Recently the Rathenau Instituut published the report ‘Van draagvlak naar meer – Ontwerp van een maatschappelijke incubator voor beloftevolle (nano)technologieën’ which deals with the concept of a societal incubator. The idea behind a societal incubator is how to connect safe and responsible use to innovation and engineering. Within NanoNextNL the idea of a societal incubator explores the benefits and applicability of an equivalent of a business incubator, combined with the value of open dialogues and participants eager to give shape to Safe-by-Design. The Rathenau Instituut’s report describes how a societal incubator could contribute to successful introductions of innovations, including those using nanotechnology.

Click image to enlarge infographic about Safe-by-Design tools, amongst which the societal incubator (infographic by Ymke Pas)

Valorising a good idea

Within the NanoNextNL research and innovation programme extra attention is given to risk analysis and technology assessment. The idea of the societal incubator as an equivalent to a business incubator was put forward by professor Harro van Lente (Maastricht University) during a Risk Analysis and Technology Assessment theme meeting dedicated to investigate how safe and responsible use can be connected to innovation and engineering.
The history to the research of the Rathenau Instituut was an innovation path in itself, from idea towards proof-of-concept. It demonstrates that it takes many actors working together to valorise a good idea. The NanoNextNL network and support by its Executive Board member dr. Frans Kampers provided the ingredients to bring this idea a step further through the execution of two pilot societal incubator workshops.