practices. These companies emphasized that industry and businesses are open and interested in the benefit and added value of co-creation, but that their are some challenges to overcome (see the section on Best practices in Co-creation below for more detail):
- Companies often think from an economic bottom line: Co-creation is most often used so open up and resolve wicked problems, in which short term economic benefits are not the main goal.
- Direct communication with citizens was perceived as difficult: to have a constructive dialogue with citizens about the future of (nano)technology, citizens and sccientists have to debate on an equel footing. This can be achieved through a product oriented perspective and playful imagining. Participants from industry did mention examples of direct commucation with citizens as customers, but to have them at the table as equal partners was sometimes more difficult and earlier in the process as usual.
- Various stakeholders bring different stances to the table; citizens are not always confident that their views of the future of technology matter; and scientists are not always used to seeing citizens as rightful participants in the debate on the future directions of research. This leads to the risk that the ‘dialogue’ turns into a science lecture.
Over the past three years, GoNano developed a co-creation approach to explore how engineers and researchers can work with publics and professional stakeholders to create novel suggestions for future nanotechnology products. Co-creation is a widely used, but loosely defined term that has been applied in different contexts. Co-creation can be understood as the collaborative development of new value. It is a form of collaborative innovation: ideas are shared and improved together. GoNano’ definition of co-creation is more focussed towards nanotechnology and defined co-creation as the emergence of productive collaborations between important stakeholders over longer timeframes, focusing on specific nanotechnology research lines, leading to tangible outcomes such as a new research avenue, proposal, product or prototype.
Advantages of co-creation for industry
GoNano experienced that an earlier analysis of the product suggestions resulting from the co-creation process furthermore concludes that the focused, guided interactions in the stakeholder workshops can lead to innovative suggestions on how to integrate broader considerations in research and innovation decisions. For instance, a discussion between producers, policy makers, civil society, researchers and a diabetes patient around the artificial pancreas (a monitoring device for diabetes type 1 patients that continuously measures glucose levels of the patients and adds insulin and glucagon when needed) in the first stakeholder workshop on health at the University of Twente led to data management considerations that may be relevant for future data sharing agreements between the producer and users of the device. And the discussions around the Harvestore project in the second stakeholder workshop on energy in Barcelona suggested how societal considerations can be productively integrated in the development of the wireless sensor nodes. These examples suggest that ‘exposure’ to use considerations further down the line can attune research design to future use contexts.
To support industry in becoming more responsive to societal needs and values, GoNano explored the beneftis and challenges of co-creation, whether there is a business case, and how industry can be encouraged to work in an inclusive and co-creative way for aligning their product development efforts to societal needs and value. Below you will find multiple tools and guidelines that GoNano developed -based on our lessons learned and experiences- to support your journey in improving the responsiveness of your research and innovation processes to public values and concerns.
1) The GoNano Business case
One element of the overall GoNano project is to explore in what ways the insights from the co-creation activities might be taken up beyond the duration of the project. Is there a ‘business case’ for co-creation? The answer to this question can be expected in November, 2020.
2) The GoNano White Papers
GoNano developed three white papers through and interactive writing process with stakeholders and the general public. Each white paper focusses on specific aspects of co-creation and responsiveness in the field of nanotechnologies.
White Paper one establishes the foundation as to why co-creation responsiveness makes sense in nanotechnology and describes conceptual and empirical aspects of responsiveness of researchers and engineers in co-creation processes. It mainly addresses researchers, engineers, as well as other stakeholders involved in the research system (e.g. research funding or research institutions)
White Paper two provides a strategic focus regarding how to implement co-creation, considering research and the innovation eco-system. Thus, it addresses industrial and business partners, research institutions, and policy makers who are active in and are influencing research and innovation processes.
White paper three provides guidance on how to realize co-creation considering a gender and diversity perspectives in order to better integrate these in nano-related R&I. The main addressees of the paper are organizers and/or researchers in a position to put co-creation into practice.
Read the full report about the white papers here: GoNano Deliverable 5.3- Collection of the GoNano White papers
3) The GoNano Policy Briefs
The GoNano policy briefs present the results of the engagement activities and provide recommendations based on the GoNano experiences.
About: Co-creation can enhance responsiveness by
About: The move to action can be supported by
About: Strategies for overcoming challenges for co-creation
About: How the value chain approach can support the implantation of RRI
About: Possible uses of co-creation in research and innovation
About: Key requirements for realising inclusion in co-creation
About: Gender issues in nanotechnologies research and innovation include
About: Designing solutions to shared problems with citizens and stakeholders
4) Best practices in Co-creation (in alphabetical order)
Francois Jégou – Vision Lines 20
Our first example comprises two projects on citizen engagement. François Jégou, Director of Strategic Design Scenarios (SDS) reports on the EU project NANOPLAT and the Vision Lines 20 project. The NANOPLAT project aimed to empower citizens to participate in the debate on the future of nanotechnologies on an equal footing with scientists. Taking a design-perspective, concrete visualisations of nanotechnology products were used as boundary objects between ‘lay’ and scientific expertise.
Vision Lines 20 was a visualisation of 20 ideas of future applications of nanotechnology, picked up from popular science magazines. The project developed scenarios based on these future applications, aiming to foster a social conversation about the future of nanotechnologies, and to draw lines between dreams and reality, fear and hope, between “Wonderworld and Apocaliptica”. The project asked 20 users to provide their assessment of these future applications based on desirability and 20 nanotech scientists to assess feasibility, leading to different scenarios for future applications. Click here to watch the full interview
Elise Kissling – BASF Creator Space
The second best practice comes from industry: Elise Kissling, Director of the Creator Space frontend innovation program at BASF, reports on Creator Space, a co-creation project aiming to foster open innovation within the company. It brings together stakeholders with varying experience from within and outside of the company to develop concrete, challenge-based business outcomes. Originally developed as a one-time initiative to celebrate the 150th anniversary of BASF, the Creator Space now forms an integral part of the company’s approach to innovation.Click here to watch the full interview
Frank Kresin – Making Sense EU
Our third example comes from a research institute: Frank Kresin, Managing Director of the Design Lab at the University of Twente, introduces the Science2Design4Society methodology and highlights the EU project Making Sense EU, a two-year project which helped citizens to use academic technologies to make sense of their own environments. Using low-cost, open source technologies, Making Sense EU empowered citizens to discuss methodologies, devise data collection strategies for measuring air pollution, water quality or sound pollution, and interpret the results. It’s a win-win project: scientists can use the datasets for their research, and citizens acquire tools to understand their environment and take appropriate action. The Making Sense team have recently published the Citizen Sensing tookit, a blueprint to facilitate community-driven data collection. Click here to watch the full interview
Markus Schmid – CarbonKiller
Our fourth best practice comes from civil society: Markus Schmid, campaign leader for WISE (World Information Service on Energy, an environmental organisation in Amsterdam working in the field of energy), reports on the CarbonKiller project. CarbonKiller enables citizens to buy emission rights in the European Emission Trading Scheme (ETS), a CO2 trading system of the European Union designed to lower carbon emissions and destroy them. The idea is to speed up the reduction of the total number of CO2 emission rights in the system. CarbonKiller aims to ‘buy out the bubble’ – it’s about taking the air out of the system. Click here to watch the full interview
Leonie Vestering – Flevotop (Dutch)
The last project comes from the world of policy making: Leonie Vestering, member of the Provincial Council of Flevoland in The Netherlands and co-organiser of the first Flevotop, reports on the Flevotop, the first provincial civic summit in the Netherlands. The Flevotop aimed to foster closer collaboration between policy makers of the province and the residents of Flevoland. The residents of Flevoland were invited to share their views on societal challenges such as sustainable energy, circular economy, regional development and sustainable agriculture. Click here to watch the full interview
The GoNano approach
GoNano believes that research and innovation can benefit from being more open to societal needs and concerns. Over the course of three years (2017-2020), GoNano enabled collaborative development (co-creation) in three nanotechnology application areas: food, energy and health. We first consulted citizens about their wishes, needs and concerns regarding future nanotechnology applications. This was used as input for the first and second stakeholder workshops, which aimed to stimulate citizens, civil society organisations, industry, researchers and policy makers across Europe to co-create research aims and think about concrete (product) suggestions for future nanotechnologies. Read more about the GoNano approach and results.