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Challenges for Responsible Innovation: Summary of First Events.

by Redazione FGB [1], 24 September 2019

The following summary presents a series of bullet points based upon notes taken at the first two Challenges for Responsible Innovation meetings held in Leiden (NL) and London UCL (UK). Both events opened with an introduction from Rene von Schomberg followed by panel member presentations and an open session of questions and points from the floor.

The points have been gathered under broad headings, but many are overlapping and broader in content than the titles here used, which are merely intended as a guide and were determined by the authors of this report and not the participants in the event.

The points were collectively gathered by Lucian von Schomberg, Rene von Schomberg and Jonathan Hankins.

The Direction of Movement

1. RI represents a new paradigm for innovation, that is both radically critical of and goes beyond previous (mainstream) paradigms of market- innovation. It facilitates publicly funded research and innovation to primarily serve public goods, and requires institutional change including a transformation of the current research system that is shown to be too competitive, costly, and simply unproductive in terms of delivering on socially desirable objectives.

2. RI should avoid being too challenge orientated. This may lead to empty promises and expectations, shallow understandings of science and society, and a possible ignorance of the uncertainty underlying the innovation process.

3. Instead of introducing new concepts and implementation strategies, RI should question how we are going to change the very agents of change itself.

4. Current political leaders are using the tools of democracy to destroy democracy. One of the biggest challenges for RI is how to advance through means of deliberative democracy in such a context, that is accompanied by a decline in international cooperation and the governance of emerging technology.

5. RI still needs to employ a more holistic view on innovation that includes alternative approach to our economy (e.g. circular economy), and other forms of innovation such as social innovation.

6. RI should build on the normative conditions that might help to bring about the kind of political mobilization it requires.

Research and Methodology Related Issues

1. RI should not merely create its own research line, but become a core element in other research programs.

2. RI should focus on all research activities, from frontier research to applied or societal challenge and mission-oriented research.

3. RI faces the difficulty of addressing the problem of scale, in that some innovation presents problems because of its scale. We can find many examples of technologies that have become problematic due to their mass uptake that might have been very difficult to foresee (Facebook for example).

4. How can an RI approach function within a system whose measurements of success are based on GDP?

Interdisciplinarity and Broadening Involvement

1. RI should be careful not to impose an open science system that ends up being just as instrumental as previous systems. Instead, it needs to brings us to a fundamentally open (i.e. pluriform and diverse) science system through creating open infrastructures, enabling communities, inspiring researchers, and transforming academia.

2. RI should enable different actors to engage with RRI practices by having it reflected in the educational system.

3. There are many different levels of doing RI (i.e. at the individual level, company/university level, and at the national/international level). A challenge for RI is to connect these different levels.

4. A big challenge for RI is to make stakeholders understand that they all have different trainings and backgrounds, which in turn results in different ways of thinking about innovation.

Topics related to Power and Politics

1. RI should contribute to rethinking the power relations that shape our policies, keeping in mind that science, research, and innovation should primarily resonate in the societal context.

2. RI should articulate a political dimension of innovation that successfully provides industries with an incentive to engage in RI practices.

3. RI should introduce a new politics of deliberation by creating spaces where innovators and societal actors can interact and converse in light of what could be seen as a new social contract between science and society.

4. There is the need for more democracy in innovation.

5. While RI has an enormous revolutionary potential, it may also end up in a conventional context of managing innovation. The uncertainty surrounding RI on this point raises the question of to what extend it will be able to go beyond the conventional context.

Businesses and their Engagement

1. RI should not be seen as too imposed, especially not by companies that are actually already engaging in RI practices without per se calling it as such. On the contrary, the RI community should engage with these companies and play a major role in collaborating with them.

2. One of the biggest challenges for RI remains the tension between RI approaches and maximizing economic profit. There is demand for a concrete example that demonstrates how investing in RI would be economically successful.

3. RI should articulate practical guidance for companies on how to practice RI (such as current successful examples in practice, codes for conduct, certification schemes and standard setting approaches).

4. Whereas universities and Scientists have ethics committees and other forums where they can raise issues related to RI, businesses do not but may require them.


1. The term RI is often perceived by scientists as a criticism to what they are doing. One of the challenges of RI lies in how to successfully engage them which requires positive uptake of the concept and terminology.

2. RI should use a language that is less complex, thereby enabling the inclusion of actors outside of RI circles.

3. How can RI speak to the younger generation that is looking for solutions to climate change from a personal perspective and who are currently mobilizing on a huge scale?

4. RI requires scientists and technologists to engage in a language that is not their own and that they have not been trained in, presenting a hurdle to uptake and shared understanding.


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Challenges for Responsible Innovation: Summary of First Events
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