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What does the public expect from companies using innovative technologies?


Learning the lessons of the past

Lessons from the introduction of other technologies, including genetic modification, nuclear power and food irradiation suggests that a more accountable, responsible and transparent approach is needed to develop appropriate products which have a positive social benefit and are safe for humans, animals and the environment.

So what does the public actually want to know?

public frontIn the first of a three phase initiative MATTER conducted a literature review of 23 publications including public dialogues on a variety of technologies (see Appendix 1) to understand in more detail what the public wants to know, from companies in particular, to give them confidence in the use of such technologies and use this learning to explore in particular the communication around nanotechnologies in consumer products.

MATTER’s Mike King, who conducted the study, explained: “Though the question was rarely asked directly, the study identified that members of the public were excited but sceptical about the potential for new technologies, but to be confident about their use, they want companies and governments to show they have been used meaningfully, that risks had been considered and anticipated and that companies communicate better about how and why they are used.”

This report shows the key concerns the public have and our view on how companies and governments can respond.   These are:

  • Openness about when a technology is being used – a ‘no brainer’
  • A richer picture needed about benefit
  • When it goes wrong, who carries the can?
  • A desire for trustworthy and independent sources of reassurance
  • Don’t force it on us – it’s about choice
  • Dialogue – how will the public know they are listened to?

Click the image above for a copy of the report.

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