Read Our New Monthly Editorial – July 2019

“Responsible” Innovation, the Strategic Focus of Organizations


In the last decade, the convergence of environmental, social and political crises in our development model based on the digital transition and the concentration of global firms has intensified societal pressure to raise awareness and regulate the social and environmental impact of companies. Civil society (NGOs, trade unions, etc.) is asking for those companies to show more responsibility and commitment on behalf of a new model of society.

It reminds us of the expectations of the 1950s and 1970s, which questioned scientific and technological progress (about the development of new technologies such as biotechnology, chemistry, or the control of the atom) in its ability to generate better living conditions for humanity. The notion of “responsibility” has also evolved from an understanding dedicated to economic redistribution and working conditions, to one enabling analyze and evaluation of innovation itself. We find it in the strategies of organizations that have been part of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) movement, since the second industrial revolution in the United States. Besides consumers, associations and NGOs, as new stakeholders, appear and express their concerns about new rules, priority development, and operational objectives for change processes. As a result, innovation is no longer just a question of competitiveness, profits and individual or micro-economic competition. It must act in favor of the Commons in the sense of Elinor Ostrom, on behalf of the general interest (e.g. social and environmental innovation). This “responsibility” for innovation processes entails the mobilization of international institutions. We can cite two examples. On the one hand, the OECD with the Responsible Innovation for Personalised Health, Biotechnology, Nanotechnology and Converging Technologies program. On the other hand, the European Union, which strives to meet societal demand in the orientations given to research and innovation policies (e.g. H2020 program) through the concept of Responsible Research and Innovation. Despite these new opportunities, the green washing and financial and short-term strategies may hijacke “responsible” innovation in order to save existing trajectories of private organizations.

Since the 2000s, the scientific community has to provide reliable knowledge and methods to explain the relationships between innovation governance, corporate investment and the consequences of our development model on the long-term well-being of humanity as a whole.

The special issue published in Innovations entitled “Responsible innovation, a strategic focus for organizations” provides more information on its unique features. The various contributions identify further paths of researchFirst, we note that, unlike a “standard” innovation, the analysis of a “responsible” innovation process often requires several levels of evaluation (for example, type of organizations, sectors, sectors), the configuration of which may change according to the characteristics of the territories (regional, national, local). Then, “responsible” innovation structures collective actions, reconfigures interpersonal collaborations, contributes to the emergence of new social values, as well as the conditions for sharing profit. Finally, given its multi-level and multi-actor dimensions, “responsible” innovation strongly encourages politicians, scientists and organizations to acquire new methodological tools to decide and to manage economic development (financing, evaluations, monitoring and indicators) with regard to the renewal of societal challenges.


Romain DEBREF[1]

Delphine GALLAUD[2]

Ludovic TEMPLE[3]

Leïla TEMRI[4]

L’innovation responsable

Innovations 2019/2 (N° 59)


[1] REGARDs, EA 6292, Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne

[2] CESAER, Agrosup Dijon, Inra, Université Bourgogne Franche-Comté

[3] CIRAD, UMR INNOVATION, Université de. Montpellier

[4] MOISA, Montpellier SupAgro, INRA, CIRAD, IAMM, Université de Montpellier

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