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Ethics of Innovation: the challenge of new interaction modes


In order to maximise the social benefits derived from innovation, the action will assess the ethical, regulatory and governance issues potentially arising in this context. The action should identify what the distinctive elements of innovation ethics would be in this dynamic context.

The role of citizen participation in innovation (including social innovation[[Social innovation as defined and addressed by the 2014 BEPA report ""Social innovation: a decade of changes"" (pdf version: ISBN 978-92-79-39417-1). For this topic, innovation should be understood as explicitly covering social innovation.]]) must be analysed in order to maximise the effectiveness of this participation for all stakeholders, taking into account possible gender differences. Best practices for an active involvement of citizens and relevant stakeholders in the innovation processes should be identified. The design and use of IT tools should also be considered in order to optimise stakeholder participation.

In addition, the existing legal environment applicable to citizen participation in research and innovation should be identified, mapped and analysed. Potential regulatory and legal gaps (concerning for example IP rights and ownership of data) should be described and concrete proposals should be presented to address the highlighted gaps.

The analytical work should not be limited to the legal aspects, but also cover current practices (in the EU and beyond) with a view to discussing their ethics and values dimensions and taking into account the lessons learned so as to be able to identify best practices. In doing so, business ethics practices should also be considered.

The action must propose an ethics framework, based on accepted principles[[Including but not limited to sustainability, user and values lead design, duty of care, data quality and trust.]], which aim to ensure that innovation remains a process which responds to citizens' needs and values, improves access and avoids a technological divide. Such a framework should focus on the elaboration and implementation of publicly funded research and innovation programmes, as well as public–private partnerships. It should be developed, validated and translated into a set of practical guidelines that enable the effective handling of the identified ethical and regulatory issues.

Such a framework and guidelines must be compatible with and aim to complement the new European code of conduct for research integrity[[]] and include, where applicable, measures for benefit sharing. This process necessitates the active involvement of relevant stakeholders to ensure an effective take-up. The effectiveness of the guidelines should be assessed and tested, notably via workshops and focus groups (such science cafes, etc.) involving citizens, industry, researchers and policy makers. In addition, the resulting guidelines should be applied in real-life pilots with quantifiable results. Piloting needs to be carried out in a representative set of Member States in order to test different cultural/socio-political context.

The action should involve innovation agencies and/or research and innovation funding organisations, which are called to apply the results of the project into their internal procedures.

In line with the strategy for EU international cooperation in research and innovation (COM(2012)497), international cooperation is encouraged.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of the order of EUR 3.00 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Innovation, from idea to product, and including social innovation[[Social innovation as defined and addressed by the 2014 BEPA report ""Social innovation: a decade of changes"" (pdf version: ISBN 978-92-79-39417-1). For this topic, innovation should be understood as explicitly covering social innovation.]], is a main driver for change, a pillar of EU growth and globally for socio-economic development. It addresses key challenges in fields such as the environment and health and improving the quality of life and well-being of citizens.

Over the past years, the modes of interaction between the different stakeholders have evolved significantly. Active participation of citizens in science and innovation has gained prominence. At the same time, new IT tools have profoundly impacted the way in which researchers work and interact. These developments are promising and have numerous advantages. At the same time, however, these new modes of innovation also raise ethical and regulatory considerations, including concerns regarding the protection of participating citizens, their potential exploitation, the collection of big data and related privacy considerations, as well as intellectual property issues.

Overall, this action will enable more effective handling of the ethical dimension of innovation, in particular regarding the new modes of interaction and participation. It will offer a practical and operative tool for all stakeholders confronted with the challenges related to co-design[[In particular, the involvement of citizens/stakeholders and the agreement on shared priorities.]] and to new (IT-based) interaction modes. It will practically support the work of a) the designers and funders of research and innovation policies/programmes, b) the ethics committees tasked with evaluating and monitoring innovative programmes and projects, and c) the research integrity bodies responsible for promoting research integrity and research quality. The implementation of the guidelines in pilots are expected to increase their uptake and overall the impact of the action.