Innovation Through Policy

By Ayisha Piotti | January 2021 | LinkedIn Article

How can we maximise the promise of new technologies, promote innovation and at the same time ensure that we are confident about the future we are shaping for our children?

It is becoming evident that regulatory frameworks need to be put in place that protect citizens, create certainty for investors and build trust to help adoption of new frontier technologies. However, the rate of innovation is exceeding the rate at which regulations are adapting, and the nature of innovation is transcending existing regulatory boundaries. This calls for creativity in terms of regulatory approaches and highlights the need for inclusivity in the policy making process. Below are a few suggestions on how we can proceed.

Anticipation of technological trends

It is paramount that policy makers are at the forefront of  anticipating technological trends and their impact on prosperity and wellbeing of society. This requires, early engagement with the business and academic community and establishing resources and processes that focus on this goal. Regulators who have their hand on the pulse of technological developments are best placed to identify gaps in current regulations and shape policy to ensure that technology is adopted in a rapid and safe manner.

A flexible regulatory approach 

As technology is evolving at a rapid pace, it is crucial that regulatory systems are flexible and non-prescriptive. One way to achieve this is by the legislations simply stating the desired outcomes and leaving room for innovation on compliance. However, in order for this approach to work, companies need to report on compliance in an auditable way and public authorities need to put resources to monitor progress.

Another important element for facilitating the development and deployment of new technologies is to create space for experimentation i.e testing and trialing of new innovations under regulatory supervision. This approach, often referred to as a “regulatory sandboxes” allows innovative companies to test their products in line with market conditions and at the same time permits the regulators to identify how laws need to change to accommodate new technologies.

Improved regulatory coherence and international cooperation

In order for innovators to access global markets & manage risks, more countries need to adopt an agile regulatory approach to new technologies and reduce technical barriers to trade. In order to achieve this, regulators need to connect with each other and create an ethic of mutual recognition, including the willingness to accept each other standards. Moreover, the diplomatic community, international organizations and multilateral institutions have a role to play to create global standards, share best practices, improve regulatory consistency across regions, and ensure that the benefits of new technologies are shared across geographies.

Governments to build capacity and provide support

There is an urgent need for all of us to become aware of and understand  the broader implications (risks and benefits) of new technologies. Governments need to allocate budgets and create educational environments with the specific goal to increase awareness and technical understanding of the society as a whole with regards to new technologies. Another way forward is to establish centers of excellence that allow forregulators, vibrant start-ups and academic institutions to work together on joint projects.

As new technologies often do not fit within existing boundaries, it is also important for governments to provide support for innovators to navigate the regulatory landscape. Certain countries such as the UK,  are putting in place online portals such as the “Digital Regulation Navigator” to provide guidance for innovative tech companies to connect with the right regulators and seek advice.

Greater engagement in policy making of a wide set of stakeholders

New technologies are not only blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological worlds, they are disrupting how we live and work and forcing us to think about the impact they will have on our future generations. They are raising fundamental questions about our society and human rights. For example, ethics around gene editing and AI, and who is responsible if things go wrong? 

Whether you are a business leader, academic, technologist, ethicist or consumer, it is critical to engage now. You need to provide your input into the policy debate around new technologies and thus carve a prosperous future for our next generations!

Image credit: a roesler from Pixabay