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Responsible Innovation, a Free Introductory Course (with book)

Introduction

As readers might know, I am a great champion of open access publications. One of the great things that the inclusion of the concept of Responsible Innovation into European Union policy has been the explosion of open access reports and books.

These reports etc. are written by people who are at the top of their fields, and they have generally been written in a more accessible way so that non experts can understand them. If you scroll back over the last year you will find many of them reviewed on the website.

Last year I was fortunate enough to work on editing a book, it is available as hardback, or on download, but is not free. It is a commercial publication and I have to admit in my line of work that we do need publishers, and they need to make money. So it’s not free.

Last month I had another book published through the University of Bergamo. This time though it is available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle format but also on free download via the University. Therefore, anybody who would like to download it and have a look is free to do so. And I would like to offer a guide through it.

But what is it about? I hear you say.

Follow The Book Online

Over the coming weeks I am going to write a series of posts that offer an overview, to see if I can tempt you into buying a paperback or downloading it. But we could say that it’s about decision-making in innovation. Broader than that it is about how people who work together cooperate to build and share an understanding of what the right way to do something is.

Can we see this ‘right way of doing it’ as being constructed right there, in the workplace? What if some of the team changes and new people with new ideas come in? How might that change the way things are viewed?

These questions can be addressed to any workplace, but (as we might imagine on Technologybloggers), my interest is in how technology is developed and how the trajectory of this development path is steered.

This might not seem like an important question at first glance, but I think it is. The development of systems and disruptive technologies brings huge changes, and the questions asked during this development process change it, making its possibilities change.

Ask not what the technology can do for you, but how you can affect its development.

The COVID crisis had led to innovation across entire systems. The trajectory of a wide range of technologies has been changed by users. We have expanded the list of the right ways to work with tools (that may be programs or infrastructure, 3D printers or networks.

Returning to the book. The chapters can be read independently, so I am going to offer an overview each week of the questions raised. If you would like to follow the narration with a book, just download your free copy here. I will try to provide you with a University level Introduction to Responsible Innovation course.

I hope to make you curiouser and curiouser.

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Technology

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!

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Technology

Updates: Working Together Against Corona

Thanks to everyone who sent in suggestions to add to the database of initiatives aimed at helping slow the spread of Corona. I am going to take a look at some of those suggested in the hope of offering you all a little inspiration before you go into the shed to invent something spectacular.

Issinova have designed a valve that can be fitted to an already commercially available Decathlon underwater swimming mask (snorkeling) so that it can be used to provide oxygen from a ventilator machine in sub-intensive care. The company makes the design freely available on its website. See one in the photo above.

Although the solutions are not certified they can be used in case of an emergency situation in which the hospital does not have enough masks for the numbers of patients.

Andrea Tarantino, a stationer from Milan, is using a 3D printer to produce protective masks that are able to defend both himself and other shopkeepers from infection from COVID-19. Using a non-professional 3D printer, he is able to produce a mask starting from a sheet of acetylene in six hours. Not quick, but he is able to supply all of the shopkeepers in the area. See how good your Italian is via the link.

Belgian business ZoraBots is working to make a stock of robots currently stockpiled in their warehouse freely available to help elderly and isolated people connect. They are offering these robots to care homes, and if you have chance, take a look at the link to see what they can do.

Returning to Italy, a crowdfunding is currently running for the Milan Mechanical Ventilators project, promoted by Cristiano Galbiati, Professor at the GSSI (Gran Sasso Science Institute) and Princeton University. The objective is to develop a new (simple and safe) device that conforms to HRME guidelines and is quickly mass producible.

Students at Delft Technical University have produced a prototype of a simple ventilator machine that can be assembled and used in hospitals if other machinery is not available. The prototype is the result of 3 weeks work involving 50 students. The machines are currently being tested, but could be locally produced at a rate of 40 per day. Test your Dutch via the link.

Keep them coming in! All languages accepted. All suggestions to: anticovid19(at)fondazionebassetti.org
Replace the (at) with an @

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Technology

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.

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Technology

Responsible Innovation: Ethics, Safety and Technology. MOOC.

Delft Technical University in the Netherlands offer a free online University course on Responsible Innovation that may be of interest to readers with a few hours here and there and a thirst for knowledge that would make even Jarvis Cocker proud.

The course is flexible, you can start whenever you like and run it according to personal needs. I myself have completed it, essays and all, even writing an article about it published in the Journal of Responsible Innovation.

The course offers an overview of some of the starter points for the concept of Responsible Innovation, many of which you might have come across through the previous posts in this series. The trolley problem (the ethical issues around decision-making if damage or danger is unavoidable), the problem of innovation processes becoming difficult to steer once they are in full flow, the need for standards and those proposed on EU and UK level as described in my previous post, risk management, design and frugal innovation, to name just a few.

The course also comes with a free downloadable textbook, so it’s goodbye to roaming the isles of the library hunting for a book that somebody has already taken out.

This course also addresses implementation from a business perspective, which makes for interesting reading. Models of innovation management, including economic models that talk about determinants of innovation are also included (a bit technical for the likes of me unfortunately), and questions of how businesses could address problems of risk are also presented and described.

Case studies related to ethical concerns and risks also appear thoughout the course, addressing nanotechnology, self-driving vehicles, robots, AI smart meters for electricity, autonomous weapons, nuclear energy and CO2 capture and coolants, many of which you find addressed in other posts on this website.

One major section relates to the idea of designing values and trust into processes and their products, a centerpiece of the TU Delft approach.

There are a couple of essays to submit for anyone interested in taking the course as part of their university education, with European Education points offered (ECTS) and a certificate (payment required). You can of course just watch the video lectures too if that’s more your scene.

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Series Technology

René von Schomberg

In this post I would like to take a look at the work of one of the most important figures in Responsible Innovation, René von Schomberg.

René von Schomberg

Von Schomberg works within the European Commission’s Directorate General for Research and innovation, and over the last 12-15 years has introduced and promoted the idea of Responsible Innovation, introducing it to the Commission’s calls for funding over a decade ago, and helping to make it ever more important within research funding.

He is co-editor of the International Handbook on Responsible Innovation, has written the most widely used definition used in academia but also runs a non-academic WordPress blog.

Recent articles include on the blog an overview of our recent book, a summary of projects on RI that have been funded by the Commission, articles on open science and precision agriculture.

LIVING INNOVATION

Once that has wetted your appetite, you should take a look at the LIVING INNOVATION website, which hosts a video interview with von Schomberg entitled Responsibility and Transformational Change in Innovation Systems. This interview is very recent and wide-ranging, addressing a series of topics and issues and covering the evolution of the concept of RRI within the European Union. Note that he is described as the Father of Responsible Innovation!

In the video von Schomberg addresses lots of interesting topics, including small business practices and local, regional, national and supranational governance of innovation systems.

The website also contains an interview with Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl, Director General of Digital Europe, a leading trade association representing digitally transforming industries in Europe. The topic of Responsible Research and Innovation and the consequences of its implementation are discussed from the speaker’s own perspective, making for very interesting and thought-provoking listening.

Last but not least comes an article that I wrote in 2012 about von Schomberg’s Matrix for Responsible Innovation, published in various academic books but also in non academic terms on his blog.

Von Schomberg is an interesting and extremely influential character. A good starting point if you want to understand how the idea of introducing responsibility to research funding has developed.

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International Handbook on Responsible Innovation: Launch Event in Manchester

As you may see from the cover, I have a book newly released and would like to invite all readers (who can) to join me in Manchester to launch it.

The event opens with two keynote addresses, the first from from Rene von Schomberg and the second from myself, Jonathan Hankins. A Series of short panel presentations follow with an open discussion involving panel members, speakers and audience. Wine and nibbles reception to close.

INVITATION

You are all very welcome to join us on Wednesday 27 November 2019 at Manchester Metropolitan University Business School, (Rm BS125) to launch and discuss the new:

International Handbook on Responsible Innovation: A Global Resource

Edited by René von Schomberg, Directorate General for Research and Innovation, European Commission, Belgium and Guest Professor, Technical University Darmstadt, Germany and Jonathan Hankins, The Bassetti Foundation, Italy.

The Handbook constitutes a global resource for the fast growing interdisciplinary research and policy communities addressing the challenge of driving innovation towards socially desirable outcomes. This book brings together well-known authors from the US, Europe and Asia who develop conceptual and regional perspectives on responsible innovation as well as exploring the prospects for further implementation of responsible innovation in emerging technological practices ranging from agriculture and medicine, to nanotechnology and robotics. The emphasis is on the socio-economic and normative dimensions of innovation including issues of social risk and sustainability.

Full reference:

 Schomberg, R & Hankins, J. eds International Handbook on Responsible Innovation : A Global Resource,’ Cheltenham UK and Northampton USA:  Edward Elgar . ISBN 978 1 78471 88 5

AGENDA 

3pm Arrival & Coffee

3.15 Introduction & Welcome

3:20 Keynote – René von Schomberg

3:45 Keynote – Jonathan Hankins

4pm Panel Presentations and Open Discussion 

5pm Wine reception

6pm close

This is a free event. All are welcome. Please register and claim your ticket here

Readers who have been following the series on Responsible Innovation will know the name of Von Schomberg too, and there is much more to come on that front. This is one not to be missed if you are in the area.

The event is hosted by SEEG, Manchester Metropolitan University’s Sustainable and Ethical Enterprise Group, and MIOIR the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research based at the University of Manchester Alliance Business School. The links will take you to places of wonder, full of interesting browsing.

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Business Technology

British Standards Institution Call for Comments: Responsible Innovation

Those of you interested in how the responsible innovation debate has begun to take hold in the business world might like to take a look at a call for input from the British Standards Institution. They are developing a Standard on Responsible Innovation.

Many of you may have seen the Kite Mark symbol above on various things you have bought but maybe not thought about what it is or how it is awarded, so here I offer a bit of insider information.

The British Standards Institute has published a draft of a standard on responsible innovation and await (your) comments, which can be made (after free registration) until 29 October 2019 as part of a typical timeline for the development of a published Standard. The draft document is published through the BSI website linked above with a view to amendments on the draft and publication in 2020.

What are Standards?

Taken from the BSI website, Standards are described as:

an agreed way of doing something. It could be about making a product, managing a process, delivering a service or supplying materials – standards can cover a huge range of activities undertaken by organizations and used by their customers.

The distilled wisdom of people with expertise in their subject matter and who know the needs of the organizations they represent – people such as manufacturers, sellers, buyers, customers, trade associations, users or regulators.

They are designed for voluntary use, you’re not forced to follow a set of rules that make life harder for you, you’re offered ways to do your work better.

Standards are knowledge. They are powerful tools that can help drive innovation and increase productivity. They can make organizations more successful and people’s everyday lives easier, safer and healthier.


The British Standards Institution

The role of the BSI is described on the website as:

the UK’s National Standards Body (NSB), representing UK economic and social interests across all European and international standards organizations. Working with many different industries, businesses, governments and consumers to develop British, European and international standards, that are developed by dedicated panels of experts, within technical committees.

A standard undergoes various stages of development, beginning with the Proposal stage, which is aimed at affirming the market need for a standard. Once a proposal for a standard is approved, the relevant panel of experts in the area is tasked with drafting the standard, as per internationally agreed principles of standards development.

As soon as a draft is mature enough, it undergoes public consultation when it is made available for anyone to view and comment (Public comment stage, the stage that this draft is now in). Every public comment BSI receives on a draft standard is considered by the relevant panel of experts and BSI staff and the final published standard is updated as appropriate.

Following public consultation and before a draft can become a published standard, it undergoes further edits until the panel is satisfied with its quality and only when consensus has been reached.

The standard is a specification, working practices are described that the business can aim to work towards. It is a sort of tutoring system to help businesses work towards a set of goals, in this case a responsible innovation approach.

So if you have time why not have a look at what they are proposing? And maybe comment. It might help its development and even work towards making the world a more responsible place.

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Technology

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.

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Some Free Reading Materials about Responsible Innovation

Last week I opened a discussion about responsibility in technological innovation, and this week I would like to have a look at some (free to access) literature on the subject from a few different perspectives.

SELF DRIVING CARS

There are a couple of really interesting documents to begin with. The journal Glocalism has an article written by Jack Stilgoe about his experiences of test driving a Tesla and his thoughts on the world that self driving technology might bring. Stilgoe is well known in this field, a university Professor who also writes for the Guardian newspaper he can communicate across the spectrum.

The abstract reads as follows: “In the last five years, investment and innovation in self-driving cars has accelerated dramatically. Automotive autonomy, once seen as impossible, is now sold as inevitable. Much of the governance discussion has centred on risk: will the cars be safer than their human-controlled counterparts? As with conventional cars, harder long-term questions relate to the future worlds that self-driving technologies might enable or even demand. The vision of an autonomous vehicle – able to navigate the world’s complexity using only its sensors and processors – on offer from companies like Tesla is intentionally misleading. So-called “autonomous” vehicles will depend upon webs of social and technical connectivity. For their purported benefits to be realized, infrastructures that were designed around humans will need to be upgraded in order to become machine-readable. It is vital to anticipate the politics of self-driving worlds in order to avoid exacerbating the inequalities that have emerged around conventional cars. Rather than being dazzled by the Tesla view, policymakers should start seeing like a city, from multiple perspectives. Good governance for self-driving cars means democratizing experimentation and creating genuine collaboration between companies and local governments.”

You can read his piece online or download it for free here.

Another document that you might want to download for free is the Responsibility Driven Design for the Future Self-driving Society booklet from Fabio Besti and Francesco Samore.

This is a full colour picture book that addresses the role that design plays in the development of the technology and the way this development will change the world. This is a free 75 page downloadable booklet divided into various sections that includes a section on workshops held as part of a university course and that raises a lot of questions about what the future of autonomous mobility will look like, the claims made by those who promote the idea, and examples of projects already underway. I myself wrote the conclusion.

FOOD

I also have another free to access co-authored article in the journal Glocalism about food procurement that is in many ways related to the photo I used on last week’s post. The question raised in this article is about sustainability and choices made over what food we buy. Is it more responsible to try to buy local produce than imported foods? This is also free to download here.

ENGINEERING

IEEE Spectrum is the blog attached to one the largest engineering journals in the world, and you can find an overview blog post on responsible innovation here.

This post again raises the issue of engineering responsibility and by extension engineers’ responsibility in the innovation process.

CRITIQUE

As we might imagine all of the above is not entirely unproblematic, as this post on the University of Nottingham blog demonstrates. This is quite an old article as it comes from 2014 and time moves quickly in such a rapidly developing field, but it raises lots of interesting and fundamental questions that we are still battling with today.

Next week I will introduce the European Union perspective and take a look at some of their documents, reports and projects.