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Responsible innovation: bringing together technology assessment, applied ethics, and STS research


  • Armin Grunwald

    (ITAS, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology-KIT)


The ideas of ‘responsible development’ in the scientific-technological advance and of ‘responsible innovation’ in the field of new products, services and systems have been discussed for some years now with increasing intensity (Siune et al. 2009) and led to the phrase of ‘Responsible Research and Innovation’ (RRI). The postulate of responsible innovation adds explicit ethical reflection to Technology Assessment (TA) and science, technology and society (STS) studies and includes all of them into integrative approaches to shaping technology and innovation. Responsible innovation brings together TA with its experiences on assessment procedures, actor involvement, foresight and evaluation with ethics, in particular under the framework of responsibility, and also builds on the body of knowledge about R&D and innovation processes provided by STS and STIS studies (science, technology, innovation and society). Ethical reflection and technology assessment are increasingly taken up as integrative part of R&Dprogrammes (Siune et al. 2009). Science institutions, including research funding agencies, have started taking a pro-active role in promoting integrative research and development. Thus, the governance of science and of R&D processes is changing which opens up new possibilities and opportunities for involving new actors and new types of reflection. In this paper I want to demonstrate at a more conceptual level that Responsible Innovation can build on experiences and knowledge provided by the three mentioned fields of research: ethics, technology assessment, and STS respective STIS studies. To this end I will start by a brief analysis of the thematic dimensions included in the notion of responsibility and the respective disciplinary approaches to explore and investigate them (Sec. 2). The field of technology assessment is then introduced as a major origin of the Responsible Innovation movement including already some of the main ideas behind Responsible Innovation (Sec. 3). Based on the TA tradition Responsible Innovation may be characterized as a broadened extension of technology assessment complemented by ethics and STS (Sec. 4). As an illustration, the field of Synthetic Biology is introduced (Sec. 5).

Suggested Citation

  • Armin Grunwald, 2011. "Responsible innovation: bringing together technology assessment, applied ethics, and STS research," Enterprise and Work Innovation Studies, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, IET/CICS.NOVA-Interdisciplinary Centre on Social Sciences, Faculty of Science and Technology, vol. 7(7), pages 9-31, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:ieu:journl:v:7:y:2011:i:7:p:9-31

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    RePEc Biblio mentions

    As found on the RePEc Biblio, the curated bibliography for Economics:
    1. > Economic Development Technological Change, and Growth > Technological Change: Choices and Consequences > Technology Assessment


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    Cited by:

    1. Hemphill, Thomas A., 2020. "“The innovation governance dilemma: Alternatives to the precautionary principle”," Technology in Society, Elsevier, vol. 63(C).
    2. Annamaria Inzelt & Laslo Csonka, 2017. "The Approach of the Business Sector to Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI)," Foresight and STI Governance (Foresight-Russia till No. 3/2015), National Research University Higher School of Economics, vol. 11(4), pages 63-73.
    3. Baumann, Martina F. & Brändle, Claudia & Coenen, Christopher & Zimmer-Merkle, Silke, 2019. "Taking responsibility: A responsible research and innovation (RRI) perspective on insurance issues of semi-autonomous driving," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 124(C), pages 557-572.
    4. Agata Sudolska & Andrzej Lis & Monika Chodorek, 2019. "Research Profiling for Responsible and Sustainable Innovations," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 11(23), pages 1-31, November.
    5. Lehoux, P. & Miller, F.A. & Williams-Jones, B., 2020. "Anticipatory governance and moral imagination: Methodological insights from a scenario-based public deliberation study," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 151(C).
    6. Genus, Audley & Iskandarova, Marfuga, 2018. "Responsible innovation: its institutionalisation and a critique," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 128(C), pages 1-9.
    7. Sophie Pellé & Bernard Reber, 2015. "Responsible Innovation in the Light of Moral Responsibility," Post-Print hal-01418017, HAL.
    8. Loureiro, Paulo Maia & Conceição, Cristina Palma, 2019. "Emerging patterns in the academic literature on responsible research and innovation," Technology in Society, Elsevier, vol. 58(C).
    9. Arnaldi, Simone & Quaglio, GianLuca & Ladikas, Miltos & O'Kane, Hannah & Karapiperis, Theodoros & Srinivas, Krishna Ravi & Zhao, Yandong, 2015. "Responsible governance in science and technology policy: Reflections from Europe, China and India," Technology in Society, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 81-92.
    10. Sophie Pellé & Bernard Reber, 2015. "Responsible Innovation in the Light of Moral Responsibility," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) hal-01418017, HAL.
    11. Jiqing Liu & Gui Zhang & Xiaojing Lv & Jiayu Li, 2022. "Discovering the Landscape and Evolution of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI): Science Mapping Based on Bibliometric Analysis," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 14(14), pages 1-32, July.

    More about this item


    responsible innovation; Technology Assessment; ethics; governance; science & technology;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • O32 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Management of Technological Innovation and R&D
    • P40 - Political Economy and Comparative Economic Systems - - Other Economic Systems - - - General
    • Y8 - Miscellaneous Categories - - Related Disciplines


    This item is featured on the following reading lists, Wikipedia, or ReplicationWiki pages:
    1. Socio-Economics of Innovation


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