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Posted on March 7, 2022

Philosophy of Responsible Innovation course OZSW/4TU.Ethics

About the topic

This course discusses the main philosophical issues in relation to Responsible Innovation, an emerging concept in the EU context which highlights the relevance of social-ethical issues in research and innovation practices. This emerging concept calls for philosophical reflection on the nature, scope and applicability of responsibility and innovation in innovation practices in general, and the way social-ethical issues can be applied and addressed in specific fields like business, healthcare and energy in particular. Topics that will be covered include the nature of responsibility in responsible innovation, the role of societal values in innovation and value sensitive design, philosophical reflections on the role of knowledge and risk in innovation, constructive technology assessment and governance of responsible innovation, Responsible Innovation in the public sector (healthcare), responsible innovation in the private sector.

Students get to know some of the main positions in relation to philosophical issues in responsible innovation, the main arguments in the relevant debates and insight in the dilemma’s which appear in the practical application of responsible innovation in the public and private sector. Although the focus is on the philosophical and ethical issues raised by responsible innovation, we will also touch upon some more fundamental philosophical issues raised by responsible innovation. This includes issues like:

  • The nature of responsibility in light of the unpredictability of the future impact of innovations
  • The philosophical assumptions of the innovation paradigm
  • The way (responsible) innovations affect experience and praxis
  • Value incommensurability, value pluralism and the trade-offs between values in responsible innovation


Aim / objective

To become acquainted with the main philosophical issues in relation to Responsible Innovation.


Target group

PhD students (alfa, gamma, beta) who start their research in the field of Responsible Research and Innovation, and PhD students in philosophy who want to learn more about philosophical and ethical reflection in the field of science and technology development. Students from universities outside The Netherlands are encouraged to subscribe for the course as well.



Week 1 (Delft)

  • Day 1 (8 January 2020): Introduction to Responsible Research and Innovation (Swierstra & Boenink)
  • Day 2 (9 January 2020): Value Sensitive Design (vd Hoven & vd Poel)


  • Day 3 (10 January 2020): Conceptions of Responsibility in Relation to RRI I (Zwart) & Philosophy of Innovation (Blok)


Week 2 (Wageningen)

  • Day 4 (13 January 2020): AIRR Framework and RRI in smart farming (Macnaghten & vd Burg)
  • Day 5 (14 January 2020): Conceptions of Responsibility in Relation to RRI II (vd Poel) & RRI in industry (Blok)
  • Day 6 (15 January 2020): Postphenomenological analysis of RRI & Stakeholder Engagement (Verbeek & Cuppen)
  • Day 7 (17 January 2020): Final Presentatioins (Blok & vd Poel)



  • dr. Tsjalling Swierstra, Maastricht University (day 1)
  • Marianne Boenink, Twente University (day 1)
  • Vincent Blok, Wageningen University (day 3, 5 and 7)
  • dr. ir. Ibo van de Poel, Technical University Delft (day 2, 5 and 7)
  • Simone van der Burg, Wageningen University (day 4)
  • dr. Hub Zwart, Erasmus University Rotterdam (day 5)
  • dr. Jeroen van den Hoven, Technical University Delft (day 2)
  • dr. Phil Macnaghten, Wageningen University (day 4)
  • ir. Eefje Cuppen, Technical University Delft (day 6)
  • Peter-Paul Verbeek, Twente University (day 6)


Required preparations

The participants are expected to read all the assigned literature, to do assignments and to actively participate in the discussions. They also have to give a final presentation (more information about the assignment will be provided during the first lecture)


Certificate / credit points

Study load is the equivalent of 5 EC.



It is obligatory to attend all sessions of the course.


Organising University

Wageningen University – Vincent Blok ()

Delft University of Technology – Ibo van de Poel ()

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