Eurada News nº394 - November 2019

Outlining Responsible Research and Innovation

Smart specialisation strategies would be better with improved governance, public engagement, open access or gender inclusiveness. These are topics that would be included in the revision of the smart specialization strategies for the period 2021-2027. Regional development agencies are using the tools of responsible research innovation to improve their S3.

Definition of Responsible Research and Innovation

The European Commission defines Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) as an approach that anticipates and assesses potential implications and societal expectations with regard to research and innovation, with the aim to foster the design of inclusive and sustainable research and innovation. RRI is used in Horizon 2020 programme to group transversal concepts of societal aspects of science and innovation within the objective “Science with and for society” (SWAFS); and at the same time  a ‘cross-cutting issue’ in many cases involving interdisciplinary solutions. The actions directly related to RRI have 0’5% of the total budget of the pillars of Industrial Leadership and Societal Challenges.

Why Responsible Research and Innovation?

Research and innovation have improved our world and our lives in many ways. However, alongside the positive impact on the material and physical well-being of the society, science and technology sometimes create new risks and ethical dilemmas. R&D could generate controversy and fail to solve problems. RRI answers these challenges by engaging all actors (from researchers and innovators to governments and citizens) through inclusive and participatory methodologies. To be effective, the participation takes place at all stages of the process and at all levels of governance of research and innovation: from program planning, through design, implementation and evaluation. Research and innovation will address societal challenges and be aligned with the values, needs and expectations of the general public. This is not just an ethical or societal issue. It is about improving scientific production, diversifying research programs and considering the complexities of the real world.

A Fundamental Principle for Research and Innovation Strategies

Beyond the opportunities to take part in EU projects supported by H2020 pogramme, you should consider the strong potential of RRI to improve the relationships between the society and the R&I programmes. It is an effective solution to provide a transparent and interactive process in which social and innovative actors are mutually responsible for the acceptability (ethics), sustainability and social convenience of the innovation process and its marketable products. It facilitates an adequate incorporation of scientific and technological advances in our society.

A Wide Range of Possibilities to Improve Your Smart Specialisation Strategy

RRI is essential to support advanced research and innovation strategies. To help embed RRI in the research and development process, the European Commission has set out six key themes for policymakers to consider:

  • Governance: addresses the responsibility of the authorities to prevent harmful or unethical R&D uses. This is fundamental for the rest of the dimensions’ development.
  • Ethics: requires that R&I respect fundamental rights and the highest ethical standards in order to guarantee greater social relevance and greater acceptance of R&D results.
  • Gender equality: RRI address the underrepresentation of women, indicating that human resources management must be modernized, and that the gender dimension must be integrated into R&I.
  • Open access: Science must be transparent and accessible. The results of publicly funded research (publications and data) should be freely accessible and online.
  • Citizen participation: it implies that social challenges should be framed taking into account social, economic and ethical concerns that are widely representative, and common principles whose strength arises from the joint participation of all social actors: researchers, industry, policy makers and civil society .
  • Scientific education: it faces the challenge of better-prepared future researchers and other social actors, providing them with the tools and knowledge necessary to participate fully in the R&D+I process, and assume responsibilities within it.

EURADA Got Useful Experience on the Introduction of RRI in Some Territories

EURADA is the responsible of communication and exploitation of results of the European TeRRItoria project. This project includes the participation of several EURADA members: ADR Nord-Est, ART-ER, Kainuun Etu, Bsuiness Upper Austria, OKA and ARRSA from Bielsko-Biala. TeRRItoria is a Horizon 2020 project that puts regions and cities in the middle of the effort to achieve RRI. The project is going to support the adoption of RRI approach in European regional and territorial R&I systems. It contributes to the development of a “Territorial RRI” concept through a set of transformative experiments in 5 different  European territories. TeRRItoria is based on the idea that RRI approaches, policies and practices, developed so far at the level of research institutions, may be adapted to that of regional and territorial governance. The TeRRItoria vision is to tackle a double challenge: to bring RRI at the forefront of the debate for developing local and regional R&I capacities; and to use RRI as a springboard for broadening the number of stakeholders involved in regional research and innovation strategies under the framework of Smart Specialisation Strategies (S3).

More information

  • SWAFS Science with and for Society. H2020. European Commission
  • Smart Specialisation Strategies. S3 Platform. Joint Research Center. European Commission
  • Von Schomberg, R. (2011). Towards responsible research and innovation in the information and communication technologies and security technologies fields. Available at SSRN 2436399.
  • MoRRI (2018). Monitoring the evolution and benefits of responsible Research and Innovation. European Commission
  • TeRRItoria (2019) Territorial Responsible Research and Innovation Through the involvement of local R&I Actors. H2020 project supported by the European Commission


Written by Esteban Pelayo, Director of EURADA