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Home > Focus > Challenges For Responsible Innovation: Milan.

Challenges For Responsible Innovation: Milan.

by Redazione FGB [1], 13 February 2020

On 23 January, the Bassetti Foundation hosted René von Schomberg for a Challenges for Responsible Innovation event, one of a series organized to celebrate the release of the International Handbook on Responsible Innovation.

The Foundation is pleased to be able to share videos, podcast and photos of the meeting with supporting summary.


  • Videos
    part 1: Speech by Jonathan Hankins, co-author "International Handbook on Responsible Innovation" and Foreign Correspondent Fondazione Giannino Bassetti
    part 2: Speech by René Von Schomberg (speaks in private capacity), co-author "International Handbook on Responsible Innovation", European Commission, DG RTD, Guest-Professor, Technical University Darmstadt, Germany
    part 3: Dialogue with Piero Bassetti, President Fondazione Giannino Bassetti; Gianfelice Rocca, President Istituto Clinico Humanitas and Vice-president Fondazione Giannino Bassetti; René Von Schomberg, co-author "International Handbook on Responsible Innovation", European Commission, DG RTD Guest-Professor, Technical University Darmstadt, Germany
    part 4: Dialogue with event participants.
  • Summary
  • Podcast
  • Photos


President Piero Bassetti opened proceedings with a welcome speech in which he celebrated the long working relationship between the Foundation and von Schomberg, a collaboration on what both believe is still today an unresolved problem, that related to responsibility in innovation.

President Bassetti then introduced Jonathan Hankins, the Foundation's Foreign Correspondent and co-author of the International Handbook on Responsible Innovation. Hankins delivered a short speech in which he described how the creation and constant updating of the Foundation archive represents the accumulation of knowledge and experience gained through the Foundation's network, a socially constructed train of thought and documentation based upon shared working experiences within both politics and a culture of small and family businesses typical of Milan.

He drew parallels from his personal experience of conducting research in an artisan workshop, raising the question (posited by Bassetti) of how the goal of producing beauty could be seen in terms of responsibility, from the standpoint that a shared goal can come to be represented and understood aesthetically through the ascription of beauty.

Further details are available here [2] in an article based upon the speech.

Hankins in turn introduced Handbook co-author and ideator René von Schomberg, who delivered a speech in which he offered the definition of responsible innovation as 'driving innovations towards social desirable ends', an aim that requires a new paradigm to be implemented.

He highlighted the need for a new innovation paradigm that would make this aim possible, arguing that we currently do not have the necessary governance mechanisms, going on to describe a series of deficits in the current system; Lack of governance framework that could drive, rather than constrain the ethics of innovation, the need to relate and attach science and technology policy to European values in order to raise questions about what the aims are, the belief that innovation can be a goal in itself and that it is steerless, the problem that the population is subject to change rather than an agent of change, and the belief that any innovation will contribute to economic growth.

The speaker therefore calls for the development of a paradigm that would address these issues.

Von Schomberg used the example of Batomoleu's Passarola (1702) [3] to demonstrate that the framing of technology in benefit and risk, (which he describes as the first and current paradigm of innovation), has been used since at least the turn of the 1700s. He then described the RI paradigm as based upon the aim that governments move to taking responsibility for the outcomes, not merely the risk of innovation, leading to ethics and normative principles becoming democratically embedded in the innovation process.

The problems for von Schomberg lie in how this can be done, the author describing a series of major crises in science, the first of reproducibility, another of the high failure rate of late research due to lack of collaboration which he argues is in turn related to increased specialization and leads to a drop in scientific output. Von Schomberg went on to describe how the rewards and incentive system is problematic and plays a part in all of these problems, as does the belief that science can be justified without public scrutiny, problems that find themselves within a system that spends huge amounts of money on publishing and funding requests.

Further issues raised were the need to address market failures, the institutionalization of collective co-responsibility and the need for a new form of anticipatory governance through the setting up of normative (pre legislative) standards and principles.

Von Schomberg's speech was followed by a short response from President Piero Bassetti.

Bassetti's response opened the public discussion by saying that enough had not been done in the push for responsible innovation, even though a great deal of progress had been made. He made several assertions and raised several questions:
- Innovation is in itself something that cannot be made responsible.
- It is theoretically impossible to govern the unknown.
- Absolute risk cannot be governed.
- We cannot decide what is responsible or not, we can only judge the procedure.
- How can mission definition be declared responsible? Is it possible to go further in this process?

President Bassetti's response provoked a long series of interesting comments and questions from the public:
- How can we address the issues raised by innovation in health services that bring unforeseen medical outcome and delivery problems that sometimes lead to disadvantageous outcomes for certain groups in society?
- How can we raise the question of science as a good in itself?
- How do we address the problem of social desirability in a fragmented society?
- Can a democratic process enacted within policy-making make these problems visible?
- How do we accommodate disruptive innovation within the mission developments?
- Calls are very specific, but is this precision a good translation of what society actually desires? Can this be successfully co-designed? How can we make sure that this is done right?
- Responsible finance reflects the von Schomberg description of science innovation because it is also based on avoidance of certain elements (fossil fuel involvement for example). It does not focus on positive effect because it is difficult to work out how to measure this effect. How can this issue be addressed? How can impact be measured?
- How can we help companies (particularly small and medium sized enterprises) to understand the added value that an RI approach may bring?

Debate and discussion was lively. Audio and video of the event is available above.

President Bassetti closed the event raising two final thoughts: Does this approach signal a problem for participatory democracy as we have given the role of directing innovation to governments (who see everything from the position of societal good) and the voice of business is excluded?
How do we deal with the question that the gaining of knowledge can also be a problem?

Plenty of food for thought from a very interesting event.

>>>>> The event, handbook and Foundation was also written about by Professor Daniel Little on his academic blog. Read it here [4]


Also in the apps:

Apple Podcasts [5]  Breaker [6]  Google Podcasts [7]  Overcast [8]  Pocket Casts [9]  Radiopublic [10]  Spotify [11]  Feed rss [12]


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Links in this document:

  1. 1] /schedabiografica/Redazione FGB
  2. 2] https://www.fondazionebassetti.org/en/focus/2020/02/the_role_of_politics_to_define.html
  3. 3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bartolomeu_de_Gusm%C3%A3o
  4. 4] https://understandingsociety.blogspot.com/2020/01/responsible-innovation-and-philosophy.html
  5. 5] https://podcasts.apple.com/it/podcast/i-dialoghi-di-fondazione-bassetti/id1490686384
  6. 6] https://www.breaker.audio/i-dialoghi-di-fondazione-bassetti
  7. 7] https://www.google.com/podcasts?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly9hbmNob3IuZm0vcy8xMTNhYzYzNC9wb2RjYXN0L3Jzcw==
  8. 8] https://overcast.fm/itunes1490686384/i-dialoghi-di-fondazione-bassetti
  9. 9] https://pca.st/tlp6iki8
  10. 10] https://radiopublic.com/i-dialoghi-di-fondazione-bassetti-GqXAXp
  11. 11] https://open.spotify.com/show/2BuwcH2Kv0ZNDPzYQND1RV
  12. 12] https://anchor.fm/s/113ac634/podcast/rss
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Challenges For Responsible Innovation: Milan.
Articles by:  Redazione FGB
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