Tuesday 30

Conference "Responsible Research and Innovation in the health industry"- key messages from round tables

Posted by RRI Tools on 30 May 2017


The way forward: key messages from round tables 

Closing remarks by Ignasi López at the Conference “Responsible Research and Innovation in the Health Industry” held at the EESC premises, in Brussels, on 18 and 19 May 2017.

I would like to thank all speakers and the moderator. This Conference is a joint initiative of the ELSI Board of the EIT Health and the Final Conference of the Responsible Industry project, together with the European Commission, the EESC and the “la Caixa" Foundation, who I do represent.  I would like to thank them all.

 I was asked to wrap up. And it is an honor to do so. 

 1st day – some key messages:

  • “No research and innovation about me without me”: there is a bottom up claim from society
  • And a political answer:  the framework of RRI 
    • A number of challenges are ahead
    • In a very complex context

And a headline from EESC: “RRI - or however we call it - seems to be mature enough to embed it in the biggest R&I funding programme in the world: FP9”

In the 1st round table we saw amazing experiences of citizen engagement in different fields of R&I in the health sector: engagement of patients in the editorial process, as end users of innovation, as innovators… Through living labs, maker spaces, citizen science, biolabs, science museums, in industry (big corporates, SMEs and entrepreneurs...)

And in the rest of round tables we saw different ways of improving social responsibility of business in the health industry.  And how social responsibility is indeed a competitive advantage, and we are not fully aware. 

The constellation of different constellations of participation is increasing dramatically; it is even difficult to keep track of them. 

I had certain feeling of urgency: that bottom-up structures (such as hackatons, patient innovators...) go much faster than the high policy level. The question is: are we really able to give appropriate answers to the requests of society in this sense? (from funding structures, from the policy level...)

The pace of innovation goes at a huge speed. And there is a certain surprise and paralysis by institutions to give appropriate answers.
But innovation has long times of return: it needs patient funding, it is very uncertain, it does not work linearly, and it is a collective endeavor...  And engagement processes and the implementation of RRI are processes of innovation themselves, which need governmental and paneuropean support. 

So what are the challenges? How do we fund good responsible innovation? How do we do engagement? 

  • Who are the stakeholders?  
  • Costs 
  • Regulatory barriers
  • Intellectual property
  • Safety, reliability
  • The most important challenge: changing mindsets of the community of people involved in co-design. Institutional change (Carlo Mango, Fondazione Cariplo)

And as advice: 

  1. Find RRI champions in organization. 
  2. Educate scientists:
    • Joint capacity building for all stakeholders (Magda Rosenmöller)
    • Thinking by themselves about societal issues
    • Ethics education should be mandatory in all disciplines (Alexei Grinbaum) 
    • But as well Magda Rosenmöller, who works in a business school: mapping skills
  3. Tools are not enough: RRI assessment service provider that assesses companies to make the change (Bernd Stahl)
  4. Broaden CSR to include R&I activities
  5. Next steps: labeling, standardization… Maybe. Let´s act. We have been thinking that RRI can be ISO standard for a long time. Do it!!!!!! B Corps is one best case to follow. 

Some other ideas:

  • The role of the State…??????  Is it disappearing in front of civil society, NGO's…????? Are we going from a representative democracy to a participative democracy to a….??
  •  How do we leave “the coalition of believers??

And as well: 

  • How do we improve collaboration and avoid double work (overlap) between different/ similar projects funded by the EC? Beyond the project based….
  • Funding structures. Ulrich Samm, EESC: collaborate!!!! (He said as well: make it simple!!!!)
    • New modes of funding - Crowd funding, as well venture philanthropy.
    • Foundations have been named several times as funders of innovative projects.
  • Ethics of invention. Increase of inequalities by technology. Risk. Different sectors

So it seems a extremely complex issue: engagement has to come with a deep process of reflexivity, taking into account ethical issues and moral values as inclusivity (as gender equality), transparency, responsiveness and it has to take into account the sustainability and desirability of the outcomes . But this is what RRI is all about. Nobody said it was going to be easy. 

Why doing it? Many reasons were brought up during the two days. 
Let's remember what is going out there:

  • Europe with increasing inequalities, where we are not assuring a better future for next generations, with a huge tension between the will of solidarity and the question of security 
  • Raise of (what some might call) populisms(and others): a normal reaction to those tensions
  • In a world dominated by science and technology with a huge separation between science and society (0,2% in H2020)
  • Opening the process of innovation and RRI is not the only solution for a better innovation. And its efficiency and positive impact is only a hypothesis. But it looks now as a quite strong one. "It looks mature enough". And we probably need to be courageous in the context that we are to do things differently. 

FP9 is a great opportunity to flexibilize funding schemes and incentivize more responsibility (no matter if you call it RRI, Open Science....) in research and innovation. 

If you are worried about the costs we can remember the words of the champion of biomedical research and philanthropy in the 50's: "If you think biomedical research is expensive, try disease” 
I see ourselves now in a similar conundrum: If you think RRI is expensive, try irresponsibility, and we will continue finding ourselves in the situation that we are now. 
Thank you very much

Ignasi López Verdeguer is Director of the Science Department at “la Caixa” Banking Foundation


(*) For more information about the Conference you can visit this page - there you will find programmepictures and presentations.






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