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TILT seminar by Dr. Aline Reichow

Topic: "Co-Regulation of Chemicals: Governance Networks to Keep Pace with Technological innovation”

Aline is a Post Doc researcher at the German Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA), in the Division Hazardous Substances and Biological Agents. She is leading an interdisciplinary project on the establishment of governance networks, with representatives from academia, industry, and regulatory agencies, to explore their potential for contributing to the regulation of advanced materials such as nanomaterials. Aline received her PhD from the University of Twente in the Group Law and Regulation (Thesis title: Effective Regulation under Conditions of Scientific Uncertainty, 2015). She was a visiting scholar at the University of Padova (2014) and Northeastern University (2013). Aline received her Master of Science (Science and Technology Studies, 2011) and Bachelor of Arts (Arts and Culture, 2009) degrees from Maastricht University.


In the regulation of technologies a well-known image is that of the hare (technology) and the tortoise (regulation). The latter moves slowly and is rather stiff whereas the hare is agile, moving quickly in different directions and is running ahead. In this talk I explore the opportunities and limits of a proposed solution to the problem that regulation cannot keep pace with technological change. Often regulators do not have the necessary information available to develop science-based rules for the mitigation of the risks of new technologies.

Most technological innovations in the area of chemicals, e.g. nanomaterials, are developed in startup enterprises and small research institutes. Typically, these enterprises do not have specialized expertise and knowledge available related to chemical safety and they are requiring support in dealing with, and applying, related regulatory obligations. The companies realize the need to learn about these aspects because potential human health and environmental risks are often still uncertain in the early phases of material development but at the same time (potential) customers raise concern about these issues.

I argue that engaging startups in governance networks can lead to the development of effective chemicals regulation. In these networks representatives from academia, industry, research institutions, and regulatory bodies can exchange and extend the knowledge on health and safety aspects of innovative materials. When the collaborators show strong trust in each other they exchange relevant knowledge which can provide the basis for the development of new scientific facts and (amendment of) science-based rules. However, ‘too much’ trust among collaborators bears the risk of capture and development of rules that merely fit the interests of industry. The nature of this ‘trust-based regulation’ will be explored more closely in future research with the idea to identify conditions under which this form of regulation can be applied.

On this basis a governance strategy will be developed for the regulation of new technologies under conditions of risk uncertainty.

Rather than providing clear cut research results, in this talk I want to present preliminary findings related to my postdoc project at the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) in Germany. With this project BAuA starts engaging in the topic of regulatory governance. Ideally, in the future, new research projects in this area can be set up that allow us to strategically reflect on the impact of research and development activities related to chemicals as well as other themes such as robotics or the internet of things.

When: 21 November 2017 12:00

End date: 21 November 2017 13:30