Responsible Innovation. Business Opportunities and Strategies for Implementation

One of the changes that the introduction of Responsible Innovation into EU funding practices has brought is the wider offering of open-access academic and project publication (free books). This is because under the RI approach, publications should be made available to anyone who wants to read them, and therefore costless.

A good example to get your teeth into is Responsible Innovation: Business Opportunities and Strategies for Implementation, a new offering in the SPRINGER BRIEFS IN RESEARCH AND INNOVATION GOVERNANCE series (not all of which is available on open access however).

Edited by Katharina Jarmai, it is available in paper version or as a free download and offers a lot of food for thought for anyone interested in responsible innovation approach and application within business.

The primary focus of this short book is on small and medium enterprises and how they have adopted responsible approaches to their businesses (and also the problems they face if they want to do so).

The main perspective taken is one of looking at the overall objectives of RI approaches in order to apply these approaches in real-life situations. The goal for RI is thus described as ‘to increase positive societal impact and minimize actual and potential negative impact to the highest degree possible’, moving away from the abstract academic definitions and into practice.

Sounds perfectly reasonable.

This move hopes to involve businesses and business people who want and need guidance or to demonstrate their various good practices.

The book contains several case studies and practice examples that show how RI can be implemented in companies. In many cases described the companies go beyond guidelines and expectations. This is down to the personal beliefs of their management teams or workers, and it has a positive effect on the workforce as a whole: People want to work for responsible organizations.

Sustainability-oriented innovation (a topic that is important for this website as a look back through the posts shows) is compared to RI, as is social innovation.  The particular problems that small businesses find themselves in in relation to RI and the investment required are also described and solutions offered.

Real life case studies provide examples of reduced costs, reputational gains, employee retention, faster market entry, access to previously unavailable stakeholders, higher acceptability of end products, and higher innovation potential through diverse employees.

The chapters are short, well written and easy to follow. The book is 100 pages and certainly worth a couple of hours in order to gain an overview of RI in action within business.

Get yourself a free copy!

A Free Journal of Current EU Projects

To continue from where I left off last year, in this post I want to take a look at a free online journal that carries a special section on Responsible Innovation, and loads of interesting and maybe useful information about EU funded projects and forthcoming calls.

The Project Repository Journal (PRj) is the European Dissemination Media Agency (EDMA)’s flagship open access publication dedicated to showcasing funded science and research throughout Europe. Projects that are funded either by the European Commission, through one of their current schemes such as with an ERC grant or via Horizon 2020, or has received a grant from one of their National Research Councils or European funding agencies can publish in the journal, having the freedom to present their goals, ambitions and up to date research findings to a community that makes a difference to science going forward.

The current issue contains a host of interesting articles that are related to recent publications on our site: The need to improve internal combustion engines that will run in hybrid electric cars,  an introduction to European space sector investment, Smart maintenance of rail stock to enhance passenger experience, the workings of the Next-Net technology network with the aim of improving supply networks, autism, a sustainable plastic competition, urban waste management, African bio-challenges and changes, plenty of great stuff.

And regarding my own interests this issue contains an RRI Special Feature between pages 54 to 67.

This section presents the work of four funded Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) projects: Nucleus, Fit4RRI, RRING and RRI-Practice, large projects that work on guiding policy for the future of Responsible Innovation, training tools and their use, global collaboration and funding strategies.

Another interesting section offers an overview of forthcoming EU calls for funding, so you can get an idea of what the EU is doing to promote this idea and more importantly how much money they are investing (maybe you could get hold of some yourself).

The journal a free download, following the EU mantra of distributing knowledge for free, so well worth a look. Each of these projects also had downloadable documents if you want to delve further. The articles that we find here are written by people at the cutting edge of research in this field, so anyone with a moment of free time can certainly learn something.

The EU Vision on Research and Innovation

The European Union has a system of research and innovation funding that is divided into blocks of time. We are now coming to the end of Horizon 2020, started in 2014 and about to close next year, and over this period the EU has invested somewhere in the region of 80 billion Euros in innovation and research across the EU.

It’s a lot of money by anyone’s standards.

The concept of responsible innovation that I have been writing about in this series (RI) has been adopted by the EU in a slightly changed format. The EU use the term Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) in all of their documents, as they are funding research and innovation and not just innovation. The RRI concept has been applied to all of the recent blocks of funding to a different degree, over time it has developed and become ever more important, to the point that today it is a ‘cross cutting issue’.

That means that anyone applying for funding has to address the issue of responsibility within the research project.

What the EU are looking to do is to steer research by funding those projects that address what they call the ‘grand societal challenges’ faced by the European population. These challenges are as follows:

  • Health, demographic change and wellbeing;
  • Food security, sustainable agriculture and forestry, marine and maritime and inland water research, and the Bioeconomy;
  • Secure, clean and efficient energy;
  • Smart, green and integrated transport;
  • Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials;
  • Europe in a changing world – inclusive, innovative and reflective societies;
  • Secure societies – protecting freedom and security of Europe and its citizens.

All of the contents within these challenges are spelt out on the EU website here, so for example the food security challenge explanation begins with:

A transition is needed towards an optimal and renewable use of biological resources and towards sustainable primary production and processing systems. These systems will need to produce more food, fibre and other bio-based products with minimised inputs, environmental impact and greenhouse gas emissions, and with enhanced ecosystem services, zero waste and adequate societal value.

Each challenge has a short description like this one above and then a more in depth explanation of the goals and aims and an extensive workplan.

So all of the above should be done while following an RRI approach, so what might that be?

From another section of the website:

Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) implies that societal actors (researchers, citizens, policy makers, business, third sector organisations, etc.) work together during the whole research and innovation process in order to better align both the process and its outcomes with the values, needs and expectations of society.

In practice, RRI is implemented as a package that includes multi-actor and public engagement in research and innovation, enabling easier access to scientific results, the take up of gender and ethics in the research and innovation content and process, and formal and informal science education.

All done via actions on thematic elements of RRI (public engagement, open access, gender, ethics, science education), and via integrated actions that for example promote institutional change, to foster the uptake of the RRI approach by stakeholders and institutions.

This really is a concerted effort carried out on a massive scale, with the aim of steering the research and innovation process via a funding policy based on objectives.

In my next post I will describe some of the projects that have been funded so we can see what this actually looks like on the ground.