Responsible innovation

Responsible innovation is a process that takes the wider impacts of research and innovation into account.

For researchers, responsible innovation is a process that seeks to promote creativity and opportunities for science and innovation that are socially desirable and undertaken in the public interest. Research has the ability to not only produce understanding, knowledge and value, but also unintended:

  • consequences
  • questions
  • ethical dilemmas
  • social transformations.

UK Research and Innovation has a key role in promoting approaches to responsible innovation that will initiate ongoing reflection about the potential ethical and societal implications of the research we sponsor. It also sets out expectations to encourage our communities to do likewise.

The public expects us to act responsibly, and responsible innovation creates spaces and processes to explore innovation and its consequences in an open, inclusive and timely way. It goes beyond consideration of ethics, public engagement, risk and regulation.

Innovation is a collective responsibility, where funders, researchers, interested and affected parties, including the public, all have an important role to play.

For businesses, responsible innovation is the careful consideration of, and action to address, the potential impacts of introducing to the market, a new:

  • product
  • service
  • process
  • business model.

Among other things, it looks at the impact on:

  • the innovating company
  • their customers and suppliers
  • their investors
  • wider society and environment.

New innovative products, services, processes and business models are better when the benefits for society can be realised and any potential downsides avoided.

General policies and guidance

PAS 440 guidance standard for responsible innovation

This provides guidance for companies that want to innovate responsibly. It also helps them to demonstrate their responsible behaviour by helping them to structure their thinking and by guiding their actions.

AREA (anticipate, reflect, engage and act) framework

The framework sets out EPSRC’s commitment to responsible innovation and the expectations it has for the researchers it funds and their research organisations.

Horizons tool

Horizons is a practical tool designed to help identify the big trends, issues, risks and opportunities. It highlights environmental boundaries, and can be used to develop and test your strategy, inform commercial decisions, and drive new innovation.

Observatory for Responsible Research and Innovation in ICT (ORBIT)

ORBIT (previously funded by EPSRC) provides training, consultancy and other RRI services to both university and industry research and innovation teams, to help ensure that RRI principles are embedded in development from the earliest possible point.

Case studies

Bringing responsible innovation to life

EPSRC is keen to hear about your responsible innovation experiences and how it may have helped you to add value and deliver greater impact from your research activities.

Please contact EPSRC for further details or share any related case studies or exemplars you may have.

Email: acceleratingimpact@epsrc.ukri.org

Quantum technologies public dialogue: the ‘Thinking ahead to a world with quantum computers’ landscape report about responsible research and innovation in quantum computing identified challenges and made recommendations on how to handle them. This led to the quantum technologies public dialogue.

Responsible innovation: its role in an era of technological and regulatory transformation in engineering biology

Citizens forum on AI and automated decision making

People, power and technology: views of tech employees.

Last updated: 15 October 2021

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