Social labs as transformative approach to implement Responsible Research and Innovation

Social labs as transformative approach to implement Responsible Research and Innovation

Author: Ilse Marschalek – Centre for Social Innovation, Germany, Austria


  • Joshua Cohen – University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Eileen Focke-Bakker – Delft University of Technology, Netherlands
  • Elisabeth Unterfrauner – Centre for Social Innovation, Austria

The notion of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) reflects the changing relationship between science and society and calls for transformations of science-society relations. An open and transparent process is regarded as crucial for good scientific practices. While the inclusion of societal actors in research processes is becoming more important, the ways diverse stakeholders are included are still in development. Innovative and appropriate, which allow for real engagement and co-production of knowledge still formats need to be explored.

The New HoRRIzon project, funded by the EC, aims to further integrate RRI in research and innovation systems. It addresses RRI practices by focusing on the 19 funding programme lines of the EC. By bringing together stakeholders from the different fields of the programme lines from all over Europe, the project engages them in participative processes, in so-called Social Labs. A Social Lab is not a method, but rather a paradigm which is social, experimental and systemic that opens up space for reflection and discussion, developing new ideas and further implementing and assessing them. A Lab thereby consists of a series of workshops, enabling a highly participative process. The diverse stakeholders involved act on an equal and collaborate basis throughout the process of the Social Lab. Each of the Labs allows for an approach of doing, rather than just planning by using experiments and prototypes and involving most diverse groups of people and finally implementing the selected activities in pilot actions.

In the context of the New HoRRIzon project, we have adapted the Social Lab approach and used it as a tool to implement public engagement within an RRI process. Each Social Lab has co-designed several pilot-actions that are – with the support of the group – implemented and managed by the participants themselves.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Roundtable discussion
Theme: Transformation