Posts Tagged ‘Validation Stage’

Responsible Innovation – Challenges for the New Product Development Process

July 8, 2013  |  Responsible Innovation, Social Innovation  |  Comments Off on Responsible Innovation – Challenges for the New Product Development Process

This paper was presented at the 2013 ICE Conference in Den Hague.  The theme of the whole conference was Responsible Innovation.  This paper was in response to that Call for Papers and builds on earlier work on social and green innovation.

Lettice F, Pawar K and Rogers H.  2013.  Responsible Innovation: What Challenges Does It Pose for the New Product Development Process?  19th International ICE & IEEE-ITMC International Technology Management Conference, The Hague, Netherlands, 24-26 June.

Downloadable pdf

As well as legislation to try to reduce carbon emissions (e.g. the 2008 United Kingdom (UK) Climate Change Act), there has been consumer concern and action, as can be seen by how the Fairtrade and organic markets have shifted from niche markets to become more mainstream.  Companies have also been publicly challenged over their use of sweatshops or child labour.  The Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) agenda has become quite well-established in many companies in response to these pressures and to pursue a tripartite of economic, environmental and social performance.

From these beginnings, a relatively new topic has emerged: Responsible Innovation – but what is it and how might it affect the new product development process within organisations?

One of the first researchers to use the term responsible innovation was Tomas Hellström in 2003 .  He argued that as well as producing benefits, technological innovation comes with risks.  Using the example of agro-food production, he showed the complex interplay between science, environment and society and showed the issues with competing stakeholder priorities, how in some cases the risks might outweigh the benefits and that some of the problems created might be largely irreversible.  He called for better ways to identify and consider risks and for “preventative foresight and governance of Responsible Innovation”.

Prof Richard Owen and his colleagues have also stated that government-led regulation is important, but not enough as it often lags innovative developments.  They also call for stronger risk management around the upstream development of new technologies and innovations to promote responsible and sustainable development in a proactive way.   They also show that the term Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) has even appeared within the EU policy discourse, with the focus being on science, with calls for a transformation “from science in society – to science for society, with society” and for policy to support “the best science for the world rather than the best science in the world”.

René  Von Schomberg’s website gives a definition for Responsible Research and Innovation .


balance factory world

In our paper, we take these broad definitions and apply them within the product development process within organisations, where we believe these responsible innovation principles and practices are as important as within the development of science and scientific practice.

We used Cooper’s stage gate process to consider mechanisms and activities that could be used at each stage to ensure a more responsible approach is taken.

Discovery Stage – identifying opportunities and generating new product ideas.  This stage is the best opportunity for organisations to consider how they can develop more responsible innovations.  A broad range of stakeholders can be engaged.  Traditional market research techniques can be used (e.g. surveys or focus groups), but organisations (such as Threadless and Apache/Linux) are increasingly experimenting with new technology-enabled methods such as “enterprise 2.0” or “crowdsourcing”.  Some large organisations are using formal strategies to engage externally, often referred to as open innovation.  A famous example is Proctor and Gamble’s Connect and Develop programme , where they increased the number of innovations sourced from outside their organisation to over 50%.  There are also websites such as Innocentive and NineSigma that aim to connect organisations with inventors and other problem solvers.  Social media tools are also being used to help to generate new product ideas, by monitoring customer needs, market trends, perceptions of brands, although many organisations still feel that they lack the internal expertise or best practices required to use these techniques.   Using both traditional and newer techniques, organisations can frame good problems around social responsibility and gauge the reactions of a wide range of stakeholders, before deciding which ideas to pursue.

Scoping Stage – assessing the technical merits of the product and its potential market.  As well as the technical and market assessments, this stage should include ethical, environmental and risk assessments of the product and its market.  There will be many uncertainties, but by paying attention to these aspects, Responsible Innovation will be easier to achieve.

Build the Business Case Stage – feasibility stage to ensure the product has a good product definition, a strong justification and a plan for delivery.  Here the focus is typically on the technical, market and financial feasibility of a product.  For Responsible Innovation, the ethical and environmental feasibility of the product and associated manufacturing, supplier and consumption processes should also be considered.  Different business models can be considered, such as product-service systems (Du Pont have shifted from selling floor coverings to providing total servicing to customers including installation, tailored maintenance, take back and recycling).   Collaborative consumption is another relatively new trend, where consumers form peer communities to share, barter, lend, trade, rent and swap products to enable more sustainable and responsible consumption patterns.

Development Stage – the actual design and development of the product.  Raw materials should be sourced appropriately.  They should be created in safe factories by workers who are well-treated ad paid suitable wages to work legal hours.  Recent cases with IKEA in Eastern Europe and Apple in China have shown that it is not always straightforward to achieve these standards throughout a large, complex, global supply chain.  Suppliers also need to respect the environment and use materials from sustainable sources and implementing effective pollution and emissions measures and controls.

Testing and Validation Stage – the entire project is examined, including the product itself, the manufacturing processes, customer acceptance and the economics of the project.  Care should be taken to include the holistic issues covered earlier in the NPD process.  The product needs to be reliable, maintainable and safe to ensure that customers will not be injured by defective products.  Products should also meet ethical and environmental standards.  Waste reduction, recycling and reuse options need to be monitored and improved and detailed life cycle analyses performed to ensure that the product meets standards for all lifecycle stages.

Launch Stage – full commercialisation of the product, the beginning of full production and commercial launch.  Customers want brands to do well while doing good.  In the fashion sector, Marks and Spencer , Uniqlo and H&M provide opportunities for customers to recycle and donate old clothes to charity, providing environmental sustainability and supporting people living in poverty.  Innocent drinks launched the Big Knit to support older people in the colder winter months and raised over £1million in 2012.  These examples promote responsible consumerism.


apple food label

Also companies should ensure that sufficient information is available to customers when their products are launched, so that customers can make informed decisions and purchases.  The take up of labelling has been mixed and the proliferation of labels can be confusing, but with time they should improve and help with the move towards more sustainable and responsible consumption of responsible innovations.

The biggest opportunities to influence responsible innovation lie in the earlier stages of the innovation cycle.  In the later stages, assessments (and subsequent adjustments, if needed) can be made to ensure that the highest standards are being met.

In summary, we call for extending Responsible Innovation thinking beyond science and very new technologies and towards all sectors that are innovating and developing new products and services.  This is an extension of the CSR agenda with the aim of more fully embracing the new product development (NPD) process.

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