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Project team:

Coenen, Christopher (project leader); Harald König (project coordination), Daniel Frank

Funding:Helmholtz Association
Start date:2012
End date:2014
Project partners:

Helmholtz centers: German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg (DKFZ); Forschungszentrum Jülich, (FZJ); German Research Center for Environmental Health, Munich (HMGU); Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, Braunschweig (HZI)

Universities: Heidelberg University; University of Freiburg

Research group:Innovation processes and impacts of technology

Project description

The SynGovernance project contributed by KIT-ITAS to the Helmholtz Association’s initiative on synthetic biology (HISyn) focused on two branches of activities:

  1. The analysis of developments in policy and regulatory issues related to synthetic biology (SynBio) in Germany and beyond, including questions of biosafety and biosecurity. This work suggests that SynBio has been recognized by research policy in Germany as a field with significant potential, based on an increasing number of funding and project initiatives by the federal ministry for education and research (BMBF), the national parliament (Bundestag), and major research funding organizations. On the other hand, the analysis also revealed reasons to suggest that SynBio has increasingly become a prominent topic when it comes to policy discussions on biosafety/biosecurity and responsibility in research and innovation: in the last 3-4 years, there have been various governmental and parliamentary activities, as well as work and an opinion of the German Ethics Council related to questions on these topics. In all of them SynBio has appeared as a prominent element.
  2. Work on raising awareness on SynBio (and questions related to responsible research and innovation regarding the field) among communities of students, young scientists and in the public, also making use of synergies with other KIT-ITAS activities on SynBio such as the EU-funded project SYNENERGENE. This second branch of activities included the co-organization (with HISyn and external partners) of the international symposium "Synthetic Biology – from understanding to application" held in Heidelberg, on December 9-11th, 2013 (http://www.synbio-symposium.de/sb2013/) with a SynGovernance session on "Synthetic Biology in Society" and a public evening event on synthetic biology organized by ITAS together with the "Forschungsstätte der Evangelischen Studiengemeinschaft, Institut für interdisziplinäre Forschung e.V." (FEST), Heidelberg, and the DKFZ Heidelberg. As a main educational activity, together with DKFZ Heidelberg, Forschungszentrum Jülich and the LOEWE Center for Synthetic Microbiology in Marburg, KIT-ITAS organized the International Autumn School on Synthetic Biology "Biology feat. Engineering" that took place in Heidelberg, Jülich, and Marburg on 17th—28th November 2014. In order to raise awareness on questions such as responsible research and innovation (RRI), ethical issues including biosafety and biosecurity, public perception, and regulatory questions, KIT-ITAS arranged and contributed to a session on "Synthetic Biology in Society" in Marburg.

This project is part of ITAS’s activities in the field of SynBio. For more information about the initiative, please click here.



Dipl.-Pol. Christopher Coenen
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)
P.O. Box 3640
76021 Karlsruhe

Tel.: +49 721 608-24559