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MATTER Principles for Responsible Innovation

Here are our Principles for Responsible Innovation. Those who saw previous posts when I bullishly called them Principles for Sustainable Innovation will note that I ‘responded constructively to my stakeholders’, who said that Responsible Innovation where where it’s at and I changed them back!


Principles doc single

We have two main aims:

1.        Generate positive momentum for transformative innovation for social good

Provide a framework to help businesses explore how to use innovation in a more transformative way for social and commercial good. Working with stakeholders in this process can help stimulate new thinking and make new connections whilst also helping quantify risks and understand concerns in advance. Where disagreements remain, perhaps on benefit, impacts or the emphasis of HSE activity or regulation, then a process is clear from which companies underpin their claims of trustworthiness.

2.        Create shared expectations to help build trustworthiness & confidence

To help generate a shared expectation and understanding among businesses and their stakeholders about desirable outputs, outcomes and behaviours. In later documents we will highlight useful tools companies can use to help them with this transformation and highlight more real world examples of good practice.

But the responsibility for Responsible innovation does not begin and end with companies. We hope also to develop these Principles further, to be applied to the work of other organisations – particularly governments, researchers and their institutions and NGOs.

What does Responsible Innovation Mean?

The term is new, so definitions are evolving. We have decided not to make a one-line definition, but consider what it might encompass instead. We propose that it includes the following – a description which is relevant for all stakeholders:

  • The deliberate focus of research & the products of innovation to achieve a social or environmental benefit.
  • Which assesses and effectively prioritises the social, ethical and environmental impacts, risks and opportunities, both now and in the future, alongside the technical and commercial.
  • Involves the consistent, ongoing involvement of society, from beginning to end of the innovation process, including the public & non-governmental groups, who are themselves mindful of the public good.
  • Where oversight mechanisms are better able to anticipate and manage problems and opportunities and which are also able to adapt and respond effectively to changing knowledge and circumstances.
  • Where openness and transparency are an integral component of the research and innovation process.

So what next?

This is a draft of the Principles for Responsible Innovation. Though components of them have been the subject of widespread consultation and it is based on academic and action research of our own, we are now undertaking a widespread consultation to explore whether or not they have a role and if so, in what form.

We also hope to develop further research into ‘Radical Transparency’, what it may encompass and the potential benefits of companies and society.

How you could contribute?

Please give us feedback on this document

We are seeking written submissions and hope to be able to hold events to generate stakeholder input. You can contribute either anonymously or formally. Please email your comments on this document to

Join our ‘Cohort’ of businesses helping refine these Principles

Following the consultation a group of volunteer companies has expressed interest in piloting these Principles and giving us practical feedback on it’s usefulness.

If you are a company and would like to participate in this pilot, or if you are a non-business stakeholder and would like to contribute please contact

If you are a Funder and would like to support this work, please get in touch.

Development of an Evaluation Framework

An Evaluation Framework has been drafted and will be finalised following the consultation and pilots to help both companies and stakeholders assess the extent to which they are operating according to these Principles.

Evolution to incorporate into existing initiatives

We would also like to consult with those who administer existing frameworks, such as the Global Reporting Initiative and others. It is preferable to us that this is not yet another stand alone initiative, but is incorporated into existing good practice.

Adapt these Principles for others involved in the innovation process

We hope also to develop these principles further, to be applied to other stakeholders, particularly governments, researchers and NGOs.

Who is funding this?

The work on this document and research around it is the culmination of many years work, though the document itself was MATTER’s own in-house R&D!  We are hoping to get further funding to take the principles out to wider consultation and to help pilot the Principles and finalise the Evaluation Framework and undertake a programme of consultation with existing initiatives.

If you are a funder or would be interested in co-funding this initiative please email Please!

One thought on “MATTER Principles for Responsible Innovation


    Productivity is more than just a question of technology. Whilst information technology, including robotics may, in part, be responsible for higher productivity in some areas of business, industry and commerce, mostly manufacturing, much still depends on the working conditions, the amount of pressure a workforce is under and the amount of satisfaction they gain from what they are doing. But automation is not new; one only has to watch the film made by Charlie Chaplin in 1936 entitled “Modern Times” and the struggle he has to keep pace with desperate employment conditions in work during the great depression. Clearly manpower and manning levels were insufficient to keep pace with technological progress.

    Nonetheless, dull and repetitive work is best left to machines, robotics, because the conveyor belt of manufacturing often does not stimulate thought and that dulls motivation, but, those machines need human beings to control and maintain their functioning and efficiency more especially when they are controlled by artificial interconnected neural networks and that is why investment in education and training is paramount.

    Improvements and increases in productivity starts at the top with the attitude, effort and performance of directors and senior managers because they determine strategy and approve and implement policies, procedures and plans including investment in innovation, technology and training to sustain a business and move forward. The onus for ensuring that employees achieve and maintain appropriate levels of skills and competence and improve productivity and competitiveness in the process rests with the management of individual companies as well as with individuals and, that is why any and all forms of training and re-training are of paramount importance.

    Innovation is about people and how many will benefit from such investment; it means people having the time to think up new ideas and programmes to test concepts, experiment with processes and provide the room, space or facilities to thrash out thoughts and creative ideas and present them to senior management for consideration. Some companies mention innovation in their mission statement, some see innovation as something that is addressed when determining strategy and yet others refer to creativity; and, since strategy should normally embrace change then it is essential to have a company policy that not only indicates commitment but provides direction, covers procedures for encouraging innovation, and processes to implement change to embrace new opportunities to achieve objectives.

    Innovation is part of knowledge management, which is making the best use of available manpower, systems and resources to improve processes, design new products and replace equipment, material and machinery. It means having in place systems and procedures for encouraging ideas and exchanging information not only from within the organization but with customers and suppliers. However, the threat to economic and social stability and the democratic process in the UK is, having shifted jobs, employment opportunities and industrial and manufacturing technology abroad, the developing nations to whom jobs are shifted will take existing technology and, with their growing economic wealth, improve it through investment thereby not needing input or advice on design, engineering, quality and processes from the nation that exported manufacturing in the first place.

    Productivity has fallen in Britain not just because companies have failed to invest in people, products and plant for the longer term but, the implementation, over the last 30 years, of successive management fads of downsizing, delayering followed by business process engineering, resource re-allocation and then outsourcing jobs and business abroad in order to reduce overheads and increase the bottom line has undermined morale, reduced commitment, motivation and effort.

    Companies must make a profit on what they produce or offer in order to remain in business but in following those procedures all companies and organizations succeeded in doing was to increase the pressure on those left behind to produce more with less leading to the ‘survivor syndrome’. When that happens, and a workforce is reduce to the minimum and not the optimum manpower level, at some stage something has to give and that turns out to be growth because too much, financially, is being sucked out of the company and upwards to a few, shareholders and directors, they are synonymous, and the poorest and lowest paid two or three Quintiles see no improvement in their condition and circumstances.

    Productivity depends on motivation and motivation depends on a number of factors not least pay but increasingly on job security, on challenge, status and opportunity for promotion through additional vocational training courses and, the ability to achieve a satisfactory life/work balance. According to occupational psychologists such as McGregor, Maslow and Herzberg, people in organizations, singly and in groups, need stability, security and motivational factors to meet their basic needs; and, they all agree that for human beings to function to the best of their ability they require recognition to fulfil their obligations and, encouragement and opportunities to progress in order to gain a measure of self-esteem and contribute to society through a fair system of remuneration.

    Maslow further suggested that until the basic human demands for food, shelter and security are satisfied people cannot progress up the ladder of motivational factors, and that is why any civilised society ensures the provision of basic necessities, education and training, to encourage people to progress. It is only when people feel comfortable with themselves and their surroundings and comfortable with their colleagues and work-load that they tend to give off their best working individually and more importantly as part of a team. It is unfortunate after all that time and effort investigating motivation in the workplace that at the end of the 20th century so many have not read and understood or even forgotten the work of these three men.

    Politicians cannot create jobs other than in the public sector, and many of those jobs are related to administrative processes and not really productive in the true sense of the word. Politicians can do little to control or improve productivity, or competitiveness for that matter, save for areas of public services and organizations and administrations, including Quasi Non-Governmental Organizations (QUANGOs), that are directly under state control. This applies particularly to public transport systems and the provision of energy sources to meet the demands of the economy. It is paramount that governments get the most ‘bang for their bucks’ from the public sector and from all public institutions because they are a cost to the exchequer and, they must make every effort to reduce the number of non-accountable bodies and the nepotism associated with appointments to the boards of QUANGOs.

    Politicians can only help by creating the economic conditions and circumstances such that companies and individuals are prepared to invest creating jobs in the process; and governments need to invest in and provide sound basic state education services, funding for colleges of further and higher education to train and re-train people to meet the demands of industry and commerce, and by encouraging investment in research and development, especially in emerging technologies, through tax breaks and through investment in public services, especially health, transport and energy, to ensure that people can get to and from home and their place of work quickly and efficiently. Governments can help to raise productivity and competitiveness thereby improving growth by investing in the public infrastructure and by keeping a tight rein on the amounts spent on public projects; and, companies must invest in people, products and plant for the longer-term to sustain productivity.

    Government, advised by bureaucrats, academics, educationalists and employers organizations, has a responsibility to investigate ways of providing re-skilling courses. Given the availability of IT hardware equipment, software programmes and the Internet it should not be beyond the wit of man to provide on-line courses and nominated learning centres. Wisdom, understanding and knowledge often come with age and experience and that is why companies are wrong to remove their senior employees without first having taught and trained others for succession in each business area.

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