Navigating towards responsible research and innovation

January 22, 2016

Research and innovation that is geared more towards society’s needs and values is the underlying objective of the concept of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI). To improve the understanding of this relatively new principle and promote its diffusion, four EU-funded projects were launched in 2013: GREAT, Res-AGorA, ProGReSS and Responsibility. Their results were presented by the researchers involved at the joint final conference held in Brussels last week. The “Responsibility Navigator” is one of the presented publications from the Res-AGorA project. This offers orientation based on suitable principles when steering research and innovation in the direction of RRI.

Around 250 representatives from science, the economy, society and policy making were invited to gather information about the current state and future development of responsible research and innovation at the conference “RRI – Shaping new Horizons: Responsible Research and Innovation in Europe and across the World”. On the 14 and 15 of January 2016 in Brussels, researchers presented the main findings from the projects GREAT, Res-AGorA, ProGReSS and Responsibility – the first four projects funded by the European Union in the field of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI).

Dr. Ralf Lindner from Fraunhofer ISI, who opened the conference and whose presentation outlined the challenges when implementing RRI, also coordinated the Res-AGorA project, within which the “Responsibility Navigator” was developed. This is the result of three years of empirical research featuring case studies, literature analyses and a series of workshops. It offers research and innovation actors help in shaping research to be more responsible and sustainable based on ten guiding principles.

Principles for Responsible Research and Innovation:

  1. Inclusion: including all the relevant actors

  2. Moderation: mediating between different actors, building trust and exchanging information

  3. Deliberation: bringing together different actors’ types of knowledge and interests

  4. Modularity and flexibility: combining hard and soft regulatory mechanisms as well as self-regulation and external control

  5. Subsidiarity: only as much hierarchy as necessary and as little as possible

  6. Adaptability: adapting rules and regulations to possible changes in the framework conditions; this requires regular assessment

  7. Capabilities: further training and education of the actors to integrate new concepts and practices

  8. Capacities: creating suitable conditions with the relevant infrastructures, RRI culture, access to information and space for interaction

  9. Institutional entrepreneurship: RRI vision and strategy on the part of top-level management

  10. Culture of transparency, tolerance and rule of law: commitment to basic democratic principles

To improve their applicability, these ten principles were supplemented by guiding questions that the actors should ask themselves. Fictitious examples are used to explain the practical application possibilities – fictitious because the practical implementation of RRI is still in its infancy.

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.