Ensuring a common ‘language’ for RRI, including Regional RRI adaptation

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Ensuring a common ‘language’ for RRI, including Regional RRI adaptation

As TeRRItoria advances through the second half of its lifespan, several remarks on the RRI framework and its regional adaptation have emerged ─ both through project’s mutual leaning activities and its intra-consortium exchanges of experiences. Undoubtedly, all partner organisations responsible for the implementation of the regional Transformative Experiments have highlighted the following urgent need: to develop a common ‘language’ for RRI within each region, progressively leading to its proper and effective regional adaptation.

The term ‘common RRI language’ in this case signifies ─ or better connotes ─ a common RRI framework and understanding in each region. The individuals and actors involved in RRI initiatives in each region need to be able to demonstrate a common understanding of target concepts and objectives, since it is this exact common understanding that can foster coordinated, regional transformative activities. The common understanding and consequently common regional framework can initially capitalise on a combination of both theory-oriented and action-oriented RRI perspectives; the theoretical underpinnings providing a better comprehension of RRI nature and its inherent features and the practical (action-oriented) implementation leading to consolidated and sustainable transformations.

A shared understanding and a shared language (communication mode and framework) can then heavily benefit from a fruitful collaboration among all Quadruple Helix actors of each region. A reciprocal communication is primarily necessary so that each side comprehends the needs and aspirations of the other side, and all of them are tuned in to the same objectives (e.g. even academics and citizens that usually face diversified challenges). Understanding the needs of all Quadruple Helix categories can set the basis for a holistic and harmonised comprehension of regional structures and needs. This is the focal point where stress is placed on the same aspects of innovation and the common RRI ‘language’ is accountable for regional development while exhibiting the appropriate social legitimacy for it. A particular challenging aspect, though, is related to managing the differentiated expectations towards regional development, since a contradictory relation can at times be formed between the expectations towards change and the actual transformations to take place. SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound) targets are thus considered a vital element within the context of regional progress, as well as for enhancing self-sustaining R&I ecosystems.

What comes as a natural process, the regional adaptation of RRI needs to take into account each region’s needs and the challenges it faces (i.e. self-tailored RRI adaptation in each target region). The ‘core’ of each region ─ dynamically formed by all these actors willing to pursue transformations and progress ─ can heavily capitalise on a smart directionality framework, in order to achieve regional development that ‘speaks the language’ of its people. In a few words, the smart directionality approach refers to knowledge production and exploitation while embracing societal goals/challenges and placing a bigger focus on the responsible use of knowledge and research results for societal purposes (policy-led R&I), in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of national, including regional, R&I systems. This perspective further coincides with a principal element of RRI, namely that science and innovation are envisaged as being directed at, and undertaken towards, socially desirable and socially acceptable ends through an inclusive and deliberative process (Von Schomberg, as cited in Owen et al, 2012).

As a final remark, the commonly shared RRI ‘language’/framework can be gradually acquired through regional initiatives that are attractive to all (Quadruple Helix) sides and capitalise on established, trust-based relationships with the target stakeholders. When taking the decision to implement RRI at a territorial level, a corresponding risk management strategy should concurrently be applied, so as transform the successful RRI regional framework (adaptation) into reality. There is by definition the danger of facing regional instabilities, for instance due to political shifts and evolving discourses of power, and mitigation strategies ‘matching’ the multi-layered environment and internal structure of a region should be developed beforehand.

Article written by Maria Michali – SEERC

Maria Michali is a Research Assistant at the South East European Research Centre (SEERC), working on RRI-related projects funded under H2020

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