The merging of digital technologies with biological systems is poised to create social and mass market changes, in the same way that the rise of digital computing in 1985 altered society at large. Biodigital convergence (link is external) is a new field of research exploring the interaction between digital and biological technologies and systems. Bioprinters that produce organic tissue, the medical use of digital devices in humans, and automated biofoundries (factories) for the redesign of living organisms are just a few examples. Standards have a vital role to play in assessing the long-term impact, benefits, and challenges of this new field. 

Canada is leading international efforts at IEC to investigate research and emerging market trends, and propose a roadmap for standardization in the area. IEC established the Standardization Evaluation Group (SEG) 12 on Biodigital convergence based on the work of Kristel Van der Elst, Director General of Policy Horizons Canada, and member of the IEC Market Strategy Board responsible for identifying technological trends and market needs in the IEC fields of activity. Policy Horizons Canada spearheads Canada’s strategic foresight work (link is external) on biodigital convergence.

Standardization Evaluation Groups at IEC are responsible for evaluating the need to establish a committee or pursue other standards-related activities in the field. SEGs are made up of global sector experts within and outside the IEC community.

This is the first time Canada is leading an SEG. 

“Biodigital convergence is more than a technological change,” says Van der Elst. “It may transform economic and trade models, and industries such as manufacturing, health care, and agriculture. It could transform the way we understand ourselves and cause us to redefine what we consider human. Standards play a key role in shaping what our biodigital future might look like.”

IEC appointed François Coallier, SCC Governing Council member, to lead SEG 12 as Convenor. 

“The potential impact of biodigital convergence on commercial sectors and our day-to-day lives is enormous,” says Coallier. “The opportunity to embark on this journey is a win for Canada. I’m both humbled and excited to have the privilege of working with pioneering experts from around the world.” 

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