Richard Owen

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University of Exeter Business School
Owen, Richard

Professor Richard Owen holds the Chair in Responsible Innovation at the University of Exeter Business School. He researches how innovation and science might be governed towards societally desirable and acceptable ends, associated challenges and opportunities and how responsibilities are perceived and distributed. 

His research is strongly interdisciplinary, with a continuous emphasis on practice – he has worked closely with the UK Research Councils to develop a framework for responsible innovation and is investigating its application in diverse areas, from geoengineering and nanotechnologies  to finance and synthetic biology.

His research group is studying the historical framing of responsibility, the governance of financial innovation,  horizon scanning, innovation of sustainable business models and eco-innovation at the ‘Bottom of the Pyramid’ – how some of the World’s poorest people are innovating to rise to the challenges of resource scarcity and sustainability. Richard is a strategic advisor to EPSRC and co-ordinates the RCUK Environmental Nanoscience Initiative.

Thu July 11 | 2:00 - 4:00 | Parallel Session

Public dialogues in synthetic biology and other areas of emerging science and technology have emphasised the need for researchers and those who fund them to think through and broadly deliberate on the ethical and wider implications of their research, in a way that influences how their area of science and technology develops. This has catalysed funding by the UK Research Councils that has led to the development a framework for responsible innovation which I will describe, as well as some experiments concerning how it might be implemented. I will argue the primary departure point for this framework is not ‘what are the risks?’ – important though this is – but ‘what sort of future do we want  synthetic biology to bring into the world?’ and ‘how should we collectively proceed under conditions of ignorance and uncertainty?’  Anchored in concepts of responsibility that emphasise care and responsiveness the framework will build on integrated dimensions of anticipation, deliberation and reflection as these relate to both the products and purposes of innovation that are hardly new: it is their coupling to responsiveness at personal, institutional and political levels that is important and is prompting new conversations on role and responsibility.