Governance of innovative technologies

Government financial support for the development of innovative technologies plays an important role in achieving the expected benefits from the UK’s excellence in basic science. However, this support will fail to deliver the promised impact unless smarter, more adaptive regulatory systems are developed that are more proportionate to the levels of risk embedded in new technologies. This is particularly true of some of the technologies where the UK is identified as leading the field, such as life sciences, genomics and synthetic biology; regenerative medicine; financial technologies; and agri-science. Problems can arise because of an inappropriate choice of regulatory system to deal with new technologies and/or failure to adapt current regulatory systems to the needs of new technologies. There is a clear need to learn from past experience and to craft smarter regulatory systems that are able to incentivize innovation while still delivering safety, quality and efficacy.

These concerns about the fitness-for-purpose of regulatory systems are leading to new emphases on adaptation and proportionality in regulatory regimes, along with an ‘innovation imperative’ targeted at regulators. The premise of the report is that innovation would benefit from a formal consideration of the complementary roles that regulations, guidelines and standards could play in delivering the required proportionality and adaptation.

The project focused on where standards could contribute most effectively to different types of innovation (incremental or disruptive), across different industry sectors with differing experiences of regulation. The economic impact of standards would come from boosting productivity, opening up new markets, linking UK companies to global supply chains, reducing technical barriers to trade for incremental innovations, and supporting the development of more disruptive innovations. However, inappropriate, poorly specified or insufficiently adaptive standards can have negative impacts on the economic competitiveness of companies and countries, and removing these disincentives is an important part of the overall picture.

Prof. Joyce Tait and Dr. Geoffrey Banda (July 2016).

Adaptive Governance of Innovative Technologies - Executive Summary

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