What are the benefits of responsible innovation? (1/5)
This article is part of a series on Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI).
Not yet familiar with this concept? Check out our definition!
Implementing an RRI approach brings many benefits for the company, in terms of strategy, renewal of work methodologies, research and innovation processes, communication and attractiveness.
1. Adopting a strong and differentiating strategy
RRI enables companies to align their innovation strategy with the challenges of transition and to legitimize their existence within society.
How can they do this? By questioning and reorienting their core business, their know-how and their scientific and technical knowledge as needed to fully meet society’s needs.
❓ Concretely, what does this mean in terms of strategy for a company?
- It means understanding that responsible innovation is not different from technical or marketing innovation, it is the meaning we give to innovation!
- It is the will to put the heart of the company’s activity, its products, services and processes, at the service of human society and the planet
- It means questioning and challenging the performance indicators in place, based solely on profit and return on financial investment to also measure the company’s performance in terms of social and environmental impacts, but not in a CSR logic.
📣 RRI offers the opportunity to reinvent itself and become a leader by revolutionizing its market.
The company Nutriset has a clear and ambitious societal mission: to fight malnutrition and contribute to nutritional autonomy for all. It is at the origin of many innovative products including Plumpy’Nut, created in 1996 in partnership with a researcher from the Institute of Research for Development (IRD), it is the first ready-to-use therapeutic food (RTF).
This is not greenwashing, RRI is not :
- Integrating pictograms of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in its annual activity report and indulging in the exercise of linking its activity to as many SDGs as possible to (self-)convince itself of its positive impact on society and the environment without pushing the reflection more globally.
- Formulate a raison d’être or a social mission without changing the company’s strategy and the orientation of its innovation processes.
- Commit to and implement actions only to reduce the negative externalities of its activities (decarbonization, reduction of energy and water consumption, incremental eco-design, etc.).
As long as companies see the positive societal role they must play in society as an obligation rather than an opportunity to create new offerings and change the way they operate, they will be one step behind.
- The alignment of the company with the challenges and constraints of transition
- A profound transformation of mindset
2. Transform your practices and accelerate your innovation processes
How? By changing the innovation culture and opening up to multi-actor collaboration.
Faced with the digital revolution in the 2010s, companies had to undergo a profound transformation, both structurally and culturally, to remain competitive.
The business transformation currently underway, in response to societal expectations, similarly requires in-depth changes in practices within organizations.
RRI requires accelerating and expanding the open innovation practices already instituted within companies, in particular by creating new partnerships with stakeholders who are not usually in contact with R&D and R&I departments (researchers and companies outside the company’s usual sector of activity, NGOs and associations, social entrepreneurs, local authorities, etc.) and new work methodologies based on co-creation.
In addition, the teams can increase their skills on new subjects, identify growth drivers, discover new collaborative tools and work methods that allow for more agility.
The whole company is concerned and must make a profound change of mindset and adopt a different innovation culture, based on collaboration, openness and experimentation.
In particular, R&D departments need to change in depth, as they are usually left out of CSR, transition and open innovation approaches.
📣 Transforming your innovation practices means
- Exploring multiple answers to a complex and specific research and innovation problem for which there is, to date, no existing answer
- Benefit from complementary expertise and international fieldwork
- Identify real needs to reduce the economic risk and costs of innovation
- Stimulate creativity through new points of view and different approaches
- Accelerate the innovation process and experimentation
- Increase competence in new sectors, new technologies and new working methods
3. Reduce your investment risks
More generally, RRI can be a real tool for managing risk and reducing research and innovation costs.
Co-creating and co-building solutions hand in hand with customers, suppliers, territories or citizens, with social entrepreneurs, startups and other industries, means feeding and anticipating the interactions between all the actors who manufacture, buy, transport, use, recycle, and even bear the consequences of your products. To have a “coopetition” and collaboration approach is to integrate the different points of view that your activities impact or will impact directly or indirectly and to anticipate the pitfalls that your business prism and your cultural biases often prevent you from seeing.
Thus, not only can this approach to collaboration optimize innovation, accelerate processes, but it can also, as a result, reduce the costs and risks of innovations that might turn out to be useless, obsolete, poorly accepted or not meet their market.
📣 Anticipating the acceptability and the adequacy of innovations with the expectations of the different stakeholders impacted means reducing the risks at the time of the market launch
4. Communicating both externally and internally
A responsible innovation approach can generate indirect returns on investment in terms of communication:
- Externally: awareness (ROA, return on attention) and free communication (earned media)
- Internally: attractiveness (employer brand): companies have a crucial need to recruit talents and talents are more and more demanding on the meaning they want to give to their job
📣 Achieving consistency between communication and business transformation is a very powerful communication and attractiveness lever
🔥 In short
The objectives of RRI:
- Take strategic leadership and position as an industrial champion of tomorrow
- Identify new markets
- Transform its organization in depth
- Identify new partners
- Ensure the competitiveness and acceptability of innovations on the economic market by co-creating
- Stimulate innovation and creativity
- Anticipate the evolution of regulations and standards that are bound to change rapidly by integrating society’s stakeholders
- Communicate and legitimize its role in society, not by maintaining a good reputation through communication, but through the company’s own activities
- Remain attractive in terms of employer brand