KARIM guiding document to Responsible Innovation

ResponsibleInnovThe sustainability agenda draws from the same reasoning provided by Gro Harlem Brundtland in 1987, when she defined sustainability as ‘a development which satisfies the present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to satisfy their own’. In that respect, sustainability addresses the impact of innovations on the Triple Bottom Line, which translates into social, economic and environmental impacts. Various studies have identified that if the current lifestyle in developed countries continues and emerging countries also start adopting these, the resources of about 2.5 planets will be required by the year 2050 to support the population. When applying this theory to a business context, the message is clear: we need to keep innovating; however we need to do it differently, that is: more responsibly.

The challenges provide significant opportunities for creating alternative products and services, new business models and ways of working as well as more efficient approaches to resource exploitation and energy consumption. The dominant logic, heuristics and current practices involved with today’s problem solving are not satisfactory since they tend not to break with the existing ones. Innovators that search for a solution in landscapes more distant from existing ones are facing two major challenges. The first challenge is the uncertainty surrounding the innovation context, making it impossible to accurately predict impacts which innovations may have on the Triple Bottom Line. The second challenge concerns the moral dilemmas which may ensue from recognising the impacts caused by the innovation and balancing them. The responsible innovation method is a strategy and process which guides organisations through innovation by taking into account the real and potential impacts of the project as it is being developed and once the finished product or service has been launched on the market. This is done through the three axes of responsible innovation which question the solutions to develop in response to consumer need; monitor and manage the direct impacts of the innovation on social, economic and environmental factors and consider the indirect consequences of innovation. The responsible innovation process is not designed to replace the innovation process, but rather to complement it in order to deal with the uncertainties surrounding innovation.

This guiding document will begin by providing a detailed analysis of the responsible innovation concept, starting by a dissection of the term, to clearly define what the terms ‘innovation’ and ‘responsibility’ mean in their own respect. It will then progress to the practicalities of the concept and suggest a method for integrating responsible innovation into a firm’s strategy and how it translates into a process. This will include an analysis of the opportunities provided by the concept for entrepreneurs, SMEs and technology-based start-ups. Furthermore, the discussions and recommendations aim to provide entrepreneurs directions for increasing their competitive advantage through responsible innovation, whose ultimate objective is to reconcile the firm’s need for performance with the need to be accountable for its actions and innovations. Finally, implications of these thoughts for policy makers at regional and national level will be discussed, including directions on how to include the perspectives of responsible innovation at policy level and the benefits of introducing the concept as part of curricula within third-level education programmes.

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