Towards an Institutionalist Sociology of Responsible Innovation


Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 11:30am to 1:00pm


Event Details

The first entry point for this presentation is the proposition that innovation is always governed, whether the modes, practices or instruments of governance are taken as an explicit focus of social science inquiry or not. The second is that innovation is about transformations: transformations of processes, products, practices, business or policy models, organisations, or the perspectives of actors in their multiple roles: consumers, producers, users, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs. The third is that Responsible Governance is governance which steers innovation according to sets of collectively shared normative criteria, as opposed to other co-present and not necessarily mutually exclusive considerations such as functional (fit-for-purpose) or aesthetic/semiotic (reputation-building) considerations. The topic of this paper is how the institutionalization of responsible innovation progresses. 

‘Responsible Innovation’ is held as itself a collective noun which appears to be performing an important integrative function currently. But within this integrating logic, clustering themes and internal variants are visible, not least through the lens of historical antecedents. The presentation will offer a preliminary sketch of these clustered ‘Framings and Frameworks of RI’ from historical origins to contemporary setting, considering the variety of underpinning  responsibility-‘deficit’/responsible innovation ‘solution’ rationales; and identifying the architects and proponents behind the different variants. The presentation argues that the proliferation of micro-level initiatives of RI that we witness can be understood as a dialectical process combining the integrative logic mentioned above with variety-generation. The presentation opens to more general questions on the need to theorize RI taken as an object of social study. It offers, as one contribution to the task of developing explanatory theory of RI, some building blocks for an institutionalist sociology of responsible innovation, inviting ASU colleagues to discuss and/or offer alternatives to the propositions put forward.


Dr. Sally Randles is Senior Research Fellow at the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research, University of Manchester, UK. Her research focus is emergent technologies, governance and society. As Principal Investigator for the University of Manchester on the (2009) FP7, NANOPLAT project she led on value chains in nano-consumer products and distributed governance. She is currently PI for Univ Manchester on the 3 year FP7 RES-AGORA  project (commissioned February 2013)  on socio-normative governance frameworks for responsible research and innovation. She holds a BSc in Management Sciences from Lancaster University, an MBA and a PhD from the University of Manchester in urban geography and political economy. Previous roles include principal economic development officer within regional government in the UK, community development officer in Spitalfields, east London, and survey officer and author at the UK Consumers’ Association publishers of ‘Which?’ magazine.

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