Horizon Blog

Move fast and break things? or is it time for more reflective approaches to innovation?

Technology is developing with overwhelming speed. Innovation in the technology sector is the source of great benefits to humanity but conversely also great harm. Through enabling technology developers and researchers to identify, understand and produce, not only what is possible but what is needed and wanted by society, technological innovation can promote social goods such as freedom, wellbeing and fairness whilst minimising harms both intentional and unintentional. With technology embedded in every single aspect of our everyday life and the digital economy becoming omnipresent, helping innovators to identify and follow a societally desirable course is vital.

Does this require other forms of innovation? A time to for innovators to take a different perspective(s) on their products? A time for more reflexivity? A time for slow innovation or slow computing? These are some examples of questions than may help steer this societally desirable course. Definitely this is an opportunity to re-think anticipation, inclusion, reflexivity and responsiveness in this area of rapid growth.

Our project hoRRIzon aims to develop novel processes that promote reflection and champion responsible research and innovation (RRI). But are we, researchers and higher education institutions, equipped to embrace inclusive and reflective innovation? Where do we start? When do we involve stakeholders into the research process? How do we engage researchers in anticipatory research or research that tries to foresee the impact of technologies on society and the digital economy?

For many researchers RRI is a vague concept, often confused with institutional research ethics, integrity frameworks or codes of conduct. In collaboration with ORBIT and drawing upon the success of the Horizon IT Moral cards, the hoRRIzon project aims to help innovators pragmatically engage with RRI, study current perceptions and attitudes, identify what works, examples of good RRI practice as well as to identify where the main barriers are for successful adoption, and long-term beneficial impact. With all this information, we will inform the development of policy briefings and web- and card-based activities to support RRI.

Generally speaking, RRI is a new concept that includes anticipating and responding to potential future uses of new technologies. Previous work at Horizon has found that ideation and design activities using cards can be effective in scaffolding analysis, reflection and learning. This project will explore current RRI practices among the ICT community, to develop online/offline approaches to RRI particularly using card-based tools, promoting an RRI culture within and beyond Horizon, and address barriers and facilitators for RRI implementation and policy impact.

Horizon’s challenges around product innovation creates an ideal context to develop this cross-cutting project which seeks to build on prior work conducted in the Horizon Services Campaign and projects such as UnBias and ReEnTrust. Developing new types of Hybrid, Trusted and Social products requires a comprehensive integration of RRI and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) to ensure consumers’ and society’s values are embedded in the research process and outcomes. In collaboration with ORBIT, hoRRIzon provides an RRI service design and tools to champion a culture of RRI/EDI that anticipates unintended impacts in the economy, specific groups of society and the environment. This project will also engage with the Trusted Autonomous Systems (TAS) Hub and TAS Nodes by exploring and guiding current RRI practices. Socially desirable, sustainable and ethically acceptable innovation practices and products are central to RRI. Through conducting the work of this project, approaches, lessons learnt, and existing tools will be drawn together, developed and enhanced in a Horizon approach to RRI to provide researchers within Horizon, the TAS hub and nodes and beyond with tools to help them reach this goal, ensuring that products such as data driven consumer goods can be trusted as well as ensuring they promote wellbeing, freedom, EDI values and benefit the economy.

Written by: HoRRiZon agile project Team

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,