This Met4Tech Workshop held 29th June 2021 by webinar focused on the principles of Responsible Innovation (RI) and involved a ‘deep dive’ exploration of several key products containing technology metals, that provide helpful ‘learning lessons’ for more circular and sustainable approaches: (1) Nano-silver in consumer products; (2) Lithium Ion Batteries for mobility; (3) Platinum in catalytic convertors; and (4) Tantalum in consumer electronics.
In the first Break-out group, the participants (industry partners, researchers, policymakers) explored how the past events and turning points shown on the interesting ‘timeline’ diagrams prepared for these technology metals and products, have affected the future development and markets for these products. In the second Break-out group, the participants discussed the RI definition (see below) and several examples, and requirements for developing a set of RI guidelines for the Met4Tech project.
Responsible Innovation (RI) is defined by Von Schomberg (2013) as a transparent and interactive process by which societal actors and innovators actively engage with each other to ensure the (ethical) acceptability, sustainability and societal desirability of the innovation process and its marketable products.
Within the context of Met4Tech, this RI activity covers:
- engagement with stakeholders and their values during the development of new technologies/business models and the circular economy roadmap for technology metals;
- uncovering potential unintended consequences of innovations and avoiding them;
- handling any contestation of technologies and business practices (i.e. responsible sourcing) and ensuring a move towards more ethical and sustainable (circular) practices.
In the first plenary session, the group shared what they had learned about responsible innovation. Some key insights are that systems need to be agile, and we should think carefully about possible unintended consequences. Diversity of supply is an important part of responsible sourcing. Recycling is not always virtuous. The same lessons need to apply to recycling as to initial mining and processing. We should look for solutions that are voluntary, as these are likely to be a more agile, faster, and easier to implement route, however regulations are also essential in controlling behaviours. It is important to watch out for new materials emerging, as this is a likely driver for supply chain problems. We should also watch the new applications outside of our core interests (motors batteries etc.) as these new technologies could be helpful or could create potential new problems in future.
In the second plenary session, the groups reflected on the definition of Responsible Innovation (see above) and the AREA framework (Anticipate / Reflect / Engage / Act) by the EPSRC, and discussed how to conduct the Met4Tech project activities in a responsible way.
The main outcome from this workshop is new insight into the draft guidelines for responsible innovation that could be applied towards: (i) the National Virtual Data Observatory (NVO); (ii) working together with project partners on the new Case Studies; and (iii) the development of the new Technology Metals Circular Economy Roadmap.
The key points discussed at this RI Workshop will be described in a new paper by the Met4Tech researchers (Prof. Frank Boons and Dr Gavin Harper). The draft RI Guidelines will be outlined for Met4Tech and revisited each year throughout the four years of the project (2021 to 2024). The Met4Tech researchers would like to thank all the project partners and invited guests who joined us for this very important initial workshop on Responsible Innovation, and we look forward to your continuing participation and contributions to the activities of the Met4Tech CE Centre.