Innovating research, policy and education in synthetic and systems biology

Pragmatic approach to responsible innovation proposed

Photo of Prof Joyce Tait

A study proposes a radical new approach to the responsible development of innovative products, processes and services by companies and organisations operating in the bioeconomy and related industry sectors.

Writing in the May issue of the journal Engineering Biology, Professor Joyce Tait of Innogen and the UK Centre for Mammalian Synthetic Biology proposed a new approach that departs from current responsible research and innovation (RRI) models in that it recognises the very different challenges faced by innovating organisations. The model moves away from the politicised perspectives that have dominated many engagement initiatives on disruptive innovations like synthetic/engineering biology, and to focus on more practical downstream outcomes, the extent to which they will fulfil the aspirations of ordinary citizens, and will comply with prevailing industry norms of responsible behaviour.

The proposed consolidated responsible innovation framework builds on the framework developed in 2012 by the then Technology Strategy Board, implemented using the anticipate, reflect, engage and act approach devised by UK research councils. It distinguishes between routine, company-specific aspects of responsibility, expected to be addressed within an organisation's standard operating procedures, and project-specific aspects requiring regular appraisal throughout the development of an innovation. It is designed to be simple and feasible for a company to implement within a commercial environment.

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