How can we overcome the challenges related to health and wellbeing posed by demographic changes all over Europe? How can we provide safe societies for citizens? Or food security, sustainable agriculture, smart transport, clean energy? These are just some of the societal challenges in Europe that Horizon2020 will be addressing in the coming years.

‘We need a new vision for European research and innovation in a dramatically changed economic environment.’ Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science.

Since 1984, the European Union has organized its research and innovation efforts in Framework Programmes. It has sought cooperation between different types of actors and supported the entire process from basic science to innovation through to implementation in society. Lars Klüver, Director of the Danish Board of Technology Foundation, has been involved in EU-funded projects for many years and has seen this trend of involvement evolve: “The focus has slowly moved from new technology to finding solutions to societal challenges. This shift started with the Fifth Framework Programme, but has got real momentum in Horizon2020.”

“Simultaneously we see increased interest for engaging different actors in the research. It started with small and medium sized enterprises and civil society organizations in the last Framework Programmes but in Horizon 2020 the involvement goes further,” reports Klüver. “Several calls encourage the direct involvement of citizens, users and stakeholders. Seeing how societal challenges demand a broad knowledge base and support from citizens, this involvement seems only natural”.

This is not unfamiliar territory for technology assessment professionals. Through three example projects – public health genomics, the future of ageing, and sustainable consumption – the PACITA project has started looking at the grand challenges of Europe and the example projects have shown the importance of involvement of different actors. With experts, stakeholders and citizens playing a role, technology assessment can be one way of dealing with these challenges. There are many possibilities for TA-projects to get funding through Horizon2020, believes Klüver, especially for those institutions that involve citizens and civil society in their work.

PACITA has a long-term goal of strengthening the basis for technology assessment (TA) in Europe, both on a structural and methodological basis. Klüver is convinced that the Commission sees the value in a project like PACITA, and recognizes that it takes time to implement this work into ‘real life’. “We do hope there will be opportunities to continue this work in one form or another through Horizon2020. Looking at the intentions of Horizon 2020, one could say that a natural development would be to strengthen the field of technology assessment all over Europe. Technology Assessment has always strived to identify solutions and maneuvers that are robust for society – both technologically and politically.”

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