Acquired knowledge on genetic material as a building block for life has increased drastically. We can use this knowledge to design new biological systems. This offers a world of possibility for improving the quality of life. However, the application of synthetic biology is still in its infancy. At present, work is taking place only with biomolecules and single-cell organisms, such as bacteria and yeasts.
Over the long term, our research will contribute to evocative aspects such as production platforms for energy, new biologically inspired materials, refined diagnostics with the aid of biosensors and the production of pharmaceuticals. This also elicits questions about what 'life' is and how science and society can mutually ensure responsible innovation – for example when it comes to societal acceptance, controlling risks and protecting intellectual property. The extra investments in synthetic biology provide opportunities for successful international competition in this area, in which natural scientists and social scientists work closely together.