Second Issue, 2020
Responsible Innovation (RI) in the midst of an innovation crisis
Lucien von Schomberg, University of Greenwich (United Kingdom)
Vincent Blok, Wageningen University (Netherlands)
The concept of Responsible Innovation (RI) occupies a central place in the discourse on science and technology, especially in the context of the European Union (EU) but also within academia. This concept is guided by the idea of steering science and technology towards societally desirable outcomes, particularly in response to normative objectives such as Sustainable Development Goals (von Schomberg, 2019). Visions of RI typically propose that to innovate responsibly requires a permanent commitment to be anticipatory, reflective, inclusively deliberative, and responsive (Owen et al., 2012). They also emphasize the need for open access, gender equality, science education, ethical standard in conducting experiments, and democratic governance (European Commission, 2020).
However, the societal purpose of RI fundamentally conflicts with the imperative of maximizing economic growth inherent in today’s innovation climate (von Schomberg, 2022). This conflict points to a crisis in which innovation struggles to serve public interests insofar private interests continue to be prioritized. The magnitude of this crisis is also reflected within the RI literature itself, where the political ambition to exceed the privatization wave is summoned to a techno-economic concept of innovation (von Schomberg & Blok, 2019). This issue of NOvation – Critical Studies of Innovation brings into question to what extent innovation necessarily relates to the market, whether it is possible to develop an alternative concept of innovation that is separated from economic ends, and how we can conceptualize, for example, a political understanding of innovation. What really is innovation? While all seven contributions share the aspiration to critically reflect on these questions, they each offer a distinct and original perspective in discussing the relation between innovation, technology, politics, economics, and responsibility.