APPLIED NANOPARTICLES S.L. (AppNPs) is a spin-off of the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2), the University Autònoma of Barcelona (UAB) and the Institut Català de Recerca i Estudis Avançats (ICREA). Among its co-founders are scientists from these institutions, and experts on Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI), e-communication and business development and technology transfer. AppNPs has the office address in Barcelona.
The main current objective of AppNPs is the commercial exploitation of the patent application "biogas production" (BioGAS+), in the U.S. and Europe, consisting on the use of iron oxide nanoparticles as additives to optimise the production of biogas by feeding with essential iron the involved bacterial consortia responsible for that. AppNPs also develops projects on the production, characterisation and commercialization of model nanoparticles, as well as consulting work related to other possible industrial uses of inorganic nanoparticles. AppNPs business is based on the principles of Responsible Innovation, focusing on the process design of nanoparticles, low energy consumption, low toxicity, waste minimization and reduction of emissions.
In their basal article “Developing a framework for responsible innovation”, Owen and colleagues48 presents four dimensions of responsible innovation, namely; Anticipation, Reflexivity, Inclusion and Responsiveness. The experience taken from our daily work in the laboratory suggests that we have to add a fifth dimension, or perhaps an overarching sine qua non: Intelligence. It is said that you should never attribute to malice what can be attributed to stupidity. In an over simplified manner, who contaminates the river or slave the workers, he/she does not do so because enjoys the river death or making others suffer. When the businessman says that he cannot compete without pressing on workers, polluting the environment and cheating on consumers (see recent “clean diesel”61 case) is due to a lack of intellectual capacities (inability to find a better -smarter- way of solving technological problems have not been found). As Winston Churchill said, “gentlemen, we have run out of money, now we have to think”. We cannot afford being stupid, it is too expensive. Responsibility requires complex thinking, wide angle analysis and forecasting consequences. Even more in a world getting more and more sophisticated thanks to technological development. And now that we should start to develop more efficient technologies, and truly understand sustainability, we can witness with dismay that a new illiteracy is rising and signs of post-enlightenment are starting to be visible62, probably as a consequence of the increased complexity. Early in our anthropocene era, our technology is still primitive. In the future we will design wise technology. Today, our societies may not be ready to develop intelligent technologies. This may be why we pollute so much and waste so much energy. This is why the final aim of this company, of this project, of all these efforts, is education, in all its forms. Proper education is the only way we know to become more intelligent than we are, and the only way to sustainable progress.