Saturday 13

Responsible Research and Innovation: A method to evaluate the portfolio of innovative projects

Posted by Zbigniew Gontar on 13 Feb 2016

Fab lab in the Cité des sciences, Paris - © Benoît Prieur / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-4.0


1. Introduction

Supervision of research conducted in research and development entities is an essential issue in practice. New proposals, which are aimed at supplementing the existing supervision system, are: to use theoretical knowledge and research methods in information policy of these institutions in order to build awareness, which accompanies scientific research, determine the value of results obtained in research projects, identify interests, to which the research results are conducive and the assumptions imposed by research methods employed[1]. These issues will be discussed in this article using different theoretical approaches associated with the idea of urban re-industrialisation and Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI). In this framework, the vision of RRI is that research and development institutes should create an environment for urban re-industrialization and technological modernization, saturated with innovation, integrated with community engagement in research and innovations. Most of the key elements necessary to fulfil this vision are currently being developed as tools of RRI in the following areas: management of science and education, ethics, open access, gender equality and community engagement in research. This article presents a proposal for a new tool, which is a method to implement evaluation of the university's portfolio of innovative projects.


2. Basic concepts

The concept of RRI is rooted in the following five core  well-established scientific operations: assessment of (commercial potential) technology, engineering ethics (ethics of new technology), community engagement in research, foresight initiatives (international futures[2], horizon scanning[3], anticipatory governance[4], forward engagement[5] and others) and socio-economic implications of new technologies (Ethical, Legal and Social Aspects of Technologies (ELSEA), Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications (ELSI and others[6]))[7]. The key reasons for the emergence of ​RRI was the weak participation of scientific institutions in economic development, addressing the major issues of the contemporary world, finding solutions to eliminate economic and technological limitations constraining the contemporary economy, and the improving the standard of living. This discontent was heightened by examples of effective engagement of the scientific community in solving the above-mentioned problems, which showed that there are untapped opportunities in this area. However, there are numerous good practices. Practices related to the concept of urban reindustrialization include: model demo and research platform designed to test and present new solutions in the field of robotics and artificial intelligence, developed by German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence[8], a model factory established by the Aachen University, working on the design and construction of electric cars and implementation of related services[9], an environment intended for individual manufacturing[10], equipped with 3D printers and other devices and software necessary in a micro-factory developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

A common feature of the above-mentioned examples is the active building the image of the future aimed at addressing these problems, which requires gathering large amounts of data and development of new algorithms to analyse them for decision-making purposes, and community engagement in research, which in turn requires the following actions:

  • Identification of methods ensuring effective cooperation with local communities and opening to diverse audience
  • Raising community awareness of the opportunities offered by science and technology in solving contemporary problems
  • Implementation of global ventures
  • Presentation of new technological solutions and opportunities of using them
  • Introduction of new technologies into learning process
  • Presentation of the value of research
  • Encouraging the participation in research projects

RRI in the Horizon 2020 programme is defined by the following operations:

  • Wider community engagement in the research process
  • Enhancing the access to research results
  • Gender equality in the research process
  • Taking the ethical dimension into account
  • Promoting formal and informal learning

In this article, we have used a proposal of the European Commission Group of experts for the RRI, which states that RRI allows all interested parties, at an early stage of research:

  • To have relevant knowledge of the consequences of results of their actions and options available to them
  • Effectively assess the results and opportunities both in terms of social needs and ethical values
  • Use these assessments at the stage of design and development of new research, products and services

RRI approach should be a key element in the process of research and innovation.


3. Related publications

There are two initiatives whose objectives are similar to those of the concept of RRI. The action plan defined in the document of the European Commission, entitled “Science and Society” (2001)[11] defined a strategy for relating science and the community. The Science in Society project (SiS) established in 2007 under 7th Framework Programme, aimed at promoting community engagement and sustained bilateral dialogue between science and the society. From 2010, the objective of SiS was to develop a concept of RRI.

In the practice of projects referring to RRI, we don't see any similarities between the approach proposed in this article and projects being implemented. This applies to the IRRESISTIBLE project implemented by the Jagiellonian University, RRI Tools project, which involves the Foundation for Polish Science (FNP), Science with and for Society project, which is implemented by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education and the VOICES project (The Views, Opinions and Ideas of the Citizens in Europe), which involves the Copernicus Science Centre and the Modernity Centre – “The Mill of Knowledge” in Toruń.


4. Proposed approach

This article describes a new tool for RRI, referred to as a method for evaluating a university's portfolio of innovative projects. The tools for RRI should be understood as a set of resources and electronic services containing various forms of electronic materials enabling promotion, teaching, dissemination and implementation of the idea of RRI. It is assumed that the set includes the following proposals:

  • Evaluation tools
  • Sets of electronic materials
  • Sets of good practices
  • Training material
  • Electronic libraries
  • Disseminating materials

RRI Tools refers to a virtual interactive collaboration platform for RRI. The process of RRI Tools development is as follows:

  • Identification of stakeholders and their perception
  • Translation of stakeholders' perception into their needs
  • Drawing up a ranking list of functionality
  • Converting the list into a platform development plan with 3 proposed packages (each package contains several core functions)

In terms of the supervision of research carried out by research and development centres, it is important to evaluate and monitor the portfolio of innovative projects undertaken by each centre. This can be considered as supervision carried out by the stakeholders. The purpose of this supervision is to address specific problems, for example, of urban reindustrialisation. The ranking list of projects is the result of evaluating the portfolio of innovative projects and can be considered an evaluation tool. To verify if innovative projects are matched to the strategy of RRI, focused on urban re-industrialisation, a balanced scoring methodology should be used, evaluation of the economic potential of in-depth innovations, developed at the Texas State University in Austin, and Data Enveloped Analysis (DEA) method, which can be collectively thought of as a method of measuring the efficiency of the portfolio of projects in terms of the policy of urban reindustrialisation pursued together with scientific community[12].

DEA methodology is used commonly to assess the economic efficiency. It requires defining the inputs and outputs, which enable the achievement of specific goals. In our case, the objective is urban reindustrialisation which occurs when research and development units implement projects under the strategy of RRI pursued in all these units. Inputs and outputs will therefore have scientific, economic, environmental and social dimensions. In this article, we decided to develop a uniform method of assessment based on the idea of a balanced scorecard.


5. Illustrative example

The illustrative example of how RRI could be implemented in practice was based on an attempt to respond to the social, environmental and cultural needs concerning urban reindustrialisation. This article focuses on selected determinants of development of urban reindustrialisation, related to the following ideas: fab lab, science centre, smart factory and smart electricity transmission system (Table no. 1). It was assumed that the scientific community at large attempted to engage in the idea of urban reindustrialisation with innovative projects that use the above-mentioned ideas. From the point of view of city strategy, we would like to know which projects are more important in solving the city's problems. In this article, we proposed an approach that answers this question, and supports the evaluation of a portfolio of projects in terms of RRI. It should be noted that these are only examples of the engagement of the scientific community in building urban reindustrialisation. The method of analysis of the portfolio of innovative projects presented in this article may be used for any other proposals of research and development institutions.

We shall later discuss briefly the proposed projects. The concept of fab lab was introduced at MIT as a result of implementation of a project funded by the National Science Foundation, aimed at introducing new technologies in a community affected by the crisis. The first implementations of this idea took place in African-American community in Boston, rural communities in Ghana, in Norway near the Arctic Circle and in ashram in India, and, later, in the urban communities of Amsterdam and Barcelona. Each fab lab should be equipped with devices, whose total cost amounts to around 80,000 USD. In accordance with the original idea, these devices make it possible to manufacture almost everything. fab labs are obliged to make their projects and educational programs accessible, creating an open community, well-known in the IT community. The ideas of fab labs should be implemented in a similar way in Poland, Ghana or in Norway due to the fact that people who want to initiate a new fab lab, have to sign a charter setting out principles regarding, inter alia, the security issues, ethics, whether the cooperating people are required to participate in the fab lab network and to participate in the annual meetings and must be trained in fab lab Academy.

Centres for the promotion of science[13] are established by representatives of different areas of science, from different scientific/research and development centres and aim to address particular issues related to RRI. Some science centres are not fully committed to their mission. Additionally, some centres also have other functions.

A smart factory is considered in this paper in two ways, first, as a factory with a specific location, equipped with machines and devices which utilize ideas taken from two concepts, namely the Internet of Things and the physical and cybernetic systems[14] and second, as a dynamic fabless production structure, which involves a number of production units located in the region.

The concept of smart power grids should be understood as a power grid built based on the idea of transforming passive consumers into active nodes of electricity grid, undertaking activities in the production and management of energy (cutting the consumption, influencing the profile of energy consumption by controlling devices with large power consumption, etc.) supplying to the power system the excess of energy produced from renewable sources (photovoltaic, wind farms, small hydroelectric power plants, cogeneration) and energy storage. Thus, each recipient of energy, after installing the necessary power and information and communication technologies (ICT) infrastructure, becomes both a producer and distributor of energy.


Table no. 1. Ranking list and description of proposed projects combining the ideas of urban reindustrialisation and RRI, involving different stakeholders.

Project Id

Description of the project


Construction of the urban environment for individual manufacturing, equipped with 3D printers, other devices and software necessary in a microfactory (an example is the idea of fab lab created at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology)


Construction of the urban environment of a centre for the promotion of science


Construction of an urban environment for smart manufacturing (project based on a Smart Factory – a model demonstration and research platform for presentation and testing new solutions in the field of robotics and artificial intelligence developed by the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence)


Construction of an urban electric car in a dynamic environment of partners implementing the production and service (project based on a factory operating in design and building electric cars and services, built by the Aachen University)


Construction of demonstration/training intelligent building, which is a laboratory for Smart Grid Analytics

Source: Author’s findings

The evaluation scheme for above-mentioned projects was based on the following factors: the only considered input were the initial investments in starting the project, and the effects included the following factors: the number of pro-ecological initiatives, the income from new initiatives, reduction of energy consumption, the number of newly hired employees involved in the project, the economic potential of innovations resulting from the project and the time of implementation of the new initiative, the interest in project (Table no. 2). The effect-oriented DEA method was applied, which helped obtain a ranking of projects listed according to their effectiveness from the point of view of implementation of RRI (Table no. 1, Picture no 1.).


Table no. 2. The features of proposed projects combining the ideas of urban reindustrialisation and RRI.

















































Source: Author’s findings


Picture no. 1. Ranking list of proposed projects combining the ideas of urban reindustrialisation and RRI, involving different stakeholders.

Source: Author’s findings


6. Summary and directions for future research

This article was intended to introduce the concept of RRI, and to present a proposal for a new tool for RRI, namely: a method to evaluate the portfolio of innovative projects. An example of this method was the problem of urban reindustrialisation and a portfolio of university projects related to the engagement of university research and development units in the solution to this problem. Quantitative secondary data taken from the descriptions of projects implemented by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence, Aachen University, and other research and development centres was used. This research was conducted solely for the purpose of this article. The method described to supervise the research in research and development units is reasonable. Study of the details of the method will require accessing the primary data sources and verifying the factors characterizing the university's innovative projects and conduct research over a longer period.


Boyd E., Nykvist B., Borgström S. Stacewicz I.A., Anticipatory governance for social-ecological resilience. “Ambio”, 2015, 44(1), pp. 149-161.

European Commission. Science and Society Action Plan. COM (2001) 714.

European Parliament: European Parliamentary Research Service: Scientific Foresight (STOA) Unit, Science and Technology Options Assessment Annual Report 2014. European Union, 2015.

Forsberg E., Quaglio G., O'Kane H., Karapiperis T., van Woensel L., Arnaldi S., Assessment of science and technologies: Advising for and with responsibility. Technology in Society, 2015, 42, pp. 21-27.

Forsberg, E., Institutionalising ELSA in the moment of breakdown? “Theoretical Chemistry Accounts” 2014, 10(1).

Forsberg, E., Institutionalising ELSA in the moment of breakdown? Theoretical Chemistry Accounts, 2014, 10(1).

Fuerth L.S., Foresight and anticipatory governance. “Foresight”, 2009, 11(4), pp. 14-32.

Parker M. et al., Identifying the science and technology dimensions of emerging public policy issues through horizon scanning. “PLoS ONE”, 2014, 9.

Sanchez M.A., Toscana L.S., Information Technology Project Portfolio and Strategy Alignment Assessment Based on Data Envelopment Analysis. Revista de gestao e projetos, 2012, 2 (2), pp. 116-145.



Responsible Research and Innovation:
A method to evaluate the portfolio of innovative projects

Summary: Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) is the proposition of the European Commission to implement a new system of research and innovation based on the following two conditions: research or innovation as the response to the real needs of the social, environmental, cultural nature, and as the activities not causing social, environmental, economic harm. The paper discusses the tools for developing RRI system.

Keywords: RRI, fab lab, urban reindustrialization, DEA.

Zbigniew Gontar  was born in Grajewo, Poland, in 1964. He received the M.Sc. degree from University of Lodz in 1988. Working as a researcher at the University he received his Ph.D. in 1993. His employment experience included University of Lodz, and Warsaw School of Economics where he works as an adjunct. He has worked in various areas of intelligent systems. His special field of interest include smart organizations, and smart analytics.

[5] Fuerth L.S., Foresight and anticipatory governance.  Foresight, 2009, 11(4), pp. 14-32.

[7] Forsberg E., Quaglio G., O'Kane H., Karapiperis T., van Woensel L., Arnaldi S., Assessment of science and technologies: Advising for and with responsibility.  Technology in Society, 2015, 42, pp. 21-27.

[8]  a model factory was established in Kaiserslautern in 2007: Smart FactoryKL

[9] Dynamic extensive network of partners and suppliers coordinated through process management methods.

[10] fab lab

[12] The approach proposed by M.A. Sanchez was used: Sanchez M.A., Toscana L.S., Information Technology Project Portfolio and Strategy Alignment Assessment Based on Data Envelopment Analysis.  Revista de gestao e projetos, 2012, 2 (2), pp. 116-145.

[13] This article focuses on the example of the Centre for Science and Technology EC-1 - Łódź

[14] here the prototype is of course SmartFactoryKL

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    • gontar

      17 of June of 2016 at 10:12 h

      Interested in RRI project in Horizon 2020? Please contact: ‪#‎RRI‬ Opportunities in Horizon 2020 The calls within Science with and for Society in Horizon 2020 are open for project proposals on science education, gender, ethics, open science, public engagement and RRI. More information is available on the European Commission website for Science with and for Society:…/horizon2020/en/h…/science-and-society See the work programme for more information:…/2016_20…/main/h2020-wp1617-swfs_en.pdf. Deadline for submitting project proposals for the 2016 call is on August 30. Get in contact with your national contact point for the programme:

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