Are we ready for the flood of innovations headed towards us? 

How to know whether society is ready for your innovation to make the world a better place? In other words, where is the pitfall or resistance which could prevent your innovation from becoming mainstream? We posed the question to international experts in September. The objective: to add ethical, legal and societal aspects to the well-known TRLs and BRLs (technological and business readiness levels) for innovation. 

"You can think up marvellous concepts, but if the government doesn't support them or the consumer isn't ready for them, the idea will not make it much further", says Wilbert Pontenagel. "Take the development of drones, for instance. You run into all sorts of restrictions because the laws and regulations are not yet in place. This delays market introduction and acceptance of innovations."

Assessing innovations 

Wilbert started the 20Creathon program for Novel-T two years ago. The program stimulates innovation for societal challenges. "The 20Creathon events have provided surprising solutions in the past two years. But we have observed that some solutions encounter societal resistance", explains Wilbert. "We need a good method to judge whether a solution will be societally accepted as well as being technically and economically feasible."

Developing the method 

"Our objective is to develop a practical framework for ELS readiness levels so that the ethical, legal and societal impact can be better estimated beforehand." A substantial task, admits Wilbert. "NASA developed a system for technological readiness in the 70s which is currently still in use.  In the present digital society however, it is the societal acceptance that is very important. It fits into our drive as innovation catalyst to stimulate supplementary methods to help innovations grow faster and more smoothly."

Innovative universities in Twente 

We will be providing this stimulus during the ECIU Creathon in September 2018. Experts will develop insights and methods to examine innovative business cases in various 'Science to Design for Society' workshops. For this we have invited professionals from our partner universities in the ECIU (European Consortium of Innovative Universities). 

Simultaneous student Creathon 

The expert workshops are part of a complete Creathon weekend. "Student teams from the same European universities work on smart regional development for a weekend", Wilbert tells us. The participating universities belong to regions which are similar to Twente. They struggle with the same societal issues related to digitalization, urbanization, climate change and sustainability. For each European team there is a team of UT students working on the same challenge. Wilbert: "At the end of the weekend we expect to have developed not only surprising and innovative ideas but also a method to provide innovations with a soft landing."

Creathon part of the UT DesignLab 

The 20Creathon program ends in December 2018. "This is the last event within the program. We are handing over the Creathon approach to the University of Twente DesignLab. They will continue to use it for societal innovation," Wilbert tells us. The objective of the event in September is also to give other universities a chance to experience the unique approach. "A UT alumnus previously took the method to the University of Massachusetts Amherst in order to further develop the sustainable campus there. Wonderful that the Creathon is resulting in new ideas there", says Wilbert enthusiastically. "A great calling card for our region!" 

If you would like to know more about the Creathon and the event, pay the 20Creathon website a visit.

Read the previous interview with Wilbert and his colleague Elke about the 20Creathon program: "You can always find the funds to finance a smashing idea"

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