Today innovation is seen as a major driver for economic growth and societal progress. The pioneers of economic conceptions like Smith (1776) already recognized the relevance and the nexus between technological progress and economic growth. But a more intensive economic examination of the topic of innovation did not take place before the deliberations of Schumpeter (1934). He identified innovation as the strategic stimulus for economic development put into practice by entrepreneurs who realize new factor combinations – new products, new processes, new production methods, new markets, new sources of supply, or new forms of organization. Hence entrepreneurs act as agents for innovation and thus are generating wealth and influencing our everyday life. This close connection between entrepreneurship and innovation is also emphasized by Drucker who describes innovation as "the specific instrument of entrepreneurship [...] that endows resources with a new capacity to create wealth". Whereas in the past this development has exclusively been seen as a prosperity bringing process in recent years the way innovations unfold their impact on society and the environment has been questioned. As modern society is facing various societal and environmental challenges the question of how this progress can be stimulated responsibly arises.
The concept of Responsible Innovation wants to contribute to face this issue. It arose within the sphere of European research policy and is questioning the current understanding of innovation processes. It wants to govern those processes in a way that it leads to responsible outcomes. A widely shared view on the concept of Responsible Innovation is given by Schomberg who defines it as "a transparent, interactive process by which societal actors and innovators become mutually responsive to each other with a view to the (ethical) acceptability, sustainability and societal desirability of the innovation process and its marketable products". Consequently innovations are not desirable just because they are economically successful; to achieve a satisfactory outcome social and ethical aspects of innovation processes should also be considered.
Whereas the focus of activities in the field of Responsible Innovation has been on the political and socio-ethical dimension of academic research and development (R&D) processes the role of entrepreneurship as an agent for innovation has been neglected. But the field of entrepreneurship should be of high relevance for Responsible Innovation research as it are - in the understanding of Schumpeter and Drucker – entrepreneurs who introduce products and services into markets, making them available for society and thus triggering their impact. Furthermore it is often the commercialization stage where concerns about the risks and benefits of innovations arise. This indicates that entrepreneurship could play a major role within the concept of Responsible Innovation and raises the question of how Responsible Innovation can be integrated into entrepreneurial activities. This dissertation project wants to get to the bottom of this question and examine ways to integrate the concept of Responsible Innovation into the entrepreneurial process.