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