Responsible innovation

Responsible innovation is a process that takes the wider impacts of research and innovation into account. It aims to ensure that unintended negative impacts are avoided, that barriers to dissemination, adoption and diffusion of research and innovation are reduced, and that the positive societal and economic benefits of research and innovation are fully realised.

Key principles

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

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, innovating businesses should consider the impact of innovation on:

  • their own 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, including economic impact, can be realised and any potential downsides avoided.

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 and innovation we sponsor. It also sets out expectations to encourage our business and academic 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 complex process, involving multiple funders, researchers, businesses, end users (demand), regulators, and a wide range of other interested and affected parties, including the public. 

UKRI policies and guidance

PAS 440 guidance standard for responsible innovation

Guidance for companies to enable them to efficiently and effectively adopt approaches to innovating.

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.

External guidance

Horizons tool

Horizons is a practical tool designed to help identify the big trends, issues, risks and opportunities. It 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 responsible research and innovation (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.

Examples of good practice for researchers

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

What UKRI is doing in responsible innovation

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

Last updated: 23 June 2022

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