Advisory report: Strengthen the role of science, technology and innovation in societal transitions
The Netherlands is a prosperous country with a flourishing economy. However, as a nation we face a number of urgent societal challenges in areas such as food, healthcare, mobility, safety and sustainability. Goal-oriented societal transitions are urgently needed on these and other fronts, and have to some extent already been initiated. Science, technology and innovation (STI) could play a stronger, more effective role in this process. That is the subject of this report.
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How can the government improve the contribution made by science, technology and innovation to societal transitions?
The Council believes that much better use can be made of science, technology and innovation to foster societal transitions. To achieve this, the government must organize the making of an inspiring story about the Netherlands in the future and adopt a more radical approach to achieving transitions. Together, these would make targeted investments possible, avoid wasting time and money and bring together innovators with new and creative parties.
There is currently no bigger picture behind the different actions being taken to address societal transitions. A number of visions documents have been written and a variety of social agreements on the direction of change have been reached between parties in certain sectors. However, these are generally based on the current situation and on existing possibilities. Often they are not focused on the long-term future, nor are they interlinked. Thus, choices in one area can stand in the way of choices in another.
There is also a general lack of focus on radical change and innovation: why is change necessary, what benefits will it have? In which innovations do we want to invest and which developments do we specifically not want in the future? All in all, these omissions lead to a situation in which the Netherlands is not making full use of science, technology and innovation to accelerate transitions. The Advisory Council for Science, Technology and Innovation (AWTI) addresses this problem in three recommendations to the government:
- Organize the making of an inspiring story about the Netherlands in the future; build this story up as a series of ‘windows’ and adjust the narrative regularly, to keep it in sync with social en technological developments. Place the responsibility for the story with a Cabinet subcommittee for societal transitions
- Develop a network of interconnected transformative coalitions, consisting of a variety of (new and unexpected) parties who work together and learn from each other.
- Ask each government ministry to set up a ‘future centre’ or ‘future group’, and to give these a stimulating mission.