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Cluster in the Research area "Innovation processes and impacts of technology"

DIGIT: Digital information and communication technologies
The computerization of society is characterized to date by three parallel developments: first, by building an ubiquitous, unobtrusive, and context-sensitive ICT infrastructure, secondly by the development of a growing number of complex, autonomous technical systems (e.g. production systems, transportation systems, weapons systems), and thirdly by the proliferation of so-called "intelligent artefacts" in everyday life and especially at the workplace. Examples are humanoid robots and software agents aimed to interact and co-operate with human beings. The reflection of the impacts of these developments has to take into account three levels of modern societies: the micro level of new and changing social relationships, the organizational and sectoral level, and the societal level. Technology assessment in this field is further analyzing the need for political action that may arise from the opportunities, risks, and unintended impacts of these technological developments and their deployment. Foci of research lie on the development of the Internet and digital media, the potential of the Internet to transform political processes, and the analysis of guiding visions such as "convergence", "enhancement" or "intelligent artefacts", which shape the media perception and have an influence on R&D and innovation policies.

Nanotechnology is considered as an "enabling technology", a platform technology with concepts which – in the majority of the cases – only take effects after being implemented in other fields of technology. Research activities especially focus on the possibilities and unintended impacts of applications of nanotechnology in energy technology and biomedicine. Another research topic is the assessment of health and environmental risks of manufactured particulate nanomaterials and the resulting challenges and problems for risk governance. Central points are measures and instruments for a possible regulation of risk under scientific uncertainty as well as new approaches for evidence-based risk assessment. In addition, questions of (international) research policy regarding nanoscience and nanotechnology and the public perception of and communication about nanotechnology are investigated.

NEST: New and emerging technosciences
New and emerging technosciences (also known as new and emerging science and technology, NEST) pose specific challenges to technology assessment (TA). They differ from other TA research topics in that TA is expected here to offer contextual knowledge and orientation at a point in time when the development in the respective field is still in its early stages, but far-reaching discourses on potential impacts, technological visions, and political and societal expectations already abound. NEST do not only include specific technologies (service robotics and neurotechnologies could be cited as two current examples) but also such fields of R&D like synthetic biology and ‘human enhancement’ technologies that yet have to take concrete form, whose prospects are controversial, and that may not become key or otherwise relevant fields at all. Another function of TA in the field of NEST is the early detection of scientific and technological developments which may significantly change society in the mid- or long-term.

MOVE: Key technologies for future mobility and traffic concepts
The mutual relationship between technological innovations, visions or paradigms, demand patterns, and business models, also called "co-evolution", can particularly be examined in the mobility system. Contemporary mobility patterns only became possible in the course of modern technology-infrastructure systems; at the same time, preferences and demand patterns are crucial triggers for the development of organizational and technological innovations in the mobility sector. Against this background, research activities in this cluster focus on technological developments and their potentials for changing established mobility patterns and enabling new mobility concepts.
In this context, the development of new power trains (e.g. for electro mobility), the development of ICT applications, but also the development of new technology-infrastructure systems are of major importance. Especially the storage of energy is considered a key technology for future mobility concepts. The application of systems analysis and Life Cycle Assessment supports the identification of promising technology development corridors for different energy storage systems. Furthermore, within the cluster MOVE, the methodological challenges for a prospective system perspective on key technologies, as well as questions regarding the transferability of findings to other socio-technical systems (especially in the energy sector) are being considered.