The GoNano project is committed to developing tools for researchers and engineers, who would like to work more co-creatively with citizens and other types of stakeholders.

The GoNano project has develop a webinar series in three parts:

  • The first webinar titled “What is co-creation and why co-create in research and innovation? It was presented live on Thursday May 28, 3.00-4.30pm CET
  • The second webinar titled “Co-creation in practice” was presented live Thursday June 4, 3.00-4.30pm CET
  • The third webinar titled “Outcomes and results of co-creation” was presented live Thursday June 11, 3.00-4.30pm CET

The first webinar: co-creation in research and innovation

In the first webinar of the three-part series, we delve into co-creation, what is it, what you can achieve and how you can achieve it. Finally, we look at the types of stakeholders you can involve in a co-creation project.

The webinar consists of three individual sessions. The first session is more theoretical and explains the concept of co-creation, how co-creation is used by business, and in the public sectors, as well as how the GoNano project developed it’s own approach to co-creation in a research and innovation context.

The second session goes more in depth with the goals of co-creation for research. It explains the specific aims and outcomes that are you can use a co-creation approach to achieve.

The third session of the first webinar looks at the many different types of stakeholders that you could involve in a co-creation process, and it gives examples of what it is that these stakeholders groups could contribute to your project.

Questions and answers from the first webinar

Following the three videos, a couple of questions were discussed with the live audience. They included:

Q1: Is open innovation the same as co-creation?

Answer: Open innovation is a broader concept than co-creation. And if you look towards the HorizonEurope framework programme, Open Innovation is collaboration that includes any kind of partnership between public and private partners. So open innovation does not necessarily include elements from the framework of responsible research and innovation (rri), and so does not necessarily include an attempt to be more responsive to societal needs. Open innovation is simply about sharing information between different kinds of research and innovation actors through formats such as open access e.g.

Q2. The idea of co creation sounds nice in theory. However, in practice, I considered the involvement of stakeholders extremely difficult. Could you give some real-life examples?

Answer: yes, it is difficult to engage stakeholders on research and innovation questions in the early stage of development. However, it is worthwhile to do it. One should just keep in mind that it requires resources. You need to have support and probably also specific funding available, as it is not something that you can do for free. Once you have the resources, you can overcome the challenges to do it.

Coca-Cola and Lego are real-life examples of companies that apply co-creation in heir innovation and business development strategies. It is very important to keep in regular contact with the stakeholders you would like to engage with, and o find out how you can help them with a challenge they are facing with your project. In that way you create a common interest and motivation to engage with you.

Q3: Is there any reward program for the stakeholders to join a co-creation process? Would they do it just for fun? If stakeholder do contribute to the product design. Will there be an IP issue?

Answer: We did not have a reward programme for stakeholders participating in our co-creation process. We were able to cover expenses for travel and accommodation.  In relation to IP, the outcomes of the GoNano project are open for public use. If the products suggestions and ideas coming out of the co-creation pilots we ran, or our methodology for co-creation were taken up by others that would be a success for us.

Another aspect on IP, concerns the information that stakeholders are ale to share in co-creation workshops themselves. However, we have not experienced IP as an issue since we are not discussing at a detailed level relevant for IP concerns.

Q4: What do you think is the best starting point for a co-creation process, and especially for finding stakeholders in civil society, would it be Twitter or where else should you start looking for these types of stakeholders?

Answer: A good starting point is to carefully consider, what a desirable outcome of a co-creation project would be for your project or for your organisation. For finding civil society stakeholders, Twitter could be a starting point. Finding civil society organisations very much depends on your starting point. So, once you have defined your starting point and the interests and issues at stake, you can look for interest and civil society organisations that work on the same issues. E.g. consumer, environment, or patient organisations.

The second webinar: co-creation in practice

In the second webinar of the three-parts series, we look into the practical aspects of organising a co-creation event. We give an example of how you can design, plan and invite participants for a co-creation project.

Like in the first webinar, the webinar consists of three sessions. In the first session, we give an example of how you can build up a stepwise process over a longer period. A longer timeframe for your co-creation process allows ideas to grow and relationships and networks to mature.

In the second session, we provide insight into the many items needing thought and planning before organising a co-creation event. For example, how does the ideal room look like, do you need to consider the furniture and tables, how could you prepare your participants for the event?

In the third session of the webinar, we look at citizens and a different groups of professional stakeholders, like policy-makers, researchers, business and civil society organisations. What are their interests and motivations for participating in your event? How can you make sure it is designed in a way that they also take a valuable outcome home from your event? Getting the ‘what’s in it for me’ right for each stakeholder will increase your chance of their participation at your event, and will also increase the likelihood that their input to your project will be useful in a real-life setting.

Question and answers from the second webinar


Q1: What is the added value is of inviting citizens and societal interest organizations into a discussion on future applications of research?

Answer: It provides the opportunity to learn about societal needs and values, and inform experts working on nanotechnologies about these needs and values that they had not themselves thought of. Generally, citizens are interested in taking part in discussion on research plans, innovation ideas or business plans in certain research areas. Nanotechnologies can be hard to grasp, so it is important to illustrate the general and everyday issues related to the development of nanotechnologies.

Q2: How do you deal with questions on justification of the use of nanotechnology in food production as earlier GM based foods were not much appreciated ethically?

Answer: We asked about citizens fears and needs in relation to a specific application of nanotechnologies. the area? Citizens also appreciated the possible benefits of in relation to reducing food waste and keeping food fresh and healthy. Plastics and the potential to reduce microplastics was discussed both by the citizens and experts as a potential area of benefit. But there were concerns raised that parallel discussions on GMOs.

Q3:  What has been the most significant concern or apprehension from citizens on nanotechnologies. Are a lot of them for example concerned about safety issues?

Answer: Indeed, in all situations where we discuss areas of enabling technologies, including nanotechnology, citizens are concerned about safety. It is one of their three main concerns. They are also not just concerned about safety for people, and users, but also for the environment. Questions are on how, and if a new nano-product would affect the environment. Additionally, there is the aspect of sustainability and hopefully we will talk more about options for recycling materials in the future.

Q4: What are the essential planning elements that you need to consider in planning co-creation events?

Answer: Several items are important. One, is to take time to get your sample of participants right. You should plan a few months for this part. Another important item is thinking carefully about your topic. The kind of topic you choose to focus on will give direction to the stakeholders you need to have at your events. In addition, it is important to carefully phrase the approach to your topic. If your topic is one that the participants do not know much about, it will also be important to produce supporting information materials, and if you have participants with different levels of expertise or background, it is important to find a framing of your issue that unites their interests. For that you probably need to think generally and about the bigger societal issues at stake.

Q6: What is the need of a very detailed manual for a workshop? Is it necessary to choreograph an event as if it was a play?

Answer: A detailed manual is very important as it makes organisation easier, more efficient and it makes your work accountable, as you can explain how you reached specific outcomes from your event. Having it written down also provides a steady guide for everyone helping to facilitate and organise your event as it unfolds. It is also very good to host a training day to prepare everyone who has agreed to help you facilitate and run your event.

Q7: How diverse were the citizen participants? Did you also consider the roles of gender of culture in your co-creation process?

Answer: In terms of diversity, we worked with requirements for the composition of our citizen groups. These included requirements on diversity in relation to gender, age, socio-economic background, and geographic coverage of different regions. Gender and culture were considered as an important parameter in all levels of the project. Because gender and culture. Gender and culture are when it comes to innovation, in e.g. considering things from a different angle, and getting at possibly unexpected answers. These are effects of having a diverse population represented in your sample.

The third webinar: outcomes and results of co-creation

In the third and final webinar of the three-part series, we look into the possible outcomes and results one can achieve from a co-creation process. We also share the challenges we experienced in running and developing a co-creating project.

The third webinar consists of two sessions. In the first session, we show how citizens’ needs and values as we discovered them through our work. We give an example of how they inspired researchers to think about different aspect of their work in developing nanotechnologies for food, energy, and health.

In the second session, we focus on policy recommendations for how co-creative approaches for involving citizens, civil society, policy, and business could be increasingly supported and incentivised in at the level of individual researchers, and research and funding organisations. We also introduce perspectives on co-creation as elements of a business case to support trust-building between companies and civil society – and lead to a closer alignment between social needs and values and commercial products.

Question and answers from the third webinar


Q1: How did the suggestions or ideas for nanotechnologies applications develop through the co-creation process?


For the GoNano Health Pilot: One concrete idea we worked on was diabetes technology and a specific application called the artificial pancreas. Diabetes patients need constant monitoring of their insulin levels to make sure they can inject supplementary insulin before levels get dangerously low. The device we discussed during the co-creation process is one where that checks insulin levels automatically. The diabetes patient would therefore not need to measure his or her body indicators anymore. However, though the co-creation process we ran, we found out the patients would like to see what is happening in device. The iterative process allowed us to bring the point back to the developer for consideration in further development of the device.

For the GoNano Food Pilot: In our co-creation process, several ideas came up for discussion on the kind of food applications you could have. One of the main ideas, and the one that were the most popular between citizens, where nano filters, nano-packaging, and a kind of superfood containing nanoparticles. In the co-creation with experts, these ideas were developed further, and we ended up with two main outcomes. One, a smart food packaging, which would contain antimicrobial particles in the packaging itself., and with the outside of the packaging consisting of plastics or bio decomposable plastics or similar material. Two, a kind of system of analysing nanoparticles, particularly in foods, to address fears of eating nanoparticles.

For the GoNano Energy Pilot: Our outcome also developed over time, from rather broad and creative ideas coming out of the first citizen workshop, to more focused ideas. The broad idea of citizens, to have items that charge while you move, were interpreted by the experts first as energy saving devices, and finally by researchers in a nanotechnologies innovation project, who took the ideas and suggestions from the co-creation process into he considerations they were already having on developing devices similar to batteries.

Q2: Do you think it is possible to develop a co-creation process that is simpler than what you did in GoNano and is less resource intensive?  

Answer: The main issue is to be aware of what it is you would like to achieve with your co-creation process. The question of resources should not be the one that keeps you away from trying co-creation or from designing our own process. I just think that if you are aiming for procreation, you must be very aware of what you want to achieve. In terms of keeping costs down, there are maybe opportunities to rent low budget rooms, checking what resources are available in your network and institutions.

Q3: What do you find most challenging to get a greater recognition of gender and diversity issues in research and innovation activities and settings, and what policy recommendations does especially think address this challenge?

Answer: One of the main obstacles you come up against is the question if it is necessary to consider gender and diversity in innovation contexts. The practices for addressing the issues have not become routine. Therefore, considerations on gender and diversity can seem like a lot of work, and the value is not already clear to the people asked to make the considerations. It is very important to communicate that including considerations on gender and diversity is not just something you should do because it is the right thing to do. No, it adds value to the innovation process and outcomes as well. The positive effects of mindfulness on backgrounds, experiences, ethnicity, and religious and cultural background have been proven in several studies. Going that extra mile can add much to your process, and it can be less difficult than you might initially think. Think e.g. of contacting advocacy or interest groups to reach a greater diversity in your co-creation events.

In terms of policy, the recommendation to decide on considering and including gender mainstreaming and diversity from the beginning of policy development to all aspect of the running and development of a research or innovation programme of organisation is essential.

Q3: White paper 2 talks about conditions for working more co-creatively in research and innovation.  What do you think it would take to change research funding and incentive structures for cocreation to become more attractive to do or other types of collaborative activities with citizens and civil society?

Answer: Possibly we would need to start with the recognition that a cultural change is needed in how organisations are controlled and developed. They need to be more inclusive. As it is now, researchers participate in co-creation events out of personal interest. Only rarely are their participation part of a strategic plan of their organisations. Possibly, action from the policy realm could change the situation. We also found very different awareness of co-creation across the sectors that work on the development of nanotechnologies. E.g. in the manufacturing sector co-creation might be a known concept, but co-creation activities are virtually non-existing Finally, there are no reward mechanisms for researchers wanting to co-create or engage with stakeholders or publics. That would need to change.