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Beyond public acceptance

07 July 2016
Design of a societal incubator for promising (nano)technologies
Innovation Nanotechnology
This report describes how a “societal incubator” could contribute to embedding promising new technologies within society. A societal incubator is a gathering place for collective learning processes at which all parties involved get to know one another’s opinions and motives better.




Social incubators involve more than just looking for public acceptance. For example, a societal incubator challenges technology developers to show how innovation can contribute to solving important societal challenges. In that sense, it can be seen as an example of responsible research and innovation.

The report Beyond public acceptance: Design of a societal incubator for promising (nano)technologies is the result of an exploratory study by the Rathenau Instituut (in collaboration with the Agricultural Economics Research Institute at Wageningen University), that was commissioned by the Dutch research and innovation consortium NanoNextNL.

The Rathenau Instituut has a long history of facilitating and organising dialogue about new technologies such as nanotechnology, and the request therefore linked up well with our work.

The study involved holding interviews, organising workshops, and studying the relevant literature.

Preferred citation:
Virgil Rerimassie, Dirk Stemerding, Erik de Bakker & Rinie van Est, Beyond public acceptance: Design of a societal incubator for promising (nano)technologies. The Hague, Rathenau Instituut 2018

Original title: Van draagvlak naar meer – Ontwerp van een maatschappelijke incubator voor beloftevolle (nano)technologieën. (2016)


Our conclusion is that the societal incubator is a viable concept, although one that requires investment in time and manpower. Moreover, we believe that a societal incubator should be viewed as an opportunity for mutual social learning and also as a new kind of institution.