Responsible Innovation and business strategy: presentation and discussion of the PRISMA project roadmap at the Italian National Standard Body

How can companies design long-term strategies to improve the social value of their research and innovation processes as well as their overall social performance? This question was debated in Milan on a two half-days co-creative dialogue event (30-31 October) organised by the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS) of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in collaboration with the Italian Association for Industrial Research (AIRI) and the Italian National Standard Body (UNI).

 As suggested by the title of the workshop, “A roadmap to foster social value in business, research and innovation strategies”, the discussion focused on practices and methodologies needed to integrate issues of social responsibility and responsible research and innovation (RRI) in companies.

Eight companies collaborating in the European PRISMA project (Piloting RRI in Industry) presented real-life experiences as “RRI pilots”. These companies, all using transformative technologies, are: Archa Srl & Techa Srl and Colorobbia (nanotechnology), Evolva and Bisigodos (synthetic biology), RDM Group and Aerialtronics (autonomous vehicles) and HAT and Spectro BV (Internet of Things). Several other companies, industry managers and business leaders, research institutions, standard and certification organisations also participated in the event.

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In total 60 participants discussed the RRI-CSR PRISMA Roadmap, a methodology being developed to assist companies in defining strategies for taking greater account of social values and impacts in research and innovation processes. The discussion included issues of risk management, quality, innovation management, practices and standards in the area of corporate social responsibility (CSR). For this reason, the importance of UNI collaboration.

For more information on the development of the RRI-CSR PRISMA Roadmap and on the project please visit the PRISMA website For more information on the co-creation dialogue, please read the event booklet.

 

 

Nano in cosmetics: an industry case of RRI implementation

The application of nanomaterials in cosmetics has always been a matter of debate, raising some fundamental questions: what is the matter with using nano? Is there a real added value for people? Is it safe?  What are the uncertainties for human health?

As a typical unnecessary good, consumer acceptance of a cosmetic product is strongly affected by both functional and non-functional features of the product. Nanomaterials could be used to improve the efficacy of the product, for example ensuring filtering of UV radiation or better shelf-life, as well as to enhance aesthetic properties, as for example the colour of a make-up.

Though consumers might welcome new features given by the use of nanotechnologies, this conflicts with risk perception of new technologies, which is always higher for products getting in close contact with the human body such as cosmetics.

Cosmetics are as well the first sector where specific requirements for nanomaterials have been introduced in regulation (Reg CE 1223/09), forcing industry to make a specific safety assessment and declare the use of nanosubstances in the product (labelling).

A perfect case for RRI, with conflicting stakeholder positions, not straightforward/ambiguous social benefits, and regulatory challenges has to be faced.

One of the RRI industrial pilots (Nanocube project) conducted within the Prisma project is addressing a very interesting case: the use of nanomaterials is combined with the development of a cosmetic product based on natural and organic ingredients.

The NanoCube project, coordinated by Archa and Techa (Tuscany region funds POR FESR 2014-2020) develops innovative technologies aimed at producing nanocapsules and nanosystems providing controlled release of bioactive agents for cosmetic and biomedical applications. A key research challenge is to make use only of natural ingredients, including the nanocapsules, and processing steps without the use of chemical (synthetic) solvents. The final product is expected to fulfil specific voluntary international certifications for organic and natural cosmetics.

The system promises to have a number of advantages: reducing the risks for workers and users in handling and using the active substance; reducing the use of active substances compared to conventional treatments; avoiding the use of preservatives; and improving the efficacy of the final product (compared to benchmark products).

Archa has worked together with Prisma partners to understand the RRI aspects involved in the NanoCube project, and best ways to address them in product development. Key RRI issues identified include the adoption of a precautionary approach in the risk management of nanomaterials, addressing specific ethical values in product development (in line with demanding ethical certifications for natural and organic cosmetics), as well as the need to address issues related to  risk perception and user acceptability in relation with nanotechnologies.

As one of the RRI actions planned within Prisma, these aspects have been discussed in a multi-stakeholder dialogue held on June 13th, 2018 in the premises of Archa. This dialogue has been carefully designed, ensuring participation of all relevant actors along the value chain and supply chain. About twenty delegates contributed to the event, including researchers, producers, retailers, authorities, certification bodies and professional users active on both cosmetics and nanomaterials. As a follow up, a consensus document has been prepared, shared and revised with all delegates.

Efficiency and quality, in particular product performances and improvement of the shelf-life without the use of any preservative, have been identified as the key added values of using nanotechnologies. A distinguishing feature of NanoCube is the use of nanomaterials based on organic substances, with a much lower risk profile compared to inorganic nanomaterials (the ones generally considered in discussion on cosmetics and nanomaterials).

Several “RRI” actions for product development emerged by Prisma actions, and in particular the dialogue event. These include planning of further testing activities on nanomaterials to support product claims, specific risk management actions for nanomaterials during production phases, regular dialogue activities with stakeholders – in particular developers, producers, certification bodies, distributors – and development of a specific communication strategy to ensure transparency in the use of nanomaterials all along the supply chain.

What has become clear in working with Archa for the Prisma project, is a strategic approach[1] of the company to social responsibility and Responsible Research and Innovation. Specific procedures are in place on quality, worker’s accountability, risk management and ethics of R&I and production process, sustained by voluntary certification such as OHSAS 18001, SA8000, ISO 14001, ISO 9001. Specific CSR and RRI tools (examples are provided in the Prisma RRI toolkit) are implemented at project level, on a case-by-case basis. Social values and principles are part of the company culture and as well of regular company procedures.

Besides those related to NanoCube, Prisma activities are helping Archa and Techa to reflect on how to further integrate a socially responsible and responsive approach to R&I, starting from the early stage of innovation, structured and integrated in the decision process and company policies. This could help Archa to become a testimonial that promotes RRI principles also for other companies and actors.

(post by Andrea Porcari)

[1] See the five stages of RRI implementation proposed in Ibo van de Poel et al, Company Strategies for Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI): A Conceptual Model, Sustainability 2017, 9, 2045

 

RRI in industry: finding the right tools for the job

“In the sphere of industrial innovation, where time is money and resources are scare, there is a reason to believe that hurdles between hearing about RRI and doing RRI are too manu and too high” wrote Dr. Pim Klaasen, from . On his blog, posted at the RRI Tools Blog (26.07.2018), Dr. Pim describes the work developed in the PRISMA Project to change this reality.

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In the PRISMA RRI Toolkit a small cumber of relatively easy-to-use tools were collected, to help innovative companies, specially those working in SMEs and on emerging technologies, to flesh-out some of the RRI’s essentials.

To provide some guidance in advance, the tools are classified as contributing to one or more of the following purposes:

  • Opening up to the world
  • Thinking of the future
  • Taking care of people and planet

These are the three areas of the PRISMA’s Responsibility Map.

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Depending on the area of interest, different kinds of tools can be found in the Toolkit. Most of the tools are organizes along the three areas of the PRISMA’s Responsibility Map.

 

 

From Corporate Social Responsibility to Responsible Innovation

Ibo van de Poel, from TU Delft and Coordinator of the PRISMA project, wrote recently a blog mentioning that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become an established concept, but increasingly corporate social responsibility also extends to the innovation process of new technology, i.e. Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI).

In the blog posted in the CSR Netherlands website, on the 20.06.2018, the PRISMA project is briefly presented, and a special focus is given to the Toolkit, developed by the project team, which aims to assist companies that want to work with  RRI.

RIVM reflects along how companies can innovate responsibly

On the 6th of December, 2017, RIVM posted a blog at the National Institute of Public Health and Environment Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport website.

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The blog focus on the workshop that RIVM organized on ” Safe Innovation of nanotechnology and Biotechnology”, within the Stakeholder Dialogue event “Setting the agenda of RRI in Industry”, organized by ITAS/KIT and held in Berlin, on the 20-21st November 2017.

 

Innovation Society Can Trust

On 7thJune we held a meeting in London entitled ‘Innovation Society Can Trust’. The idea of the event was to bring together thinking about ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ (CSR) and thinking about ‘Responsible Research and Innovation’ (RRI). The talks were diverse and wide-ranging; too wide-ranging to summarise in a few lines here. However, there were several emergent themes from the day. Corporate Social Responsibility is a well-established set of rules and practices. It is understood across the business world and indeed outside of it, and has its own cache of recognition. Responsible Research and Innovation, on the other hand, is a recently invented term, given life by a series of government-funded academic research projects and a body of theory, but without much explicit uptake amongst practitioners. On the face of things there is a potential synergy between the two. While CSR lacks an involved set of principles for the innovation stage, RRI provides just that. Is there a case for simply plugging the two together? I’ll say something briefly for and something briefly against this idea.

At our meeting it became apparent that some of the debates around CSR would translate directly in to debates about RRI. The similarity between the discussions about the two fields tells in favour of their kinship. In particular, curiously, scepticism about CSR flows in to scepticism about principled innovation. Can companies be structured or motivated to perform in ways that are in some way driven by values other than simple profit-seeking, such as sustainability, or social justice, or fair data ownership? Sceptics about CSR from either side of the political are inclined to say ‘no’. On one hand, it is advanced that since companies must be in the first instance responsible to their shareholders, it is a mistake to urge them to take on board principles that might distract them from this. On the other hand, some argue that claims to CSR are no more than marketing exercises, given the self-seeking nature of market actors. And for the same reasons, encouraging companies to expound principles of responsible innovation is either another category error or no more than the facilitation of another marketing opportunity. However, in between those two positions are a variety of ways in which private enterprises are understood in somewhat less deterministic ways. Perhaps sustainability is in a company’s very long term interest; perhaps profit-maximising is, at the margins, only meaningful in theory. And perhaps the behaviour of the actors involved is better understood using behavioural science, which itself allows norms to play a role. As, for instance, the Global Reporting Initiative evidences, many organisations do make efforts towards both social responsibility in general and responsible innovation particular. Even if some critics argue that innovators do not go far enough in considering the broader impacts of their work, the starting point should be that there is important activity in this direction already.

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Nonetheless, it is significant that much innovation takes place immediately funded by governments or under circumstances in which governments provide a great deal of regulatory oversight (see, for example, the way that automated cars are being developed in the UK). Insofar as CSR and RRI are understood as brands, there is a case for construing them as aiming at separate audiences. The former is a set of principles that may be included in the organisational structure of a private enterprise. The latter is a set of principles that may be applied to a research project, and accordingly is appropriate for inclusion in calls for applications put out by state funding bodies, or upon particular research projects. In our own experience on the Prisma project we are asked to consider how RRI applies differently to private enterprises in comparison to public-private partnerships. One thing that has become increasingly apparent in the course of the project is the great extent to which much innovation is in fact in one way or another carried out as a partnership between private enterprise and government. Given this, there is reason to think CSR and RRI are different topics for different audiences.