Introduction to Responsible Innovation

TU Delft |2017-2018 Academic Year, 1st Quarter | J. B. (Janna) van Grunsven
Leiden University catalog number: 5000MRI08

Intro to RI

Course Description

Today technology has become a main determinant of the quality of life of individuals and the quality of society. New technologies contribute to human well-being, but they may also introduce considerable risks to humans, the environment and future generations. We therefore have every reason to ascertain that the new technologies we develop as a society respect the values we hold dear. Various governments, companies and research funding agencies have now recognized this need for responsible innovation. Responsible innovation can, as a concept, be understood in a more substantive and in a more procedural sense. As a procedural notion, responsible innovation refers to a process of innovation that meets certain norms, like transparency, public engagement, and accountability (to stakeholders and to society). As a substantive notion, responsible innovation refers to a process of innovation which results in certain products, i.e. innovative technologies, which reflect important moral values. This includes values like health, safety, human welfare, sustainability, justice, inclusiveness, democracy, privacy, trust, and autonomy.

In this introductory course we will learn about responsible innovation by studying these concepts and case studies in the context of academic research, business practices, and government policy. In addition to assigned readings and lectures, students will be expected to prepare a policy brief that assesses a case technology and provides recommendations for responsible innovation. Students will then prepare a presentation about their policy brief, which they will then present to the class.

Learning objectives

After this course, students should be able to:

  • Understand and be able to explain the various theories, frameworks, and dimensions of responsible innovation
  • Recognise instances of responsible and irresponsible innovation
  • Discuss and assess (the ethical and societal implications of) real-life cases by applying theories pertaining to responsible innovation
  • Give feedback and critically review work of peers
  • Apply tools and approaches to responsible innovation, like Value Sensitive Design, to their own innovation efforts.

Education method

  • Study lecture and readings on responsible innovation
  • Write critical reactions to the readings (max 700 words each)
  • Write a policy brief applying responsible innovation (max 2500 words) - Prepare and deliver a presentation to the class
  • Give feedback and review work of peers


  • 20% - One Critical Reflection
    400-600 words. Due date: To be submitted to me by email on the Friday before the class that corresponds to the MOOC discussed in your reflection.

  • 30% - One Policy Brief
    1000-1250 words. Due date: October 12th

  • 50% - Two Group Presentations (25% each).