• 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:

    Life, Innovation, Health, and 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 ( 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.


Journal Articles
Ancillotti, M.; Rerimassie, V.; Seitz, S. B.; Steurer, W.
An Update of Public Perceptions of Synthetic Biology: Still Undecided?.
2016. Nanoethics, 10 (3), 309–325. doi:10.1007/s11569-016-0256-3
Coenen, C.
Cognitive capitalism, performance enhancement societies and the human body.
2016. NERRI Expert Workshop ’Neuro-Enhancement, Responsible Research and Innovation’, Ravenstein, NL, February 2, 2016 
Book Chapters
Coenen, C.
The messiness of convergence. Remarks on the roles ot two visions of the future.
2015. Knowing New Biotechnologies : Social Aspects of Technologicl Convergence. Hrsg.: M. Wienroth, 77–91, Routledge 
Seitz, S. B.
Approaching synthetic biology for societal evaluation and public dialogue.
2015. The next horizon of technology assessment : Proceedings from the PACITA 2015 Conference in Berlin. Ed.: C. Scherz, 115–119, Technology Centre of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (ASCR) 
Journal Articles
Conference Papers
König, H.; Coenen, C.; Frank, D.; Heil, R.
Science, technology and the state: Implications for governance of synthetic biology and emerging technologies.
2014. Technology Assessment and Policy Areas of Great Transitions : Proceedings from the PACITA 2013 Conference, Praha, CZ, March 13-15, 2013. Ed.: T. Michalek, 315–320, Technology Centre of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (ASCR) 
Coenen, C.
Synthetic biology and the public.
2014, November 24. Biology feat. Engineering - Symposium der International Autumn School on Synthetic Biology (2014), Marburg, Germany, November 24–25, 2014 
Frank, D.
Von der Gentechnik zur Synthetischen Biologie. Exemplarische Methoden der reversen Genetik.
2014. Workshop zum Verständnis von Leben in der Synthetischen Biologie, München, 10.Februar 2014 
König, H.
Ethics, responsibility and synthetic biology.
2014. Biology feat. Engineering - Symposium der International Autumn School on Synthetic Biology (2014), Marburg, Germany, November 24–25, 2014 
Book Chapters
Konrad, K.; Coenen, C.; Dijkstra, A.; Milburn, C.; Lente, H. van.
Shaping emerging technologies - Introduction.
2013. Shaping emerging technologies: governance, innovation, discourse. Hrsg.: K. Konrad, Chr. Coenen, A. Dijkstra, C. Milburn, H. van Lente, 1–6, AKA GmbH 
Konrad, K.; Coenen, C.; Dijkstra, A.; Milburn, C.; van Lente, H.
Shaping emerging technologies: Governance, innovation, discourse.
2013. Berlin : AKA, Akad. Verl.-Ges. 2013 (Studies of new and emerging technologies ; 4) 
Konrad, K.; Coenen, C.; Dijkstra, A.; Milburn, C.; van Lente, H.
Shaping emerging technologies : governance, innovation, discourse.
2013. Berlin : AKA-Verl., 2013 (Studies of New and Emerging Technologies ; 004) 
Journal Articles
Conference Papers
Coenen, C.
Nachdarwinsche Visionen einer technischen Transformation der Menschheit.
2013. Ebert, U. [Hrsg.] Der Mensch der Zukunft : Hintergründe, Ziele und Probleme des Human Enhancement ; Tagung der Kommission Wissenschaft und Werte, Leipzig, 17.-18.Februar 2012 Leipzig : Sächsische Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig, 2013 (Abhandlungen der Sächsischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig, Philologisch-historische Klasse ; 82,3), 9–36 
Heil, R.
Zur Wahrnehmung der synthetischen Biologie in der Öffentlichkeit.
2013. Vortr.: Auf dem Weg in die synthetische Zukunft?, Heidelberg, 24. Oktober 2013 


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