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CONTECS CONverging TEChnologies and their impact on the Social sciences and humanities

This project addresses the potential roles that the social sciences and humanities (SSH) can play with regard to the phenomenon of technological convergence (between Nano-, Bio-, Information technologies, Cognitive sciences and Social sciences and Humanities), its shaping and ethical and societal implications.

In an integrated and systemic approach the project explores the major ethical and societal questions raised by technological development in the field of converging technologies (CT) and the ways in which these can be addressed by the Social Sciences and Humanities. In the context of imminent transformations to a European knowledge-based society, these questions present key opportunities and challenges which the research community needs to be prepared to face. This research project will build on a review and monitoring of technological developments in the CTs and relevant global RTD policy trends, at the same time analysing their possible implications for contributions by the SSH.

The project will further analyse how and to what extent the SSH can contribute to the shaping of science and technology. The final aim is to raise awareness of Converging Technology issues throughout the SSH community and to develop options for a research agenda to be implemented in the SSH priority of the 7th Framework Program. The emergence of the knowledge-based society will entail new forms of relationships between its citizens on the one hand, and between its citizens and institutions on the other hand. The project aims to mobilise European research capacities in SSH that are necessary to develop an understanding of and to address issues related to this critical phenomenon.


Completed (02/2006 – 01/2008)


6th Framework Programme, European Commission, DG Research, Directorate K


  • Research Centre Karlsruhe, Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)
  • University Oxford, Saïd Business School
  • L’Institut de l’Ecole normale supérieure


Articles and book chapters

  • Rader, Michael, “CONverging TECnologies and their impact on the Social sciences and humanities (CONTECS)”, Technikfolgenabschätzung – Theorie und Praxis, Vol. 15, No. 1, 2006, pp. 139.
  • Coenen, Christopher, “Converging Technologies – Promises and Challenges”, Technikfolgenabschätzung – Theorie und Praxis, Vol. 15, No. 1, 2006, pp. 110-114.
  • Quendt, Christiane, Torsten Fleischer, and Michael Rader, “Converging Technologies als Gegenstand internationaler forschungspolitischer Debatten – Beoachtungen, Analysen, Probleme”, Paper presented at: Technology Assessment in World Society: NTA2 – Second conference of the “TA Network”, Berlin, 2006.
  • Beckert, Bernd, Clemens Blümel, and Michael Friedewald, “Visions and Realities in Converging Technologies: Exploring the technology base for convergence”, Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research, Vol. 20, No. 4, 2007, pp. 375-394.
  • Coenen, Christopher, “Utopian Aspects of the Debate on Converging Technologies”, in Gerhard Banse, Imre  Hronszky, and G.  Nelson (eds.), Converging Technologies. Promises and Challenges, Sigma, Berlin, 2007.
  • Coenen, Christopher, “Konvergierende Technologien und Wissenschaften. Der Stand der Debatte und politischen Aktivitäten zu »Converging Technologies«”, Hintergrundpapier 16, Büro für Technikfolgen-Abschätzung beim Deutschen Bundestag, Berlin, 2008.
  • Fleischer, Torsten, Christiane Quendt, and Michael Rader, “Converging Technologies und die Sozial- und Geisteswissenschaften: Ergebnisse und Erfahrungen aus einem EU-Projekt”, Technikfolgenabschätzung – Theorie und Praxis, Vol. 17, No. 2, 2008, pp. 74-77.
  • Beckert, Bernd, Clemens Blümel, and Michael Friedewald, “Kje danes prihaja do tehnološke konvergence? Identifikacija področij interdisciplinarnih zahtev in vplivov na znastveni in technološki razvoj”, Casopis za kritiko znanosti, domišljijo in antropologijo (Journal for the Criticism of Science, Imagination and New Anthropology), Vol. 37, No. 237, 2009, pp. 43-55.

Official deliverables

  • Andler, Daniel, and Vincent Pargade, “Converging technologies and their impact on the social sciences and humanities (CONTECS). Cognitive science within Convergence: A first attempt at delineating the field in Europe”, Deliverable D1.1 – Part B, Fraunhofer ISI, Karlsruhe, 2006.
  • Woolgar, Steve, “Converging technologies and their impact on the social sciences and humanities (CONTECS). Visions and Discourse in Converging Technologies: a background report”, Deliverable D1.2, University Oxford, Said Business School, Oxford, 2006.
  • Rader, Michael, Christopher Coenen, Torsten Fleischer, Beate-Josefine Luber, and Christiane Quendt, “Converging technologies and their impact on the social sciences and humanities (CONTECS): Current trends in RTD policy on Converging Technologies “, Deliverable D1.3, Research Center Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe, 2006.
  • Andler, Daniel, and Simon Barthelmé, “Converging technologies and their impact on the social sciences and humanities (CONTECS). Cognitive science within Convergence: Key issues in the European Context”, Deliverable D3.1 – Part B, Institut de l’École normale supérieure, Paris, 2007.
  • Beckert, Bernd, Clemens Blümel, Michael Friedewald, and Axel Thielmann, “Converging technologies and their impact on the social sciences and humanities (CONTECS): R&D Trends in Converging Technologies “, Deliverable D3.1 – Part A, Fraunhofer ISI, Karlsruhe, 2007.
  • Woolgar, Steve, Christopher Coenen, and Elena Simakova, “Converging technologies and their impact on the social sciences and humanities (CONTECS). The Ontological Politics of Convergence”, Deliverable D3.2, University Oxford, Said Business School, Oxford, 2007.
  • Rader, Michael, Christopher Coenen, Torsten Fleischer, Beate-Josefine Luber, and Christiane Quendt, “Converging technologies and their impact on the social sciences and humanities (CONTECS): Current trends in RTD policy on Converging Technologies “, Deliverable D3.3, Research Center Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe, 2007.
  • Andler, Daniel, Simon Barthelmé, Bernd Beckert, Clemens Blümel, Christopher Coenen, Torsten Fleischer, Michael Friedewald, Christiane Quendt, Michael Rader, Elena Simakova, and Steve Woolgar, “Converging technologies and their impact on the social sciences and humanities (CONTECS): An Analysis of critical issues and a suggestion for a future research agenda”, Final Report 2008.

Basic Research and Innovative Science for Energy (BRISE)


Since numerous radical technological changes brought about the energy technology revolutions of mid 19th century, technology in energy sector has experienced notable progresses but mainly as incremental improvements of well-established technological paradigms and not as radical changes in the basic schemes followed for the provision of energy services.

Solving short-term energy-related problems by fine-tuning existing technologies is not sufficient and may not work out in the future due to the exponential growth of energy demand. Since a stabilisation of this demand seems to be unrealistic, it is essential to analyse how energy progress could shift from incremental progress toward radical changes. For instance, high potential technologies like carbon-free electricity, bio-fuels or hydrogen/fuel cell might become radical technologies if they receive further developments from basic research discoveries.

The key idea of the project was based on the fact that purely incremental progress will not suffice to provide the knowledge and technologies needed to address the daunting challenges ahead of us in terms of availability and affordability of clean energy. Therefore a combination of breakthroughs in the provision and use of energy, tapping the potential of basic science, multidisciplinary approaches and cross-cutting technologies were required. However, lessons from various attempts made in Europe and outside seem to show that “science mining” to identify results or discoveries with application potential for energy does not automatically work. The idea was therefore to use a “reverse methodology” based on the identification of the main bottlenecks for which technologies breakthroughs are needed. For these bottlenecks possible solutions were determined offered by the area of fundamental science and basic research. With respect to the emerging technologies to be identified here we concentrated on nanotechnology, biotechnology and information and communication technology.


The goal of this study was to support the European Commission in developing a programme of basic research activities that stimulate major breakthroughs within the energy sector (energy primary sources and transformation). The specific objectives of this study  consist of the two following points:

  1. identify the major breakthroughs and potentials in the energy field (excluding nuclear);
  2. determine, through a multidisciplinary approach, what are the basic research needs to stimulate these breakthroughs.

This analysis provided relevant recommendations on basic research potentials that were used for the definition of priorities in energy research.

Method and approach

The work was built on the earlier project “ESTIR Energy Scientific & Technological Indicators and References”. The results of this project were revisited and adapted as an essential basis for the background documentation.

A first step was to extract the main issues with relevance to fundamental and basic research from the ESTIR project on the one hand and possible applicability to energy conversion processes on the on the other hand. In a second step the document (REF) that has been extracted from the results of the ESTIR project was complemented by additional information from other sources and expert views.

Based on this background elaborated in by desk research one workshops was held in order to validate and further develop the initial background document. The final result of the project was an approach to tap the potential of fundamental science for the research and development needs of the energy sector.


Completed project (June 2006 – December 2007)


European Commission, Joint Research Centers, Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS)


  • GeorgiaTech, Technology Policy and Assessment Centre (TPAC)
  • BSR Sustainability GmbH


Official deliverables

  • Ragwitz, Mario, Michael Friedewald, Sibylle Gaisser, Axel Thielmann, Marilyn Brown, Susan Cozzens, and Felipe Andrés Toro, “Basic Research and Innovative Science for Energy”, BRISE Deliverable 5, European Techno-Economic Policy Support Network (ETEPS), Brussels, 2008.

Exploration of a thematic extension of the ERAWATCH Base-load Research Inventory

The specific objective of this programme is the development of a suitable design and method for expanding the ERAWATCH base-load Research Inventory with regard to thematic R&D policies and initiatives. The exploration contributed to test and develop a method in order for the base-load to display information on thematic R&D policies. – collecting information and putting it in templates. Each country filled in the templates and identified the main encountered problems. Two syntheses were produced respectively on energy policies and on nanotechnologies policies. These syntheses helped to provide a method for producing transversal analysis amongst countries. A final report presented the proposed design and method for collecting national information on specific thematic fields.


Completed project (07/2006-06/2007)


European Commission, Joint Research Centers, Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS)


  • Technopolis, FR;
  • Fraunhofer ISI, DE
  • CASE, PL;
  • ECO Energy, IL

Nanowissenschaften und Nanotechnologien in Österreich: Eine Fakten- und Potenzialanalyse im internationalen Vergleich

Ziel des Projekts ist die Erstellung einer Fakten- und Potenzialanalyse von NANO in Österreich im internationalen Vergleich.

Die Konzeption der angebotenen Studie geht von der Hypothese aus, dass sich Innovationen nicht in Isolation vollziehen. Vielmehr ist die effektive Interaktion von Unternehmen und anderen Akteuren eines Innovationssystems (anderen Unternehmen, Universitäten, außeruniversitären Forschungseinrichtungen, Behörden, Finanzierungsinstitutionen usw.) ein wesentlicher Erfolgsfaktor für Innovationen. Bei dieser Betrachtungsweise ist es wesentlich, Innovationsprozesse in ihrem sozioökonomischen Gesamtkontext unter Einbeziehung der Endnutzer zu betrachten. Die Studie macht die wesentlichen Akteure und Interaktionen innerhalb des Innovationssystems erfassbar und bietet so ein belastbares Gesamtbild der österreichischen Situation, das gleichzeitig die Grundlage für eine internationale Positionierung bildet. Die Analyse erfolgt in zwei Schritten

  • Erstellung einer Sachbestands- und Faktenanalyse zu NANO in Österreich Für die Analyse des wissenschaftlichen und wirtschaftlichen Potenzials der Nanotechnologie werden quantitative und qualitative Indikatoren ermittelt, die eine Beschreibung der Ist-Situation in Österreich sowie einen internationalen Vergleich ermöglicht. Die Entwicklungstrends der Nanotechnologie werden durch die Sekundäranalyse von Trend- und Foresightstudien ermittelt und mit der Ist-Situation verglichen. Als Ergebnis lassen sich (erste) Stärken und Schwächen des österreichischen Nano-Innovationssystems ableiten.
  • Positionierung Österreichs in den Nanowissenschaften und der Nanotechnologie im internationalen Vergleich Im zweiten Teil der Studie werden Kriterien entwickelt, die eine Bewertung der österreichischen Positionierung im internationalen Vergleich ermöglichen. Dabei sollen sowohl die wichtigsten internationalen Player als auch in Bezug auf Größe und Relevanz mit Österreich vergleichbare Länder betrachtet werden. Die in diesem und in Arbeitsschritt (1) erhobenen und analysierten Indikatoren sollen weitestgehend übereinstimmen.

Auf Basis der Ergebnisse von (1) und (2) werden Empfehlungen zur vertiefenden Analyse wesentlicher Fragestellungen, zur künftigen Schwerpunktsetzung und strategischen Ausrichtung der Nanoinitiative abgeleitet.


Abgeschlossenes Projekt (2005)


Österreichische Forschungsförderungsgesellschaft (FFG) für das Bundesministerium für Verkehr, Innovation und Technologie (BMVIT), das Bundesministerium für Bildung, Wissenschaft und Kultur (BMBWK) und das Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Arbeit (BMWA), Wien


Friedewald, Michael, Nils Roloff, Thomas Heinze, Icíar Dominguez-Lacasa, Thomas Reiss, and Rebecca Rangnow, “Nanowissenschaften und Nanotechnologien in Österreich – Eine Fakten- und Potenzialanalyse im internationalen Vergleich”, Abschlussbericht an die Österreichische Forschungsförderungsgesellschaft mbH (FFG) Fraunhofer ISI, Karlsruhe, 2006.

Energy Scientific & Technological Indicators and References (ESTIR)


Energy Technology Indicators are a useful tool to policy drivers, programme managers, investors, decision makers, bankers and technology end-users in order to monitor the status of research and technological development and industrial evolution. They can especially help the European Commission and individual Member States to analyse the technological development and to adopt relevant research programmes accordingly.

The European Commission is wishing to develop further their system of Energy Scientific & Technological Indicators and References (ESTIR). These indicators have been developed by the Commission with the following objectives: they should

  • record and help to analyse changes in the evolution of key emerging technologies to reach sustainable development in the energy field;
  • monitor related changes in science, industry and markets;
  • help the European Commission and individual Member States to define realistic targets on objectives for future R&D activities.

Such indicators and data are a useful tool to policy drivers, decision makers, programme managers, potential investors, bankers, technology end-users etc.

The indicators are, on one hand, technology-specific indicators that analyse and document the state-of-the-art of the technological advancements in a specific technology area. On the other hand they describe the market penetration and the preparedness of the market to further carry on the emerging technologies. In particular they should describe barriers and bottlenecks relevant for the technologies and indicators to further progress to overcome these barriers.

The scientific and technological indicators to be developed under this call for tender are based on the earlier ESTIR project. [1] However, the current project goes beyond the assessments done in the former analysis. In particular the indicators developed concentrate on the assessment and analysis of progress in the technical and socio-economic area concerned by

  • identifying the major relevant issues and/or critical factors which best describe technical and economic bottlenecks to be overcome or the main challenges to be addressed for each technology in its future development
  • proposing and justifying appropriate quantitative or qualitative criteria, parameters or indicators describing the state of the art and future technical development at various time horizons (5 years – short-term; 5-10 years – medium-term, > 15 years – long-term).


Completed project (2004-2005)


  • European Commission, DG RTD


  • Fraunhofer ISI
  • Ecofys
  • ISET
  • REC


  • Ragwitz, Mario, Wolfgang Eichhammer, Ulrike Hasenauer, Martin Wietschel, Sibylle Gaisser, Michael Friedewald, Felipe Toro, Chris Hendriks, Adriaan Kil, Rogier Coenraads, Berry Meulemann, Carlo Hamelinck, Michael Durstewitz, Alexander Badelin, Jochen Bard, Márton Herczeg, and Peter Bodo, Energy Scientific and Technological Indicators and References,EUR 21611, Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg, 2005.