Innovation in Chains and Networks
Vincent Blok (Wageningen Universiteit) and
Victor Scholten (Delft
University of Technology)
Responsible Innovation is an emerging concept to balance economic,
socio-cultural and environmental aspects in innovation processes (European
Commission 2011). Because technological innovations can contribute
significantly to the solution of societal challenges like climate change or
the aging of people, but can also have negative societal consequences, it is
assumed that social and ethical aspects should be considered during the
innovation process. By involving multiple stakeholders in innovation
processes at an early stage, “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” (von Schomberg 2013: 63). The consideration of ethical
and social aspects during innovation processes will lead not only to
technological innovations which are socially acceptable but also socially
desirable (cf. Matter 2011). The concept of responsible innovation expresses
the ambition to address societal needs, next to the more traditional
objectives of innovation like economic growth, profit maximization,
competitive advantage, etc.
Because the concept of responsible innovation is relatively new and still
evolving in different directions (cf. Owen et al. 2013; van den Hoven et al.
2013), there are several under-researched area’s in general, and with regard
to chains and networks in particular. In the context of the WICaNeM
conference on chain and network management, the following research areas are
of special interest:
1. Until now, most
research is done from a policy or socio-ethical perspective and focusing on
academic R&D environments, while most innovations take place in commercial
or industrial settings (cf. Flipse 2012). It is precisely corporate
innovation, which is underrepresented in current research on responsible
innovation (cf. Blok 2013).
2. Nowadays, it is widely
acknowledged that only a few firms have all resources and networks available
to innovate in isolation. Most firms innovate in networks and/or together
with their supply chain partners. This raises the question how collaborating
firms share the responsibility for the innovation they work on. It is
precisely innovation in chains and networks, which is underrepresented in
current research on responsible innovation.
3. Although all
industries and sectors can be involved in responsible innovation, sector
specific differences are not taken into account in current research and some
sectors are underrepresented. It is precisely the agri-food sector, which is
underrepresented in current research on responsible innovation.
Nanotechnology and ICT for instance are fields of research which are often
mentioned in the responsible innovation literature, but in biotechnology,
medical technology and food technology we observe similar issues concerning
health and/or privacy. Insights from several industries and sectors can help
to develop a better conceptualization of responsible innovation and to
distinguish sector-specific characteristics of its application.
4. Through the
concept of responsible innovation, the focus of innovation processes shifts
towards societal challenges. These are converted into business opportunities
to create new concepts, business models and ways of operating, as well as
more efficient approaches to resource exploitation and energy consumption.
These opportunities require a different approach to problem solving which
diverts significantly from the way we think about solutions, technologies
and applications today. The question is to what extent SMEs and start-ups
can benefit from these opportunities for responsible innovation, assuming
that they are not constrained by a dominant logic, existing heuristics and
current practices to problem solving.
Responsible innovation presupposes that business decisions with regard
innovation activities are at least partly ethically motivated (Waldman and
Galvin, 2008) with strong concerns for others over the own interests of the
company (Jones, et al. 2007). However, the responsibility of a business
decision exists only if there is “a clear and directly foreseeable return on
investment” (Waldman and Siegel, 2008: 119). Consequently, the question is
raised how companies, especially SMEs, make decisions and organize their
innovation process to the extent it is considered more responsible?
Given the importance of the
emerging field of responsible innovation, this call for papers aims to
deepen management scholars’ and practitioners’ understanding of how firms
can effectively be involved in responsible innovation processes in order to
add social and economic value. Therefore, we encourage submission of papers
that tackle a broad range of questions, including (but not limited to) the
aforementioned areas of special interest. Both empirical and conceptual
papers are welcome and we strongly encourage multi-disciplinary submissions
in areas such as management, finance, accounting, supply chain, public
administration and policy, marketing, organizational behaviour,
communication, education, development, sociology and psychology among
others. In addition to the track session, submissions will be subject to a
double-blind review process and will be considered for publication in a
special issue of the Journal of Chain and Network Sciences on Responsible
Innovation in Chains and Networks.
To ensure consideration for
this WICaNeM track session, please submit your abstract through the WICaNeM
submission system by November 1, 2013: WICaNeM2014@wur.nl. For further
questions and remarks, please feel free to contact the track coordinators
Vincent Blok (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Victor
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Hoven et al. (ed) Responsible Innovation, Volume 2. Dordrecht: Springer.
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Flipse, S.M. (2012) Enhancing
Socially Responsible Innovation in Industry. Dissertation Delft University.
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(2007) Ethical theory and stakeholder-related decisions: The role of
stakeholder culture. Academy of Management Review, Vol 32, 137-155.
Matter (2011) A Report on
responsible Research & Innovation Brussels.
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M. (ed.)(2013), Responsible Innovation. Managing the Responsible Emergence
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(2012) Different Approaches Toward Doing the Right Thing: Mapping the
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