Current research:

Tjerk Jan is working on several (system) innovation projects, especially within the domain of health care. Below are two of his current projects.

Northwest Netherlands aligned: a qualitative analysis into factors of success and failure in a regional network

The birth care system in the Netherlands can do better. One of the problem areas is the discontinuity in care around pregnancy and childbirth. This is partly caused by the separation between the organization and operational principles of primary and secondary care. This can cause the common goal of health care professionals – the health of woman and child – to be forgotten.

A promising way to increase quality of perinatal care is strengthening the cooperation between professionals. This system innovation action research focuses on Obstetric Partnerships (OP. Dutch name: VSV; verloskundige samenwerkingsverband) in Northwest Netherlands. OP are “teams” of professionals from the 0th, 1st, 2nd and 3rd line, such as obstetricians, gynaecologists and maternity nurses. Despite positive involvement of all these groups, the cooperation between the professionals is considered not effective enough.

Objective: To gain insight into the success and failure of effective and equal cooperation in order to develop strategies for strengthening care in the regions, with a more central role for clients.

Approach: Participatory action research in which the members of the OP, in collaboration with the researchers, analyse the inter-professional cooperation and test improvements.

Applicability: Results are available immediately for participating OP and generalizable to other OP.

This research is funded by ZonMW and embedded in the Birth Care Network Northwest Netherlands.

Dialogue as a tool for societal valorisation of environmental and industrial biotechnology

Innovations in environmental and industrial biotechnology have the potential make a major contribution to the transition towards a more sustainable bio-based economy. The field of ecogenomics research, ecological research based on genetic information, has made impressive progress. This has led to, for instance, better ways to determine risks of new and existing chemicals, or cheaper and more efficient tools to monitor water quality, in which case not substances, but the ecological status of the (surface) water is monitored. However, despite promising innovations there remain a number of barriers for actual implementation of new technologies. Those barriers have a practical, social, or ethical nature. Successful innovations thus not necessarily lead to societal valorisation. Societal valorisation means that new (scientific) knowledge is not only applied in practice, but also contributes to important social issues such as health, safety, education and sustainable development.

To enhance the societal valorisation of science and technology, various scholars have argued that a science-society dialogue is needed so as to ensure that more aspects are included and more actors (particularly stakeholders) are actively engaged in the innovation process, and jointly with scientists search for win-win design options.

An earlier dialogue process (a constructive technology assessment – CTA) performed by the Athena Institute of the Free University in the context of a large public-private research collaboration, the Dutch Ecogenomics Consortium, showed several successes. However, in terms of societal valorisation, the results of the dialogue process on ecogenomics also show the difficulty of translating the results from a dialogue into real-time action. The dialogue process on ecogenomics functioned as a protected space. Beyond this protected space, factors like power relations, institutional structures and system dynamics, limit the room to manoeuvre and influence the follow-up of results.

To address these problems and improve as societal valorisation of new bio-based technologies, we combine the CTA with the UPP framework (see persistent problems), which has been developed in transition management and system innovation studies and can help to identify and unravel how power relations, institutional structures and system dynamics impede the implementation of innovations that might contribute to social themes, like sustainable development. This combined reflection-action process can help to develop new strategies for the actors in the protected space, and enhance the implementation and impact of new technologies, supporting a transition to a bio-based economy.