Innovators are increasingly called upon to help resolve societal challenges such as pandemics, climate change, and social injustice. The complexity, uncertainty, and contestation associated with such wicked problems require them to leverage approaches that help navigate normative and epistemic considerations for decision-making. A large number of scholars and practitioners believe that the procedural approach of Responsible Innovation could offer this. Responsible Innovation aims to align innovations with societal values and worldviews through forms of anticipation, inclusion, reflexivity, and responsiveness. Early anticipatory and reflexive deliberations subsequently provide an understanding of what decisions and outcomes are deemed ethically acceptable in light of uncertainty. This dissertation explores the usefulness of some approaches applied by Responsible Innovation in tackling wicked problems. It suggests that Responsible Innovation paradoxically fosters collaborations while also revealing contestation, and that innovators will need to leverage boundary objects and combine complementary approaches to deal with the (multi-scalar) conflict that is attributed to societal challenges.
Research for this dissertation was funded by the European commission’s Horizon 2020, Science with and for Society programme, under the projects Co-Change [grant number 873112] and Pro-Ethics [grant number 872441]. The opinions expressed in this article reflect only the authors’ view and in no way reflect the European Commission’s opinions.