What is Responsible Research and Innovation?

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Definition of Responsible Research and Innovation

The European Commission defines Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) as an approach that anticipates and assesses potential implications and societal expectations with regard to research and innovation, with the aim to foster the design of inclusive and sustainable research and innovation. RRI is used in Horizon 2020 program to group transversal concepts of societal aspects of science and innovation within the objective “Science with and for society” (SWAFS); and at the same time  a ‘cross-cutting issue’ in many cases involving interdisciplinary solutions. The actions directly related to RRI has 0’5% of the total budget of the pillars of Industrial Leadership and Societal Challenges.

A fundamental principle for research and innovation strategies

Beyond the budget in EU programmes, RRI has a strong potential to manage the relations between the society and the R&I programmes. It is an effective solution to provide a transparent and interactive process in which social and innovative actors are mutually responsible for the acceptability (ethics), sustainability and social convenience of the innovation process and its marketable products. It provides its impact allowing an adequate incorporation of scientific and technological advances in our society. In practice, RRI consists of designing and implementing R&I policy that will consider the following six axis: governance, ethics, gender equality, open access, citizen participation and scientific education.

A wide range of posibilities to improve

RRI is essential to support advanced research and innovation strategies. To help embed RRI in the research and development process, the European Commission has set out six key themes for policymakers to consider:

  • Governance: addresses the responsibility of the authorities to prevent harmful or unethical R&D developments. This is fundamental for the development of the rest of the dimensions.
  • Ethics: requires that R&I respect fundamental rights and the highest ethical standards in order to guarantee greater social relevance and greater acceptance of the results of research and innovation.
  • Gender equality: RRI address the underrepresentation of women, indicating that human resources management must be modernized, and that the gender dimension must be integrated into R&I.
  • Open access: Science must be transparent and accessible. The results of publicly funded research (publications and data) should be freely accessible and online.
  • Citizen participation: it implies that social challenges should be framed within social, economic and ethical concerns that are widely representative, and common principles whose strength arises from the joint participation of all social actors: researchers, industry, policy makers and civil society .
  • Scientific education: it faces the challenge of better preparing future researchers and other social actors, providing them with the tools and knowledge necessary to participate fully in the R & D & I process, and assume responsibilities within it.

Why Responsible Research and Innovation?

R&I has improved our world and our lives in many ways. However, alongside the positive impact on the material and physical well-being of the society, science and technology sometimes create new risks and ethical dilemmas. Research and innovation could generate controversy and fail to solve problems. RRI answers these challenges by engaging all actors (from researchers and innovators to governments and citizens) through inclusive and participatory methodologies. To be effective, the participation takes place at all stages of the process and at all levels of governance of R&I (from program planning, through design, implementation and evaluation). Research and innovation will address societal challenges and be aligned with the values, needs and expectations of the general public. This is not just an ethical or societal issue. It is about improving scientific production, diversifying research programs and considering the complexities of the real world.

Introducing responsible research and innovation in territories

TeRRItoria is a Horizon 2020 project that brings regions and cities into the centre of the effort to achieve RRI. The project is going to support the adoption of RRI approach in European regional and territorial R&I systems. It contributes to the development of a «Territorial RRI» concept through a set of transformative experiments in 5 European territories. TeRRItoria is based on the idea that RRI approaches, policies and practices, developed so far at the level of research institutions, may be adapted to that of regional and territorial governance. The TeRRItoria vision is to tackle a double challenge: to bring RRI at the forefront of the debate for developing local and regional research and innovation (R&I) capacities; and to use RRI as a springboard for broadening the number of stakeholders involved in regional research and innovation strategies under the framework of Smart Specialisation Strategies (S3).

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