Ultrathin nanomembranes (NAMEs) can enable efficient and scalable system designs for (photo)electro-catalytic applications that allow a sustainable production of fuels and basic chemicals/materials. However, the technology’s success depends not only upon technological breakthroughs but also upon its absorption of socio-ethical values ‘upstream’ in the R&D process during its competition with the existing dominant solutions. It is therefore necessary to both understand the socio-ethical embedding of NAMEs and to create a responsible innovation path (RI path) for this technology in which socio-ethical values are absorbed into the design process. In this project, we conceptualize the innovation path of NAMEs as taking place in a quadruple helix innovation system where four types of values are constantly negotiated and accommodated: market value (industry), political value (policymaking), moral value (civil society) and research value (academia). An RI path for NAMEs can accommodate the four different types of helix-specific values while minimizing the corresponding helix-specific risks. Therefore, our objectives are: (i) to develop a governance framework for responsible innovation paths that can facilitate the absorption of socio-ethical values in the design and system integration of NAMEs; (ii) to analyze the relationship between NAMEs and the four helixes of the quadruple helix system, (iii) to create a RI path for NAMEs in which helix-specific values can be absorbed into the design process through an inclusive, reflective dialogue between NAMEs and its quadruple-helix stakeholders.
Dr. Eugen Popa (STEPS) is the main investigator in this research project. His task is to bring together the STS perspective and philosophy of technology in constructing an RI path for NAMEs. Prof. Cornelius Schubert (STEPS) is one of the two senior supervisors in this project, focusing on the ethnographic aspects of the research where value implementation in the lab is studied from close by with the question: How does pluralism – as an approach to technological design – affect innovation under laboratory conditions?