6-7 September 2018
Shanghai, People's Republic of China
The rapidly evolving field of neurotechnology is full of economic potential and is quickly becoming part of research laboratories and advanced therapeutic applications. As novel neurotechnologies redefine what is possible in research, therapy, and human capabilities, considerations regarding the potential ethical issues and social implications are needed.
Published in October 2019, the working paper Responsible innovation in neurotechnology enterprises is the result of analytical work on the opportunities and challenges of implementing responsibility frameworks into neurotechnology translation at major brain research initiatives and in the private sector. It draws on discussions at the workshop and commentaries by participants.
See also the OECD Recommendation on Responsible Innovation in Neurotechnology, adopted in December 2019.
Governments, academia, industry, and private foundations are increasingly making substantial investments in brain research and neurotechnology, and a host of national and international “brain projects” have sprung up across the public and private sector. These programmes are in response to calls at highest national and international policy levels to address challenges associated with mental illnesses and neurological disorders that cause great human suffering and loss of economic productivity. For instance, more than 25% of all years lived with disability and over 10% of the total burden of disease is attributable to mental, neurological, and substance use disorders. And these issues will most probably worsen in face of aging populations with increasing prevalence of dementia and other neurological disorders.
Many of the large-scale international brain projects seek to accelerate our understanding of the brain through improved technology – whether it be through improved computational models, transformative research tools, or new simulations of human brain functinon. But these major “brain projects” are also part of the broader policy goals of fostering innovation and increasing productivity. Sales in neurotechnologies for neuroprosthetics, neuromodulation, neurorehabilitation, and neurosensing are expected to reach USD 12 billion in 2022. Beyond health, neurotechnologies have potential in the fields of education, and information and communication technology.
In addition to a focus on the role of public-private partnerships and the business sector, the workshop – in its panels and attention to invitees – sought to engage two themes at the core of the OECD Working Party on Biotechnology, Nanotechnology and Converging Technologies (BNCT): digitalisation, and technology convergence.
This workshop was convened by the OECD in collaboration with the China National Center for Biotechnology Development (CNCBD), Beijing, People’s Republic of China. The event was hosted by the Tongji University School of Medicine (TUSM) in Shanghai.
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