Technological change – in the fields of biotechnology, health, energy, information technology or mobility, for instance – is usually associated with ambivalent effects for the economy and society. This is why decision-makers from politics, business and society need orientation knowledge about the opportunities but also the risks, about the intended and unintended consequences, and the acceptability of future technological developments.
Technology Assessment (TA) addresses this need and helps to identify challenges in good time and to clarify open questions that arise in the context of technological innovations and mechanization. The orientation knowledge required for social assessments and political decisions to support socially desirable sociotechnical development pathways and transformations is generated by analyzing technology impacts and societal needs as early as possible using a multi-perspective and interdisciplinary approach as well as exploring how well technical solutions meet these needs.
Taking a holistic, systemic perspective which considers all the social sub-sectors affected is characteristic for the TA practiced at Fraunhofer ISI. The institute advocates a broad understanding of Technology Assessment, which encompasses the interplay of technology and society and includes processes of technology analysis, reflection and evaluation.
This entails applying a correspondingly wide array of methods, which range from economic impact assessments, potential analyses and agent-based modeling through social science-based empirical, quantitative and qualitative surveys and analyses to scenarios and roadmaps. Involving citizens and stakeholders is also very important methodologically, in order to complement the scientific and technical expertise and expand the basis of assessment.
Fraunhofer ISI is an active member of the international TA community and contributes to the relevant TA networks.
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Fraunhofer ISI in 2022, an anthology will soon be published by Springer Verlag (Heidelberg). This will also contain a chapter on technology assessment sketching the developments of TA over the past 50 years. A preliminary version of the TA chapter is already available for download.