Technology Assessment in Theory & Practice

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

Study load: 3 ECTS / credit points
Time frame: January - June 2024

Course coordinator(s)

Course teacher(s)


This course discusses Technology Assessment (TA) as one aspect or approach to Responsible Innovation (RI). While RI is an emerging concept in the EU context which highlights the relevance of social-ethical issues in research and innovation practices, TA addresses similar topics, sometimes from a slightly different angle. TA is an umbrella term for a variety of methods used to advise decision makers in policy or industry on how to devise technological progress. This course gives an introduction to the various different methods used in TA, its philosophical underpinnings, its prospects and its challenges. While the course aims to equip students with the necessary theoretical tools to assess and use TA methodology in RI, cases will be illustrated by concrete examples from TA in policy advice.


“The – perhaps utopian – dream of technology assessment (TA) is that in dealing with all of its daily issues shaping technology for sustainable development, organizing public dialogue on GMOs, taking care of nuclear waste management, thinking about energy futures, tackling issues of service robotics, and so forth, it goes far beyond these particular exercises in their specific social contexts. TA includes the dimension of transcending its current activities. Its conceptual dimensions of anticipation, inclusion, and dealing with complexity are not restricted to dealing with new technologies but apply to other big fields of society, too. Hence, technology assessment is indeed more than technology assessment: it is both an experimental practice and a field of reflection addressing issues of an anticipatory, inclusive, and complexity-aware society at large.”

(A. Grunwald 2019, Technology Assessment in Practice and Theory, Routledge, p. 224)

Course Objectives

To be added.

Learning Outcomes

To be added.

Course Format

There will be a number of sessions spread over a period of 6 months. In addition to participants from this certificate program, there will be other participants in this course. Mostly this will be PhD students at ITAS, KIT, with a considerable number of students coming from different, also non-European countries, each year.

Course Modules

Premodule - Introduction to Technology Assessment

Prof Dr. Armin Grunwald

Technology Assessment was first established in the parliamentary context of the US Congress. From there it diversified with respect to institutional settings, addressees, theoretical approaches, practical concepts and specific methods. The premodule introduces into the history of TA in practical and in theoretical respect. It presents an overall theoretical framework of TA with its main conceptual dimensions anticipation, inclusion, and complexity management

Module 1 – Analyses of Sociotechnical Change

PD Dr. Andreas Lösch

Module 1.1 - Science & Technology Studies (STS) & Innovation Research

PD Dr. Andreas Lösch / Torsten Fleischer

Part 1 of the module introduces to the basic theories and models from the social studies of science and technologies (STS) and from innovation research, which are relevant and used in Technology Assessment and discusses these theories and models in relation to exemplary TA research topics. It will also be shown how these theories are adopted, modified and specified according to the specific demands of TA research.

Module 1.2 - Philosophical Perspectives on Risky Technologies

Dr. Eike Düvel / Dr. Michael Poznic​

New and emerging technologies are not only accompanied by expected advantages, but they’re also many risks and uncertainties attached to them. Part 2 deals with the question of how to manage such technologies, responsibly, and more specifically with the ethical challenges that arise while considering the introduction of new technologies.

Module 2Shapes of Impact Analysis: Systems Analyses & Sustainability

Dr.-Ing. Marcel Weil

Module 2.1 - Application of an integrative sustainable development concept & multidimensional sustainability assessment

2.1.0 – Introduction of Module 2

Dr. Marcel Weil

2.1.1 – Sustainability Concept

Jürgen Kopfmüller

Sustainability concept: in this module, basics of sustainable development concept, methodological key elements and challenges of sustainability assessments, and an assessment case will be presented. Based on this, key messages, in particular for PhD works, will be outlined.

2.1.2 – Multidimensional Sustainability Assessment of Energy Technologies

Dr. Martina Haase & Dr. Manuel Baumann

In this module, methods and indicators for sustainability assessment will be presented and applied for a use case in the field of energy technologies. The focus will be on the triple-bottom-line model of sustainability and the use of MCDA for sustainability assessment

Module 2.2 - Systems Analysis and Life Cycle Assessment

2.2.1: Introduction of systems analysis and CTA

Dr. Marcel Weil, Patrick Stuhm

An introduction is given for systems analysis. The methods of Constructive Technology Assessment (CTA) and Material Flow Analysis (MFA) will be addressed and examples presented.

2.2.2: Introduction of Life Cycle Assessment

Jens Buchgeister

An introduction to the methodology of life cycle assessment as an instrument for the environmental assessment of products, processes and services is given. The individual methodological elements: goal and scope definition, life cycle inventory, impact assessment and evaluation are explained by means of examples. The challenges and limitations of the method are also discussed.

Module 2.3 - LCA-Exercise: The LCA of coffee preparation

LCA-Exercise: The LCA of coffee preparation

Merve Erakca, Sebastian Bautista, Lukas Lazar, Hüseyin Ersoy, Tobias Deprie, NN

The knowledge acquired in the theoretical parts will be implemented in this subsequent case study. An LCA for the preparation of coffee will be conducted in small groups. Different scenarios (capsule machine, filter coffee, organic coffee, conventional coffee, etc.) will be analyzed. The outcomes of the individual groups will be presented and discussed together.


Module 3TA and Technology Governance; A Non-Trivial Relationship

Dr. Sophie Kuppler

Module 3.1 - TA and Technology Governance; Theoretical Approaches

Technology assessment (TA) has several dimensions. A significant one is to prepare knowledge for decision-making. This decision-making is often part of governmental governance processes or closely interwoven with them. This is especially true when technology conflicts are associated with them. Using the example of nuclear waste management, the basic structures of these governance ensembles in Germany and Switzerland will be presented in the lectures of Module 3 “Technology Assessment as Technology Governance”. This includes on the one hand looking at the challenge of long-term governance over several decades and on the other hand dealing with the strengths and weaknesses of “Governing by Law as a Social Innovation”.

Module 3.2 - TA and Technology Governance; Experiences and Cases

On the second day of Module 3, issues of parliamentary TA and policy advice will be addressed. This will be complemented by a role play. Module 3 is based on presence at ITAS, Karlstrasse 11, in Karlsruhe. Hybrid is possible for participants from outside KIT.

Module 4 – Methods of TA

Dr. Bettina-Johanna Krings

Module 4.1 - Methods of TA: Conceptual approaches

Dr. Richard Beecroft & Dr. Bettina-Johanna Krings & Dr. Christine Rösch

The lecture on “methods of TA” provide the historical development of the use of methods in the field of TA. From the very beginning, a broad range of methods from different disciplines have been used with regard to scientific problems identified by the relationship be tween technologies and society. After decades, there have been developed “clusters of methods”, which have been regularly used by TA-scientists. These clusters have been methodologically developed further by TA activities and the reflection on it. Furthermore, because of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary premises in the field of TA, methods from Social Sciences also have generated a typical cluster of methods in TA like methods to foster social participation processes. Also here, these methods have been adapted and developed further within the field of TA. This part may also imply examples and interactive formats.

Module 4.2 - Methods of TA: Interactive Formats with the PhD students

In the second part on the “methods of TA”, we will have a common look on the specific methods used by the PhD students in the course. Hereby, every student will present his/her use of methods in the PhD-work with a specific focus on the relationship to the theoretical premises of the work. Afterwards, these presentations will commonly be discussed.


Course Planning

  • PREMODULE: Tuesday, 23rd of January 2024, 03:00 – 06:30 p.m. CET / 7.00-10.30 a.m. MST (hybrid format)
  • MODULE 1.1: Monday, 29th of January 2024, 03.00 – 06.30 p.m. CET / 7.00-10.30 a.m. MST (hybrid format)
  • MODULE 1.2: Thursday, 1st of February 2024, 03.00 – 06.30 p.m. CET / 7.00-10.30 a.m. MST (hybrid format)
  • MODULE 2.1: Monday, 18th of March 2024, 09:30 – 13:00 a.m. CET / 01.30 – 5.30 a.m. MST (hybrid format)
  • MODULE 2.2a: Tuesday, 26th of March 2024, 09:30 – 13:00 p.m. CET / 01.30 – 5.30 a.m. MST (hybrid format)
  • MODULE 2.2b: Tuesday, 26th of March 2024, 14:00 – 17:00 p.m. CET / 6.00 – 9.00 a.m. MST (hybrid format)
  • MODULE 3.1: Tuesday, 23rd April 2024, 03.00 – 06.00 p.m. CET / 6.00 – 9.00 a.m. MST (hybrid format)
  • MODULE 3.2: Wednesday, 24th April 2024, 9:00 a.m. – 2.00 p.m. CET / 00:00 – 5.00 a.m. MST (in presence – for participants that are located in Karlsruhe)
  • EXTRA SESSION with prof. Armin Grunwald: Thursday, 2nd of May 2024, 4.00 p.m – 5.30 p.m. / 7.00 – 8.30 a.m. MST 
  • MODULE 4.1: Tuesday,18 of June 2024, 3.00 – 6.00 ‘clock p.m. CET / 6.00 – 9.00 a.m. MST (hybrid format)
  • MODULE 4.2: Wednesday, 19 of June 2024, 9.00 a.m. – 13.00 p.m. CET / 00.00 – 5.00 a.m. MST (hybrid format)
  • EXTRA SESSION with prof. Rafaela Hillebrand: Wednesday, 26th of June 2024, 4.00 – 5.30 p.m. CET, 7.00 – 8.30 a.m. MST (online just for participants in this program)

Course Requirements

To pass this course, you need to actively participate in each session. For some sessions, materials to prepare yourself will be send around.