Public trust and innovation...

Hilary Sutcliffe

16 Jan 2017


This is not a new study, but our ongoing work in stakeholder involvement and public dialogue shows its findings are as relevant now as ever.   See here 

Learning the lessons of the past


Learning from the introduction of other technologies, including genetic modification, nuclear power and food irradiation suggests that a more accountable, responsible and transparent approach is needed to develop appropriate products which have a positive social benefit and are safe for humans, animals and the environment.

What we did


We conducted a literature review of 23 publications including public dialogues on a variety of technologies (see Appendix 1) to understand in more detail what the public wants to know, from companies in particular, to give them confidence in the use of new technologies and use this learning to explore learning for technologies as diverse as nanotech, synthetic biology, robotics and 3d printing.


Key Findings


Mike King, who conducted the study with Hilary explained: “Though the question was rarely asked directly, the study identified that members of the public were excited but sceptical about the potential for new technologies, but to be confident about their use, they want companies and governments to show they have been used meaningfully, that risks had been considered and anticipated and that companies communicate better about how and why they are used.”


The report shows the key concerns the public have and our view on how companies and governments can respond.   These are:

  • Openness about when a technology is being used – a ‘no brainer’
  • A richer picture needed about benefit
  • When it goes wrong, who carries the can?
  • A desire for trustworthy and independent sources of reassurance
  • Don’t force it on us – it’s about choice
  • Dialogue – how will the public know they are listened to?