NWO funds research on responsible scaling of digital innovation for enhancing mental healthcare

Under the call ‘Realisation, acceleration and upscaling of mission-driven innovation’, NWO has committed funding for a five-year research project on one of the most complex challenges of our time: scaling digital innovation in a responsible way.

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Scaling of digital technology is problematic: innovations need to be implemented in specific organizational settings, making one-size-fits-all diffusion impossible. Moreover, ethical, legal and social issues often impede digital innovations. “In this project we start from the idea that diffusion is lacking because insufficient thought is given to how these innovations could scale in a societally responsible way,” explains project leader Wouter Boon, Professor of Innovation and Transition Studies at Utrecht University’s Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development.

The research will lay the foundation for advancing responsible scaling, by studying how innovators, together with a broad group of stakeholders, can already from the start of the innovation process take important conditions for successful scaling into account, such as alignment with regulations, user practices, business models, societal values and ethical considerations.

A focus on mental healthcare

The project focuses on responsible scaling in the field of mental healthcare, where accessibility and quality of care are currently under strain. There is a need for improvement in aligning capacity with increasing demand as well as what patients need with what is offered. To solve these issues, much is expected from digital technology and data-driven innovation. Scientists, companies, care organizations, and regional economic boards are currently prioritizing digital innovation for mental health, leading to many promising applications. Researchers will work together with the involved stakeholders to learn from digital innovation cases to understand similarities and differences in how methods can be successfully used.

The project is being executed by a broad consortium led by researchers from the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development at Utrecht University. Other research and education partners include the University of Twente, UMC Utrecht, Utrecht University (Information and computing sciences), Radboud University, Hogeschool Utrecht. There is also a wide range of stakeholders participating in the project ranging from mental health institutes, digital innovation business partners, public partners, regional hubs, companies and knowledge institutes, as well as patient organizations.