A new narrative for Responsible Innovation
Current definitions of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) do not link up with the rationalities and the language of the business sector. Instead, a new narrative for Responsible Innovation in the business sector is needed; one that directly relates to the concepts and tools widely applied in business practice and that emphasizes opportunities for individual businesses, industries, and regions to serve
The LIV_IN project has developed a new narrative consisting of three elements:
- business’ responsibility for impacts of an innovation
- co-creation of innovations with a broad range of people and
- innovation on a systems level.
Managing the impacts of Innovation
The first component of the new narrative focuses on the impacts an innovation will have on society, the environment, the economy, and our future lives. This perspective is well-known to companies, as
- it is the core of Corporate Social Responsibility, which means to maximize the positive impacts and to minimize the negative impacts a company has on the social and environmental systems in which it operates,
- it can be found in the reporting standards of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), on which basis most companies worldwide prepare their sustainability report. Such a report should be based on a materiality assessment of the direct and indirect, planned, and unplanned, ecological, economic, and social impacts,
- it is a key element of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, which includes the indirect impacts of purchased goods and services, as well as the impacts of sold products and investments (i.e., Scope-3 emissions).
The business case of innovating for positive impacts lies in increased value and reduced risks and costs, e.g., by safeguarding the social license to operate for technologies and products. If companies innovate considering their impacts and with a clear purpose, innovation management becomes more closely linked to their values and mission.
At the societal level, considering impacts contributes to prosperity and well-being and avoids social follow-up costs.
Several tools and methods to measure and manage the impacts of innovations are at hand, such as Foresight, Technology Assessments, and Materiality Assessment.
The second component highlights the participatory character of innovation processes. Co-creation goes beyond Open Innovation, Lead User Innovation, UX Design, and Design Thinking. Co-creation, in contrast, puts societal needs central in innovation processes, involves a broad range of people and designs innovation processes in a truly inclusive manner. This means that the concepts of desirability and acceptability of innovation are transferred into business practice.
The business case of innovating with and for the people lies in more and better fitting ideas. These ideas result, in particular, from linking innovation management (focussing on result-oriented development of new technologies, products, and services) with corporate sustainability management (which is highly experienced with stakeholder dialogues).
At the societal level, co-creating innovations aligns the innovation capabilities of companies – humankind’s most powerful innovation powerhouse – with the grand societal challenges we face.
A huge number of methods and tools for co-creation are at hand. To ensure high quality co-creation, processes must be transparent, well communicated and have integrity. They must also prioritize participants’ discussions, needs and ideas, ensure that all participants are treated with respect, and help build trusting working relationships. Therefore, co-creation requires different setups of innovation processes and additional facilitation methods and skills.
The third component broadens the perspective from innovating technologies, products, or services to the systems in which they are embedded and makes these systems the object of innovation. A systemic perspective emphasises the shared responsibility of businesses and other actors for future oriented solutions and grounds innovation on a deeper understanding of interrelations and systems dynamics. It enables companies to co-design whole systems together with stakeholders. The systemic perspective is challenging but offers the greatest potential for positive change.
The business case for a systemic perspective lies in the competitive advantage of becoming an industry gamechanger, as radical innovations can be more easily implemented. Instead of following and adapting to the pressures of regulations, markets, and competitors, companies can transform from rule takers to rule breakers and even rule makers.
Since the most pressing societal challenges, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and societal conflicts, are by their very nature systemic problems, a systemic perspective in responsible innovation leads to more sustainable and more resilient solutions. By adapting a systemic perspective, sustainable business practices, such as the circular economy, could be implemented more quickly and effectively.
Several methods and tools refer to a systemic perspective (e.g., innovation ecosystems, systems mapping, and dynamic modelling). However, many of them are not yet widely used in the business sector.