From energy to the economy, the complex and interconnected issues facing the world today present significant challenges, for which solutions will not only greatly impact society, but will also inevitably create a number of legal, ethical, and regulatory questions. While advanced biomanufacturing represents an emerging discipline in both academic and industrial communities uniquely positioned to offer new solutions to complex problems, understanding and addressing these important questions is essential for recognizing the true downstream societal impart of potential solutions. This can help ensure that new innovations not only solve critical problems, but do so in a way that creates synergy between industry, the environment, and society. The core research, commercialization, and education activities of the iBIO Initiative not only support the development of these synergistic innovations, but also stimulate thought on how biology and advanced biomanufacturing can be used to both solve grand challenges and positively impact society.

Rice University has long recognized the importance of interplay between science and society in addressing many current and future world issues, and has a number of established outlets devoted to understanding critical aspects of this inherent connection:

The Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University was founded in 1993 with the mission of bringing together researchers, scholars and leaders in the public and private sectors to develop creative approaches to international, national and local policy issues. Included in this effort are the Center for Energy Studies, which provides new insights on the role of economics, policy and regulation in the performance and evolution of energy markets, and the Center for Health and Biosciences, which combines expertise in health policy and biomedical policy to address national and global health concerns.

The Center for Energy and Environmental Research in the Human Sciences (CENHS) is the only research center in the world specifically designed to foster and incubate research on the energy/environment nexus across the arts, humanities and social sciences.

Rice University and Shell Oil Company launched the Shell Center for Sustainability in 2002, with the mission of fostering an interdisciplinary program of research, outreach and education to address actions that can be taken to ensure the sustainable development of living standards, interpreted broadly, to encompass all factors affecting the quality of life, including environmental resources.

An interdisciplinary center between the schools of Engineering, Social Science and Business, the Center for Computational Finance and Economic Systems (CoFES) was founded in 2003. CoFES research mission is driven by faculty interests at Rice and spans areas of fixed income, structured finance, commodities (including energy), auctions and of course equities. Researchers address the changing global market structure and continuously question long held assumptions of market behavior.

The Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy began as a joint project of Baylor College of Medicine and Rice University, enabling the center to draw on the rich intellectual resources of both institutions. The center is committed to creating a shared, intellectual environment that encourages critical reflection on emerging, as well as perennial, ethical and policy challenges in healthcare and biomedical research.