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Part 4, European Governance within Responsible Innovation

This week we take a look at Chapter 3 of the book Responsible Innovation, a Narrative Approach, that you can download here.

The European Commission Approach

The European Commission has its own take on responsible innovation (RI) and its own acronym. In these circles the term RRI is used, standing for Responsible Research and Innovation, reflecting the use of the concept within its research funding mechanisms. This terminology has been in use since (about) 2011, and since then RRI has become a cross-cutting issue in the most recent calls for research funding after steadily growing in importance.

For those who may not know, the European commission funds research throughout and beyond Europe, publishing calls for project proposals that fit within different categories. This fits within a policy of promoting innovation as an economic driver, following the line that innovation will bring jobs and economic growth.

The RRI inclusion brings in the idea that this research should work towards addressing some of the societal challenges that EU citizens face. This idea grows out of EU treaties, as do the ways that the idea of RRI are put into practice.

The challenges are the following:

  • 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.

It’s difficult to work out exactly how much money we are talking about here, but somewhere in the region of 70 billion Euros over 7 years for the current funding program, a figure that is put around 500 billion for the coming call. The book details where you can find all of the documents that explain how and why this path is being followed.

How to Proceed?

Within the approach there are several issues that each research project must address:

 Public Engagement

  • the establishment of inclusive participatory multi-actor dialogues between researchers, policy makers, industry and civil society organizations, NGOs, and citizens;
  • to foster mutual understanding and co-create research and innovation outcomes and policy agendas effective in tackling societal challenges,
  • fostering wider acceptability of results.

Open Access

Making research findings available free of charge for readers. This has been a core strategy in the European Commission to improve knowledge circulation and thus innovation. It is illustrated in particular by the general principle for open access to scientific publications in Horizon 2020 and the pilot for research data.

Gender

  • Fostering gender balance in research teams, in order to close the gaps in the participation of women.
  • Ensuring gender balance in decision-making, in order to reach the target of 40% of the under-represented sex in panels and groups and of 50% in advisory groups.
  • Integrating the gender dimension in research and innovation (R&I) content, helps improve the scientific quality and societal relevance of the produced knowledge, technology and/or innovation.

Ethics

Amongst others, the following ethical issues must be addressed:

  • the involvement of children, patients, vulnerable populations,
  • the use of human embryonic stem cells,
  • privacy and data protection issues,
  • research on animals and non-human primates.

Science education

A sustainable and cross-cutting interaction between the relevant actors in the field is crucial:

  • different levels of the education system,
  • universities and other higher education establishments,
  • research and innovation funding and performing organizations,
  • civil society organizations and NGO’s,
  • industry, policy-makers,
  • professors,
  • teachers,
  • students and pupils,
  • Science museums and science centres.

The book chapter goes into greater detail, before offering an overview of several of the projects that have been completed over recent years through this mechanism, which I hope offers a more concrete idea of how this money is being used.

The chapter concludes with an interview with René von Schomberg, widely seen as the architect of this move. I have written a previous post about him here, but the book offers more detail gained through a series of interviews.

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