Chapter 14: Responsible innovation and technology assessment in Europe: barriers and opportunities for establishing structures and principles of democratic science and technology policy
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Technology assessment (TA, with a history of 40 years) is a social innovation which needed and still needs institutional and cultural changes to be embedded in societal innovation discourses and practice. Similarly, responsible innovation (RI) needs cultural and institutional changes. Part of the supportive environments for both include political programmes such as the soft-command-and-control fostering of RI in the current European Union’s Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development. However, there are other boundary conditions to be taken account, such as the state of public awareness of science and technology (S & T) policy-making issues, the state of the economy and support by academia. This chapter reflects on the lessons learned from the long and winding history of establishing TA as a means of democratic policy advice for the opportunities, barriers and challenges to establish RI on a European level. Technology assessment and RI, since they both focus on ‘giving the public a say’, are in need of comparable socio-political and cultural environments to flourish, and these environments are changing. We first discuss the features and principles that RI and TA concepts have in common. We then present findings about the historical opportunities for, and barriers to, the institutionalization of TA, with the assumption that these can serve as a model for the barriers and opportunities in the practical implementation of RI. We then reflect on what we can learn from the case of TA for RI, and to what extend RI is in need of specific supportive environments or is challenged by specific barriers.

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