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RITA – Responsible Innovation and Technology Assessment

RITA – Responsible Innovation and Technology Assessment
Project team:

Dewald, Ulrich (Project leader); Karsten Bolz, Stefan Böschen, Torsten Fleischer, Armin Grunwald, Julia Hahn, Reinhard Heil, Jutta Jahnel, Maria João Maia, Stefanie Seitz

Start date:


End date:


Research area:

Innovation processes and impacts of technologies and Knowledge society and knowledge policy

Project description

In recent years, the issue of responsibility in science and innovation processes has gained more and more attention within the scientific and political debate on ethical questions around new and emerging technologies. This has been discussed from different perspectives, from a theoretical viewpoint in science and technology studies or from a policy perspective in the governance of science. TA researchers engage in this debate, especially focusing on the concept of "Responsible Research and Innovation" (RRI). RRI proposes a range of normative criteria to steer innovation processes and develop socially robust products and technologies. Although there is no consensus even on its basic aspects, RRI has already had vast impact regarding its TA-specific, political, and social impact: it serves as a keyword in research programs (Horizon 2020), it has been used to name a new scientific journal (Journal of Responsible Innovation), and has been the principal topic of numerous conferences and workshops. Also a range of projects with the aim of finding ways to implement RRI are already underway.

This is the starting point for the RITA project: We intend to investigate the different understandings, descriptions, and perspectives of responsibility in innovation processes in the current academic and political discourse. What are the conceptual foundations and promises? Where and how do concepts like RRI extend and broaden well-known practices of TA? A specific project on RRI is an active step to contribute to a wider discussion on these issues, which are underrepresented so far. RITA is taking a twofold perspective: First, it brings together discussions which are currently rather fragmented and arranged around different technological fields or methods ("platform to reflect on different activities concerning Responsible Innovation"). Second, the analytical content and thus the scientific scope of the concept are investigated and compared with other established variants of TA ("additional value compared to existing TA practices").

Using matching formats, it is not only aimed to stimulate the discussion among single project teams and research areas in-house, but also to engage with research teams and institutes beyond ITAS.

Aim: The closer examination within the RITA projects aims to capture the emergence, conditions, motivations, and application of this approach and to reflect on the idea of responsibility in research and innovation processes. Furthermore we critically investigate the preconditions while assessing RRI and its relationship to established practices of TA. Moreover, RITA wants to consider the application of Responsible Innovation, e.g. within a company’s business environment. These combined activities serve to add empirical and analytical contributions to the RRI-related aims of the program-oriented research of Helmholtz.

The following topics are of specific interest:

  • Responsible Innovation within different spatial innovation systems
  • Responsible Innovation within a business environment
  • conditions to realize Responsible Innovation in research organizations and in the science system
  • role of participation within innovation processes
  • relation to existing concepts of TA and innovation studies (constructive TA, engineering ethics) and different impact dimensions of Responsible Innovation (as a scientific-political program or a scientific-intellectual movement?)

Realization: The project is designed as a platform project. It is intended to establish linkages to third-party funded projects in the context of RRI. Currently two PhD projects are part of the project.



Dipl.-Geogr. Dr. Ulrich Dewald
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)
P.O. Box 3640
76021 Karlsruhe