While new technologies can help solve societal problems, technology developers face many uncertainties. These are often interconnected with uncertainties shared by other relevant parties (governments, companies and civil society organisations), which can lead to the shelving of potentially useful innovations. In order to break this impasse, the societal incubator creates conditions for an open and participatory learning process that accelerates innovation and increases the likelihood of societal appreciation.
The societal incubator starts with a promising idea that aims to address a societal challenge, for instance in the field of inclusive and sustainable growth. In this scenario, scientific, technical and economic barriers are already addressed but uncertainties as regards public support, policy, risk assessment, regulation and liability remain. The figure below outlines the crucial stages of the societal incubator:
(i) collection of information and organisation of interaction;
(ii) analysis; and
(iii) decision on whether to continue or stop the development.
The process allows the technology developer to determine chances of success while ensuring socially inclusive or responsible innovation.