Developing a model of social acceptability of emerging disruptive food innovations: 3D printing and precision fermentation test cases

November 17th, 2021

Socially acceptable and socially responsible science and technology, who to engage and when

Project Duration: September 2021 to September 2023

3D Printer Printing Prototypes

Credit: iStock/kynny

Aligning outcomes of innovation with the values, needs and expectations of society

The Challenge

In 20 years, will retirement homes be plating up 3D printed meals to their residents? Or will plant-based meats be the norm on menus? It will ultimately depend on whether consumers are willing to consume these products. Companies subsequently need to ensure that today’s food innovations align with societal values, needs and expectations.

Responsible innovation (RI) methodologies encourage innovators to work with stakeholders throughout the design and development of new technologies. At the same time, disruptive technologies are often developed with little consideration for social acceptance until the go-to-market stage.

According to RI, science and innovation should strive for socially desirable and socially acceptable solutions to societies grand challenges. But what does that look like, what does it involve, who should it involve, and at what stage in the product lifecycle should this take place?

Our Response

CSIRO scientists are working to understand the factors thought to influence social acceptability of disruptive food innovations: risk profile, utilisation, familiarity, and perceived impacts. They’ll also model the relationships between these dimensions to better understand the drivers of social acceptance.

In keeping with core principles of RI, CSIRO will apply a novel approach to verify this model of social acceptability using two test cases of emerging disruptive food innovations – 3D printing of food and precision fermentation.

Insights generated from the model will be used to develop an operational RI framework for stakeholder engagement and response measures.

The project team brings together multi-disciplinary expertise in cognitive psychology, decision making, consumer and sensory science (with specific expertise in food), survey design, customer interviews, risk perception, community attitudes and acceptance (particularly pertaining to novel foods and food technologies), statistical analysis and data modelling as well as technology domain experts.

Project Impacts

Understanding what the pathway to consumer acceptance – and resistance – might look like in the face of disruptive food technologies – could help guide future investment strategies for R&D and commercialisation stages of food innovations.

There’s potential, for example, that the project may lead to improved recommendations for industry or commercialisation partnerships, engagement and marketing pathways, market fit, and scalability to realise each innovation’s potential for real and responsible social impact.

At an even broader scale, there is interest in how this project might demonstrate how RI tenets can be embedded as standard practice. This would have a significant impact on the innovation landscape in Australia today. Involving stakeholders in the innovation process earlier and more inclusively could have a positive impact in spinning out technologies that meet the needs and expectations of society, including ones being developed at CSIRO.


Sinead Golley (Project Lead), Astrid Poelman, Janne Beelen, Netsanet Shiferaw Terefe, and Mala Villaddara Gamage