I was quite honoured to be invited by the MATTER Principles for Responsible Innovation Consultation Draft January 2016Regulation to present on our Principles for Responsible Innovation to their Brussels meeting last Friday. The CoP was convened by DG Connect to help inform the the Better Regulation Agenda and ‘looks at the role of self-and co-regulation in addressing the challenges brought about by new technologies and hyper-connectivity’.
They asked me also to explore our process in relation to their interesting Principles for Better Self- and co-Regulation. Which are as follows:
I thought these were an interesting approach, and something that Responsible Innovation initiatives of all shapes and sizes could learn from. The meeting also heard from others with diverse agendas using the Principles – EU cross-border package delivery, Out-of-commerce books and proposed new regulatory initiatives – see here for the programme and all the speeches.
The presentation opposite shows the Principles for RRI and my observations on how our process shaped up against the CoP guidance. In summary we were great on all the Conception and inclusiveness components, but poor on the implementation, mainly on account of having no cash or mandate to implement, the evaluation framework we prepared initially, though lots of support from businesses and CSO. We are working on that!
Implementation concepts are still under discussion, but we consider that the PRRI could work particularly well as a detailed supplement for other initiatives such as the Global Reporting Initiative or B Corp for Businesses and the Research Excellence Framework and other initiatives for research, if the will was there. Many of the issues for business are already part of the corporate responsibility/sustainability agenda, but just not discussed in the context of innovation and R&D in our experience.
What about Radical Transparency?
I went in particular to ask about our concept of Radical Transparency as a governance approach instead of yet more armies of consultants with boxes to tick. Our focus on building the trustworthiness of new technologies has openness and transparency at the heart of every aspect. The ‘Evaluation Framework’ underpinning the Principles for Responsible Innovation, expects openness about key aspects of the innovation process and stakeholder involvement in deciding priorities.
So, we mused, given that all companies have websites – would information about the approach to innovation, the benefits, evaluation of hazards & risks and links to data help build the confidence in the research and innovations produced? Could it work as a governance approach through which stakeholders can then evaluate for themselves the trustworthiness of the process and approach as most of the data would be open-source?. Is it enough? A great deal is going on in that area already – would a ‘race to the top’ approach be worth considering?
So for example, companies would be asked for disclosure about the following areas:
- Their use of which technology for which purpose?
- Social benefit to people or the environment as well as economic benefits of technology in use?
- The processes they’ve undertaken to assess safety and the issues they consider material and not?
- Risk assessment processes and evidence of findings, including both positive and negative trials?
- How they had involved stakeholders in considering risk or wider social, ethical, environmental or cultural issues?
- The findings of those engagements?
- The steps taken by the organisation in response?
- Governance arrangements, or their approach to the development of new governance arrangements and openness about contributions to lobbying in this area?
What stakeholders expect and how companies can respond
A while ago we undertook research with stakeholders about their expectations about company transparency and the findings were surprising. (See opposite for the project report). The openness stakeholders felt would build their confidence in the organisation and it’s approach to technology innovation was not too far away from what companies were prepared to disclose. The particular focus was on the processes and evidence that products were safe and potential negative impacts had been considered in advance.
We are seeking funding to consider with organisations and their stakeholders whether Radical Transparency could be a useful approach to governance and what it might entail. If you would be interested to participate, do get in touch.