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Is science subjective? Should we automate CEOs? Who should be allowed to define our future?

These were some of the mind boggling, philosophical and sometimes down-right impossible questions I was not expecting to be asked when I signed up to take part in a pilot for the Responsible Innovation for Industry Professionals course run by UCL.

Responsible innovation is a way of organising research and innovation so it is as ethical and aligned with positive societal impact as it possibly can be [1]. I had anticipated before the course that I would be learning about how to ensure projects I was working on were sustainable, secure and inclusive; being taught about regulations and frameworks that we can use to guide our work in these areas. But instead we were given a range of real life case studies, from the development of nuclear weapons to self-driving cars, to learn the foundations of how to be a truly responsible innovator.

The course ran over a period of 4 weeks - with a self-paced online syllabus and weekly assessments, complemented by 2 live workshops. Although it was at times difficult to keep on top of the content I found the course incredibly engaging, encouraging us to come up with our own opinions to these impossible questions (no right or wrong answers here!) and asking us to apply new learnings to our existing industry contexts to help us see how this was all relevant to our current work.

It taught me that Responsible Innovation is everyone’s responsibility and that the right culture needs to be set up to support it. It taught me how important it is to reflect on the values that are driving the decision making behind an innovation and whether these values are aligned to the needs of society. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it taught me the tools I can use to start practising responsible innovation, anticipating the positive and negative consequences of my work in order to change the trajectory of it for the better.

The course was incredibly eye-opening; helping me learn, reflect and think in ways I hadn’t before. It was such a fantastic opportunity that I feel so grateful to have been able to be a part of - so a big thanks to OHT for giving me the opportunity to take part and for Stephen Hughes and UCL for running such a great course.

I would greatly encourage others with an interest in innovating responsibly and ethically to take the course. Do reach out to me (or Angela, Lizzie or Clare) if you’d like to hear more about it and attend our OHT event on Responsible Innovation (which is coming soon..!)

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