Technology assessment for innovation governance

In the tradition of TA, there is a preoccupation with assessing the intended and unintended (adverse) consequences of the introduction of new technologies. This relates to one important area of action for the modern state, which is to mitigate the possible risks of innovation by establishing safeguards and to ensure the safety and quality of products. However, modern states also have the role to drive technological innovation so as to create growth and prosperity and to meet societal needs. In Europe, many high-level policies, strategies and programmes, such as the Europe 2020 strategy, the Horizon 2020 framework program or the Lund Declaration, present science, technology and innovation as central elements to achieving the goals of the the Lisbon Treaty. Such trends clearly affect the kind of policy advice that parliamentarians and other policy makers need: the focus is no longer about mitigating possible risks (risk governance) but about designing innovation so as to avoid adverse impacts (innovation governance). For TA, this implies opening up its traditional risk-based approach and framing its assessment in the wider field of innovation policies.

The approach of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) which is currently being developed and fostered by the European Union is regarded as a promising path for supporting the needs of policy makers in innovation governance (Grunwald, 2011, von Schomberg, 2012, Gudowski et al., 2014). RRI refers to 'a transparent, interactive process by which societal actors and innovators become mutually responsive to each other with a view to the (ethical) acceptability, sustainability and societal desirability of the innovation process and its marketable products in order to allow a proper embedding of scientific and technological advances in our society' (von Schomberg, 2013). The various methodologies and tools developed by TA organizations – in particular participatory methods – can certainly contribute to the implementation of the RRI approach in concrete policy-making processes that are related to innovation. Several TA institutes already integrated the RRI approach into their work and conduct projects fostering responsible and sustainable innovation paths that involve science, society and stakeholders. This is also the case of the PACITA project, as the 'Scenario Workshops on Tele-Assistance and Future Ageing' aimed at providing input for innovation policies by integrating a wide array of stakeholders so as to meet the societal challenges of an ageing society (see Chapter 7). In such projects, TA fosters a sustained dialogue between research, industry, stakeholders, society and parliaments on innovations and related societal challenges.

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