Well on the Way to Responsible Research and Innovation

The EU project Res-AGorA intends to develop a strategic governance frame for Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) – i.e. for research and innovation, which is orientated more than previously towards societal needs and values. Workshops with about 80 stakeholders identified barriers and developed possible solutions. The results will be presented at the final conference on 14 and 15 January 2016 in Brussels.

There are signs of a paradigm change in European research, technology and innovation policy which essentially balances the orientation and impact of research and innovation with societal values and needs better than before. The concept “Responsible Research and Innovation“ (RRI) which the European Commission has promoted for five years (for example in the“Rome Declaration on Responsible Research andInnovation in Europe“) and supported (amongst others as a cross-cutting issue in Horizon2020) consolidates this approach: By involving not only experts but also stakeholders, users and laymen and their different perspectives and know-how at an early stage, research and innovation processes are to be oriented more towards economic, societal and ecological challenges by taking ethical principles and normative objectives into account. In the ideal case the technology induced risks and their reactive containment are no longer the chief focus of the governance of research and innovation but the understanding which future should be promoted through research and innovation.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI deals intensively with RRI and contributes in different projects to developing and establishing the concept. The project Res-AGorA for example develops a strategic governance frame which encourages reflection on the implementation of RRI at universities and research institutions as well as in research funding – so that European research and innovation becomes more relevant for society and sustainable in the medium to long term.

Between March and June 2015 workshops took place in Copenhagen, Vienna, Amsterdam, Berlin and Brussels to develop this governance frame. Around 80 stakeholders participated: The representatives from universities, research institutions, NGOs and enterprises, from science and research management as well as national and European politics and research and innovation actors discussed issues such as fracking, genetic engineering, research funding. 

In the workshops which dealt with distinct technology conflicts in the areas of fracking and genetic engineering it was noted that there is a deeply rooted, profound distrust – between research, industry, NGOs, the media, other interest groups and last but not least the public. Neutral moderation of the decision-making and implementation processes, which takes all relevant angles into account and at the same time delivers a “robust“, evidence based knowledge base is needed to establish mutual trust.

Dr. Ralf Lindner, project coordinator of Res-AGorA and researcher at Fraunhofer ISI, mentions another identified barrier for RRI, “At the moment a list of publications and raised third party funds are most important for an academic career. A participation process with members of the public for example in the planning of research, i.e. more ‘societal orientation‘, is currently not very prestigious. In order to tap the great potential of RRI both the framework conditions for research and innovation have to be changed and many common practices need to be developed further. The proposals made by Res-AGorA aim to support this change. The most important measure is to provide incentives for research institutions to give more weight to societal perspectives, therefore individual researchers should be supported with further training“.

The outcomes of the workshops and the resulting governance frame will be presented at the Res-AGorA final conference “RRI: Shaping New Horizons“ on 14 and 15 January 2016 in Brussels.

The project Res-AGorA (Responsible Research and Innovation in a Distributed Anticipatory Governance Frame. A Constructive Socio-normative Approach) is funded in the 7th Research Framework Programme of the European Commission. In addition to the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI The Danish Board of Technology Foundation, the Institute for Advanced Studies Vienna as well as the Universities of Aarhus, Paris-Est Marne La Vallee, Manchester, Padova and Twente are participants in the project.

More information can be found at www.res-agora.eu.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI analyzes the origins and impacts of innovations. We research the short- and long-term developments of innovation processes and the impacts of new technologies and services on society. On this basis, we are able to provide our clients from industry, politics and science with recommendations for action and perspectives for key decisions. Our expertise is founded on our scientific competence as well as an interdisciplinary and systemic research approach.