All Scale Innovation
Posted by Chiara Davalli, EBN on 30 Jan 2017
We asked a few representatives of the business innovation community about the most relevant inputs and benefits provided by RRI Tools (mainly incubators and entrepreneurs). They all mentioned the practical tips and guidance on how to move from an abstract concept to a more concrete approach, and how to spot the opportunities RRI can offer them.
Still, there is quite a lot of work to do in making RRI an operational concept, shared within the whole innovation ecosystem, and particularly for and within the private sector (from entrepreneurs, to business innovation centres, incubators, and investors, from SMEs, to large corporates, research centres, customers, and policy makers). The RRI Tools Final Conference represented a great opportunity to gather together different innovation players and get their views on how to scale RRI further.
The "All-Scale Innovation" parallel session aimed at providing views on how all sorts of innovation actors can work in a more open, responsible, sustainable and acceptable way.
To set the scene and give an overview on ongoing projects and programmes addressing RRI (with a special focus on the private sector), the workshop was opened by a PechaKucha session involving the projects Global Value, SmartMap, PRISMA and COMPASS. These projects are characterized by a very concrete and practical approach.
Particularly, SmartMap, PRISMA and COMPASS will work with European SMEs in various sectors and regions, and will pilot different methodologies supporting companies embedding the Responsible Innovation approach in their organisations, in their processes, in their products and services.
“RRI looks different in different sectors” said Adele Wiman (Institute for Managing Sustainability, Vienna University of Economics and Business).
It is therefore important to understand what are the cut-crossing issues common to all SMEs, but it is also important to understand those peculiar to each sector (nanotech, health, cybersecurity, etc.), and clearly define what drives RRI in the SME context. It is key to operationalize the RRI concept for SMEs, with and for SMEs.
SmartMap, PRISMA and COMPASS already set up a “task force” to ensure exchange of best (and worst) practices, lessons learned, and create a wider network of SMEs interested and active in RRI.
The “All scale innovation” session then continued with a discussion moderated by Bernd Carsten Stahl, Director of the Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility at the De Montfort University, which involved the European Venture Philanthropy Association, Shell, the Social Innovation Factory, INSA Lyon Institute Berger and Society Inside.
The debate focussed on how to make RRI meaningful for companies, particularly for SMEs. We discussed the competitive advantages the RRI approach can bring to companies (relationship with the stakeholders, organizational changes, collaboration with research actors, openess, inclusion and anticipation, etc.).
Panelists agreed on the importance of communicating and “marketing” the added value of RRI for SMEs and the private sector in general. Advocacy remains a priority goal.
Even if from different perspectives, the panel insisted on the fact that at the heart of the whole RRI concept are societal challenges, and that today’s solutions must be impact driven. Either these are commercial, public, research solutions, social and environmental impact must be considered together with ethical implications.
Marie-Pierre Escudié (INSIA Lyon, Institute Berger) proposed to rethinking the engineers curricula from an RRI perspective and listed 3 fundamental ingredients: Humanities, Technique, Science.
Hilary Sutcliff (Society Inside) also insisted on the importance of opening up the “R&D black box”, meaning open up innovation to stakeholders and bring society inside.
Societal acceptability of innovation is not enough, and the will of an entire generation of Millennials to be part of the solution is a clear sign – and a clear opportunity for SMEs added Kaat Peeters, director of the Social Innovation Factory.
Rigour and engagement are key for responsible companies.
Also from an investor perspective, the responsible approach is more and more considered. As mentioned by Priscilla Boiardi (EVPA), and stressed by Ewald Breunesse (Shell), companies today should go beyond Corporate Social Responsibility, and embrace a wider approach, the RRI one.
When talking with SMEs and R&D&I players, the key issue is about pointing their innovation, it’s about choosing their way to innovate. The Responsible Research and Innovation is a possible (and desirable) direction to point to.
We then came to second aspect addressed by the panel: how to help SMEs pointing the right direction? And the answer was unanimous: “build on what is already out there, and do not reinvent the wheel”.
The RRI Tools project is a clear reference in this sense. Over the last 3 years the RRI Tools platform has been populated with a huge amount of information, tools, best practices, practical guides; and it is the meeting point of a Europe-wide community engaging different stakeholders. The panel recognized it as a fundamental milestone of RRI.
What is important now, it is to work on processes. Tools are important, but processes are key to make RRI happen. That’s the next step.
The “All Scale Innovation” session served as a bridge between the work done by RRI Tools for the private sector and the new generation of RRI projects (SmartMap, PRISMA and COMPASS) now called to help European SMEs define roadmaps to make RRI part of their organizations, processes, products and services.
By Chiara Davalli
Chiara Davalli is project manager at EBN