Companies across the world are finally waking up to the reality of the climate crisis. Responding to customers’ concerns, industries are gradually replacing polluting products and processes with cleaner alternatives. When it comes to software-enabled products and services, companies are becoming more open about how they use customer data. These are examples of responsible innovation, an increasingly popular model where companies pursue innovation that aligns with the social good.
While the concept finds root in debates around environmental impact and medical ethics of energy and pharma industries, respectively, it’s finding wider adoption across industries. Erik Fisher, a leading researcher in the field of the future of innovation, describes responsible innovation as the final step required in the innovation process. This is when companies should implement due diligence to ensure that innovation aligns with both business vision as well as social values.
Elements of Responsible Innovation
1. Anticipate Consequences
Often, technologies have unintended negative consequences. This is most notably seen in the dual-use aspect of artificial intelligence where bad-faith actors misuse algorithms for nefarious purposes. To protect customers, companies need to think more deeply about such unintended consequences. At the same time, companies need to also think about the intended consequences. As innovations shape the future, responsible design envisions what we want the future to look like.
2. Consumers as Partners
Traditionally, companies viewed their relationship with customers as purely transactional in nature. In such a case, profits take precedence over the well-being of customers. In a responsible innovation approach, companies view consumers as partners that align on shared goals. Going beyond existing consumers, this approach takes into account the impact on potential consumers and everyone else.
3. Sustainability in Focus
Of all social concerns, the most pressing one is probably that of the climate crisis. While more consumers are striving for a carbon-neutral or carbon-negative lifestyle, it falls upon companies to take the lead. Sustainability is central to the development of liveable cities and resilient industries. This is why many companies pursue one or more UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to advance responsible innovation.
How to enable Responsible Innovation
Responsible innovation is incredibly difficult and often requires a complete overhaul of the corporate mindset. Moreover, it demands creativity to innovate while advancing responsibility as a continuous approach. Here’s how your company can get started:
Companies generally perform technology assessments to validate an emerging technology’s viability and fit with their processes. Responsible innovation adds a new angle to technology assessment. Companies need to evaluate the impact of new technologies on the society and environment. Doing this requires a combination of technology feasibility assessment, regulatory compliance, and market intelligence.
Transparent, Collaborative Processes
Companies usually deal with a large number of vendors and suppliers along the product value chain. Unless these align with its social values, a company cannot really claim as a responsible innovator. However, vetting if all of these players operate responsibly is challenging. Transparent, collaborative processes, such as open data sharing and permissionless innovation, address this. Moreover, they unlock new ideas to pursue responsible innovation.
Engagement with Stakeholders
For any responsible innovation to succeed, a participative approach is important. Constant communication and engagement with all stakeholders build trust and create value for everyone. It provides a way to quickly resolve any bottlenecks for different players along the product supply chain. For customers, it provides proof of a company’s authenticity and commitment to responsible innovation. For example, customer-based innovation allows companies to innovate both responsibly and in line with customer priorities.
Data-driven insights, such as those gathered from innovation intelligence, are crucial for a company’s innovation to succeed. However, data isn’t sufficient to understand the impact of new innovations on human behavior and vice versa. Qualitative insights fill the gap, especially so for complex innovations. Companies looking to propel their responsible innovation insights need to tap into qualitative insights from market intelligence and environmental scans.
Leverage Intelligence for Responsible Innovation
Are you a company looking to pursue responsible innovation? Identifying the startups and emerging technologies that aid you in this mission can take many months. Using a data-driven open innovation scouting approach, we bring this time down to weeks. At StartUs Insights, we offer a range of services enabled by our Big Data and AI-powered StartUs Insights Discovery Platform, covering over 2,5 million startups & scaleups globally. Some of our services that allow you to leverage responsible innovation include:
- Startup Programs: Boost startup deal flow through data-driven promotion, direct outreach & storytelling. Reach thousands of startups & scaleups, to attract the most relevant ones.
- Trend Scouting: Identify emerging and latent trends and developments that will enable your company to innovate responsibly.
- Startup Scouting: Scan over 2,5 M startups & scaleups globally, scouting the right partners for you.