Sparks is an awareness-raising project to show Europeans that they can get involved in science and that various stakeholders share the responsibility for scientific research and innovation.

Health situation

There are many people who are not scientists, but do hold important knowledge, opinions, desires and ideas for the advancement of science – often from their own experience. Responsible research and innovation (RRI) is an approach that takes into account societal needs and expectations in research and innovation. The aim is to foster the design of inclusive and sustainable scientific solutions.

The challenge

Since research and innovation have an impact on society, scientists as individuals as well as the research and innovation community at large have a social responsibility. This is shared with politicians, industries and citizens to define together the directions where society wants to go and to ensure all the stakeholders involved work together to improve healthcare.

The purpose of the project

Involving citizens in health research and innovation is at the heart of the Sparks project and the travelling exhibition. The Sparks project mainly consists of a travelling exhibition called “Beyond the lab: the DIY science revolution” put together by the renowned Science Museum London. Its main objective is to engage the audience in responsible research and innovation (RRI) through the topic of citizen science. Next to the exhibition, each local partner organizes interactive events that offer people the opportunity to identify research questions and co-design scientific solutions together.

What makes the exhibition unique is that it tells the stories of so-called ‘DIY scientists’ who are experimenting, researching and even inventing – often hand in hand with professional researchers – and hereby contribute to better scientific solutions in line with actual needs of people. The exhibition attracted over 850.000 visitors already and will be likely to exceed the number of 1 million by the time it reaches the end of its tour through 28 European countries.

What is ahti’s role

Ahti is one of the initiators of the project. We hosted all partners – over 35 organizations – at the beginning of the project in Amsterdam to ensure everybody was on the same page. The event was very successful in aligning all partners. Ahti is also an active member of the Steering Committee, which provides support and guidance.

By bringing together citizen experts and academic researchers, we want to combine real life evidence with science and technology. We do this to stimulate the development of innovative solutions that truly improve healthcare by putting the patient first.


EU, ahti, Ars Electronica, Bonn, Science Shop, Copernicus Science Centre, Ecsite, ERRIN, KEA European Affairs, Science Museum London

Rachel van Beem
Head of Projects
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