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Wednesday 27 September 2023,

Responsible Innovation: Do we need it, and is it practicable?
Andrew D. Maynard, NSF International Chair of Environmental Health Sciences
University of Michigan

Tuesday, April 1, 2014
10-11 a.m.
Biodesign Auditorium (BDB 105) [map]

The concept of “responsible innovation” is enshrined in the European Commission’s vision for research and development, as documented in their Horizon 2020 strategy, and is gaining momentum worldwide as a potential new framing of technology innovation. It seeks to steer science and innovation in directions that are socially desirable while proactively avoiding emergent risks from new technologies. It is a direct response to growing concerns held by influential stakeholders that technology innovation, unfettered by social constraints, could lead to more harm than good.

But is this a realistic and practicable picture? Technology innovation has been closely coupled to societal progress for millennia, with no apparent need for a formalized inclusion of principles of responsibility and sustainability beyond good engineering practice. And even where emerging technologies lead to emergent risk, it is unclear how amenable the process of innovation is to governance and oversight principles. On the other hand, emerging technology trends such as nanoscale science and engineering, synthetic biology, geoengineering, 3-D printing and many others, are challenging society’s ability to govern the consequences of technology innovation, and to ensure a net gain to society in the long run. This seminar will examine the arguments for reframing emerging technologies in the context of societal responsibility, and will consider what practicable approaches to responsible innovation might look like.

Andrew Maynard is the NSF International Chair of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, and director of the University of Michigan Risk Science Center. His research primarily addresses the benefits, as well as the potential health, environmental and social impacts of technology innovation, using integrated approaches to explore effective solutions to emerging challenges. Maynard is particularly known for his work on nanotechnology, including the human health and environmental impacts of nanoscale materials, and has worked in the area as an academic, as a leader in the federal government’s National Nanotechnology Initiative, and as Chief Science Advisory to the Woodrow Wilson Center Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies. Maynard has previously testified before congressional committees, has served on National Academy panels and is a member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Emerging Technologies. He currently teaches graduate courses on risk assessment, science communication, environmental health policy, professional development and entrepreneurial ethics, and lectures widely on technology innovation and responsible development. Maynard has published on technology innovations in leading journals, including Nature and Nature Materials, and is also a well-known communicator of science to non-expert audiences. He is active in exploring ways of using emerging media to connect science and analysis with new audiences.

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