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European Biotechnology and Society Online Seminar Series

In summer of 2021 the second series of the European Biotechnology and Society Online Seminar Series, convened by the ERA Cofund on Biotechnology, CoBioTech, was organised by the FNR, the Universities  of Edinburgh and Durham. These seminars were commissioned after positive feedback from the first series in autumn 2020. Over the course of five weeks (from 09.06. – 07.07.2021) and five seminars, the participants were delighted to hear presentations from 11 groups of speakers with diverse perspectives: academic and industry scientists, social and interdisciplinary researchers, and research funders. Speakers shared their practical and conceptual work on social, environmental, political and ethical dimensions of biotechnology in Europe. We were delighted that an international audience of 25-50 audience members joined us live each week, with 139 registrants overall (each recording was also viewed 20-40 times afterwards).

We kept to a tight one-hour session for maximum attendance as in the first series, but extended each session informally for greater interaction between speakers and audience. Both new and familiar themes and tensions often emerged in discussion: What does it mean to innovate responsibly in practice? How can RRI be adequately funded and supported? How do we innovate responsibly when many systems incentivise irresponsibility? In this series there was a greater focus on sustainability as a dimension of responsible research, and engagement with challenging questions, including: Can innovation be responsible when it is framed by a motive of economic growth? And is incremental change towards responsible innovation enough?

Speakers and topics

Wednesday 9th June - Seminar materials:

  • Introducing the seminar series: a space beyond the project 

Robert SmithThoko Kamwendo and Boris Vashev (University of Edinburgh, Durham University & Agency for Renewable Resources (FNR))

Maja Horst (Responsible Technology Section, Technical University of Denmark (DTU))

Matthias Stratmann (Nova-Institut GmbH)

Wednesday 16th June - Seminar materials:

Lieke Nijland and Rob Heinsbroek (Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek / Dutch Research Council (NWO))

Thomas Franssen (Centre for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS), Leiden University)

Wednesday 23th June:

Felix Müller (Evonik Operations GmbH)

Ana Maria Delgado Aleman (TIK Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture, University of Oslo)

Wednesday 30th June:

  • Environmental ethics by committee 

Tess Doezema (Munich Centre for Technology in Society, TU Munich)

Tom McLeish (University of York)

Wednesday 7th July:

Special session: Responsible innovation as social learning in ERA CoBioTech 

Eleanor Hadley Kershaw (University of Nottingham)

Joanne Bentonand Jose Jimenez Zarco (Imperial College London)

Robert Smith (University of Edinburgh)

Thoko Kamwendo (Durham University)



For more information, please contact the organising team at rri-cobiotech(at)


ERA CoBioTech
BIOTECH HUB - European Biotechnology and Society Online Seminar Series organised by ERA CoBioTech

Agency for Renewable Resources (FNR) Germany

Dr Boris Vashev

Consultant EU/International Department

Responsible for BioTech Hub Workshops and Status Seminars in ERA CoBioTech


Dr Boris Vashev

The University of Edinburgh, UK

Dr Robert Smith

Research Fellow, Social Dimensions of Synthetic Biology

Science Technology and Innovation Studies, School of Social and Political Science


Dr Robert Smith

The University of Edinburgh, UK

Rosalind Attenborough

Research Assistant, Building Capacity for Resonsible Innovation in International Biotechnology Policy Organisations

Science Technology and Innovation Studies, School of Social and Political Science


Dr Rosalind Attenborough

Durham University, UK

Dr Zara Thokozani (Thoko) Kamwendo

Postdoctoral Research Associate 

St John’s College, Durham University





Dr Zara Thokozani (Thoko) Kamwendo

ERA CoBioTech has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 722361.






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