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How to leverage scientific and technical innovation towards social and environmental impact ?


This work was realized during an open-session of the Social Entrepreneurs: Have your say! event and was part of a program set up by TEN (The European Network). It first introduces the key insights as seen by participants and then showcases examples of Responsible Research organizations and recommendations on actions that Europe could lead to help that field grow.

These last 5 years have seen the digital world take possession of its own social impact and the emergence of a new movement on the internet combining technological developments and the urge to help others. This search for sense is slightly reaching the scientific world as well.
Science, often seen as a distant actor working in the realm of pure knowledge, has a key role to play in tackling the current social and environmental crisis.

Young scientists often envision their work’s goal as making humanity go further. However, rapidly caught in the industrialization of the scientific world as it is today, they lose their goals and feel more and more disconnected from society. Seeking the highest numbers of publications in the best ranked journals is at the best a boring task, and in the worst cases a true burden. This lack of purpose is harmful to our scientists’ imagination and creativity. It endangers our ability to find meaningful answer as well as our ability to create true scientific breakthrough.

How to leverage scientific and technical innovation towards social and environmental impact? 
Set scientists’ creativity free. Let bold ideas emerge.

Scientific research laboratories gather together experts in one specific field, such as crystallography, fluid dynamics, or astrophysics. This organization by fields is crucial to go deeper in our fundamental comprehension of the physical rules that affects our world. However, this organization was not made to take on real and current challenges. Those challenges are so complex that there is a need for diverse competencies. Those challenges are so hard that there is a need for strong purpose.
For science to take on social and environmental challenges there is a need to create diversity and purpose. Scientific innovation with a social and environmental impact will only appear from the encounter of diverse fields and of a meaningful goal.

How to leverage scientific and technical innovation towards social and environmental impact? 
Find a goal. Merge fields. Let possibilities flow.


• Global Good: almost a laboratory focused only on social and environmental challenges
Global Good is part of the American company Intellectual Ventures Lab. It focuses its work around thematic areas where invention can have the greatest possible impact on life. This thematic approach also allows teams of inventors, scientists, and engineers to explore pressing health and development problems from multiple angles rather than being confined to a particular method or technology.
Global Good combines the knowledge of engineers, scientists and health experts with the expertise of leading humanitarian organizations, forward-looking governments, and commercial partners.

• SoScience! : setting up multidisciplinary and multi-actor teams to leverage social impact
SoScience! is a French start-up working on responsible research: scientific innovation that will create social and environmental impact. In order to tackle on-fields scientific problems encountered by social entrepreneurs, SoScience! launch programs gathering scientists and researchers from public laboratories, private laboratories, employees of big businesses, social entrepreneurs and engineering students.

A PLACE FOR ACTION / Recommendations

Europe could create a unique and innovative place that would be as much a technological cluster as an ideation place. Moving forward precise goals, its scientists, experts and guests will collaborate to create bold innovation with tremendous impact on the citizen life.
Scientists from every field, economist, health experts, could be invited on precise research topics to collaborate on responsible research projects. This place would be a high-tech cluster with a goal for social and environmental impact.

Nathan Grass