Thursday 08

Challenge Driven Innovation in action

Posted by Vetenskap & Allmänhet​ on 08 Sep 2016

To help bring RRI to life, the RRI Tools project has identified eight showcases, which are good examples of RRI in practice. We will introduce you to each of these, explaining what it is and why they are good representatives of RRI.

Finding solutions to societal challenges requires cross-disciplinary, needs-driven research. But how can national research funding organisations ensure that their funding programmes support the type of collaborations needed to address them?

Challenge Driven Innovation (CDI) is a funding programme introduced by Vinnova, Sweden’s Innovation Agency, which funds collaboration in research and innovation within consortia of partners from different parts of society. The cross-disciplinary, cross-sectorial and challenge-orientated model introduced by Vinnova clearly demonstrates many elements of Responsible Research and Innovation and is one of the RRI Tools’ showcase projects.

Societal challenges in focus

CDI was developed in response to a change in Vinnova’s overall strategy to put societal challenges at the top of the agenda. Its focus is on four areas that are both relevant to Sweden and for which there are good prospects for developing profitable innovations and creating sustainable growth:

  1. Future healthcare
  2. Sustainable attractive cities
  3. Competitive industries
  4. Information society

The programme is focused around a three-stage process, which allows a large number of projects to be given initial funding to develop and test ideas. A certain number of projects are selected for the second stage of development and testing with only a small number of projects progressing to full implementation. The amount of funding increases as the project moves to the next stage, which reduces risk and allows a greater number of innovative and experimental ideas to be explored than in traditional funding calls.

Diversity and inclusion

A key requirement is that consortia must work in a cross-sectorial and multi-disciplinary manner. All the necessary stakeholders and disciplines must be reflected in the consortia and involved throughout the research process. Gender balance is also included in the evaluation of the projects.

Anticipation and reflection

All stakeholders’ needs, values and opinions, including end users, are analysed and taken into consideration right from the start of the project. The problem-orientated and demand-driven approach requires a reflection on the types of innovations that are needed in order to address them. Aspects, such as ethical, legal, social and environmental, must also be considered. Many of the projects run scenario workshops, where they anticipate future opportunities and risks connected with the selected challenge. 

Responsiveness and adaptive change

Rigorous evaluation is also a core element, providing invaluable feedback that can be incorporated into the next stages. Consortia must undertake new market research between stages and refine the problem description and impact logical model to ensure that new conditions and changing external factors are taken into account.

Openness and transparency

A lot of effort has gone into tailoring and refining information about the programme to ensure it is accessible to all stakeholder groups. Linguistics analyses of written text are undertaken to highlight any choice of language that could lead to the exclusion of certain stakeholders.

Calls are open to all types of stakeholders, not just industry and academia. To encourage those who traditionally have not responded to calls to apply, a number of different marketing approaches have been adopted as well as alternative ways of applying, such as video pitching.  Information and dialogue meetings also provide forums were potential stakeholders can discuss their ideas.

Internal learning and impact

The programme is now in its 5th year and a handful of projects have now entered the third stage. For example, the Smedpack project, which aims to develop a more secure supply chain for pharmaceutical packaging and involves around 30 partners ranging from material manufacturers to pharmacies as well as end consumers. It started in 2012 and will come to an end in December 2016.

Continuous evaluation and learning has not only helped to further develop and refine the programme but has also had an impact on across the organisation as a whole. For example, other funding programmes have adopted a more challenge-orientated focus and internal collaboration between departments has greatly increased.

“Vinnova has really embraced an RRI way of working through its strategy and the nature of the CDI programme. Its successful adoption is due to a number of factors.  These include strong leadership, the courage to change ingrained structures and working methods, the commitment of staff at the agency and a supportive environment, where it is allowed to make mistakes and try again,” says Karin Larsdotter, Project Manager at VA (Public & Science), who coordinates the RRI Tools Hub in Sweden.

If you would like to find out more about Challenge Driven Innovation, read the full showcase document and training model.

Helen Garrison

Helen Garrison works on RRI Tools at Vetenskap & Allmänhet in Stockholmthe RRI Tools Hub coordinator for Sweden.

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