Toward a socially desirable EU research and innovation agenda on urban waste: A transnational EU citizen consultation

Durwin Lynch*, Frank Kupper, Jacqueline Broerse

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Growing waste production has become a global sustainability challenge that is in need of innovative solutions. It has been argued that greater public engagement in science and technology policy could stimulate new directions for innovation and provide orientation for the development of more acceptable, sustainable, and desirable innovations that address societal needs. In 2013, the European Commission (EC) piloted a EU-wide study to engage citizens in setting the research and innovation (R & I) agenda on urban waste. This yielded the question: 'To what extent are the proposed ideas considered innovative, feasible, and meaningful for the EC R & I agenda?' This article addresses the outcomes of 100 focus group discussions held in 27 European Union (EU) countries in which 992 citizens were consulted. Citizens discussed a number of (self-experienced) barriers and concerns regarding waste management, and proposed and prioritized over 350 ideas to realize a (near) zero-waste society. Although citizens found it complex to propose innovative and feasible ideas, their priorities were consistent with current EU research policy areas of importance (e.g., reduce packaging, stimulate recycling), and in addition, citizens proposed various new ways to strengthen current waste management (e.g., innovations to enhance convenience in household waste management). We argue that citizen involvement in EC R & I agenda-setting across the EU is feasible, and leads to meaningful input. However, in making sense of this input, it is essential to take contextual differences into account. Various recommendations are given for future agenda-setting activities at the EU level.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1641
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 19 May 2018


  • European commission
  • Focus groups
  • Public consultation
  • Research and innovation
  • Transnational
  • Waste management


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