Message posted on 25/03/2024

Invitation: Deep Tech & Society community

[Apologies for the cross-posting]

Hey everyone,

TLDR: Ive set up a new listserv to start building a community in and around social studies of deep tech - you can sign up HERE.

Hopefully this can lead to thematic workshops, conferences, journal issues and collaborative research projects; for now, I thought we could start with a list for sharing discussion, opportunities, inquires and announcements Ill send details on the new list about a kick-off online event in April/May in the next week or so (shoot me a note if you fancy helping organise / want to join a discussion panel on the need for a social studies of deep tech).

Would love for you to join me you can sign up HERE. And please feel free to share with any interested colleagues!

Cheers, Gemma


What is deep tech?

For anyone new to deep tech, its an increasingly popular term, particularly in industry and government, for high-tech engineering and science in structural global industries for example, in biotechnology, quantum computing, complex/industrial AI, agriculture, outer space, and energy. It differs from tech or digital in having a high intellectual property (IP) component, relying more heavily on government industrial strategies (funding, regulation & policy), and not tending to produce end-user digital services. When deep tech is referred to, it is often with respect to technology and science which is in the process of moving beyond academic science and into industry / usage, but not yet at the stage of large-scale adoption, implementation, and status quo. Examples might be personalised genomic cancer treatments, fusion energy reactors, or advanced fuels for rocket propulsion. (Its on my list to write a paper introducing / defining deep tech ~should it be capitalised?!~ and going through the myriad contested definitions and historical lineages shout if youre interested in collaborating..!)

Entrepreneurship in deep tech is exponentially increasing through industry, academia and government collaborations; and the current permacrisis means there are many global interconnected problems in need of deep tech solutions such as treating (and curing) disease, providing sustainable energy, and providing internet connectivity for all. As such, there is a burgeoning deep tech industry which has flourished off the back of entrepreneurial culture expanding beyond digital technology, democratisation of previously inaccessible industries such as that of outer space, and more corporate and private capital flowing into these areas in search of new high-margin investments. The deep tech industry is arguably (within the industry) widely seen as scientifically creative, highly complex and morally just, in that those within it are in a sense putting their intellect to good use in saving the world with science.

The process of translating academic research in the sciences to real world application, within the deep tech field, is often referred to as lab to market. This is a catch-all term which encompasses IP protection, company formation, regulatory approval, financing, customer acquisition, manufacturing scale-up, and beyond.

Existing academic communities

We can, of course, get into how new deep tech really is, along with the social and humanistic study of it, but I personally feel that activities which fall under the remit of deep tech are usually spread between other academic foci which could be much more closely brought together (due to various similarities surrounding the lab to market process) so as to advance each area in tandem. I think this will help catalyse the interdisciplinary thinking needed to bring deep tech more into the spotlight for academic inquiry which, in my humble opinion, is much needed.

Examples of inquiry:

  • Intellectual property in quantum technology startups
  • Organisational structures in the nuclear energy value chain
  • Political economy of technology transfer
  • Ethics of brain-computer interface commercialisation
  • Platformisation of biotechnology
  • Political imaginations in the New Space sector
  • Alternative (anti-capitalist?) structures for bringing research into materiality
  • Venture capital shifts in the agritech space
  • Human geography studies surrounding mineral extraction operations
  • Government and industry defence funding of emerging technologies

A non-exhaustive list of areas Deep Tech & Society may draw on:

  • Science & Technology Studies
  • Infrastructure Studies
  • Law and Political Economy
  • Economic Sociology
  • Organisation Studies
  • Medical Humanities
  • Social Studies of Outer Space
  • Global Pharmaceutical and Society Studies
  • Critical Geography
  • Social Studies of Energy
  • Agro-industry Studies


Gemma Milne PhD researcher, University of Edinburgh School of Social & Political Science Science & Technology writer & broadcaster Co-host of the Radical Science podcast Twitter: @gemmamilne

The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in Scotland, with registration number SC005336. Is e buidheann carthannais a th ann an Oilthigh Dhn ideann, clraichte an Alba, ireamh clraidh SC005336.

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