2021. 01. 04.

Institutional Change for RRI

Responsible Innovation (RI) has become the subject matter of a wide array of research topics over the past ten years. In particular, the concept Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) has been a cross-cutting issue in the European Union Framework Program for Research and Innovation, Horizon 2020, the world’s largest research and innovation program (von Schomberg and Hankins, 2020). Furthermore, RRI has become an operational objective of Horizon Europe (2021-2027) and translate into mission-oriented research towards societal challenges (notably SDGs) co-created and co-designed by knowledge coalitions of stakeholders, including citizens. RRI can be defined as “a transparent, interactive process by which societal actors and innovators become mutually responsive to each other with a view to the (ethical) acceptability, sustainability and societal desirability of the innovation process and its marketable products” (von Schomberg, 2011, p. 9). This constitutes a new paradigm for innovation in which our social systems institutionalize collective co-responsibility as a driving force for socially desirable innovation by giving innovation a direction and, whenever possible, shaping its characteristics. To make this happen, necessary conditions for facilitating RRI need to be in place. Institutional change to enable such conditions, for example, organizing collective responsibility at the organizational innovation process by engaging societal actors to co-design, co-create with the focus on socially desirable output, is crucial. 

Although responsible innovation is a relatively new area for dedicated research (Stilgoe et al., 2013; Blok and Lemmens, 2015; Novitzky et al., 2020), it is a fast-growing area both in academia and in practical reality since RRI is considered an objective to be achieved in the next EU funding program for research and innovation, Horizon Europe. However, little attention has been paid to RRI in the organizational learning and learning organization literature. How learning organizations can be responsible innovators (Hansen et. al, 2019) is an under-explored topic which needs to be further developed. 

Organizational learning (Argote and Miron-Spektor, 2011; Crossan et. al, 1999; Fiol and Lyles, 1985; Huber, 1991; March, 1991) provides a rich basis for strategic decision-making processes leading to improvements in performance, innovation, and organizational survival ability (Nguyen and Huber, 2019). Defined as “the process of improving organizational actions through better knowledge and understanding or as the outcome of such processes” (Chadwin and Raver, 2015, p. 959), organizational learning is a great mechanism for institutional changes that can facilitate responsible research and innovation processes at the organizational level. 

This special issue aims to bridge the gap between two areas of research, RRI and the learning organization/organizational learning. It is important to understand the necessary institutional changes that will make RRI a reality and the possible role of organizational learning in this change process. To contribute to this discussion, we invite empirical and theoretical papers that explore the linkages between RRI and the learning organization/organizational learning. Although articles can focus on individual decision-makers or learners or groups of these entities in the institutional change process, they should explicitly connect to organizational learning and/or learning organizations.

We welcome submissions on a range of topics including, but not limited to, the following:

•   The institutional changes needed to make RRI a reality in organizations.

•   Institutional barriers for RRI (what types of changes are necessary to incentivize researchers/employees?).

•   How the learning organization can facilitate responsible innovation, and the potential obstacles to responsible innovation in a learning organization.

•   How the learning organization should be adapted to meet particular standards of responsible conduct, and the role of institutional policy in facilitating this adaptation process.

•   RRI for emerging digital technologies, e.g. additive manufacturing/3D printing, etc.



Please send your abstract (max 500 words) to the guest editors by January 31, 2021. Notification about further consideration of contributions will be given by March 15, 2021. The submission deadline for full papers is 30 July 2021. The call will be open from 31st March 2021. The Special Issue is scheduled to appear in The Learning Organization (Emerald) in 2022. All submitted papers should follow TLO's author guidelines, which can be found here. Submissions to be made through the ScholarOne manuscript submission portal: https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/tlo


Argote, L. and Miron-Spektor, E. (2011), "Organizational learning: From experience to knowledge". Organization Science, Vol. 22 No. 5, pp. 1123-1137.

Blok, V. and Lemmens, P. (2015) "The emerging concept of responsible innovation. Three reasons why it is questionable and calls for a radical transformation of the concept of innovation". Responsible innovation 2. Springer. pp. 19-35.

Chadwick, I.C. and Raver, J.L. (2015), "Motivating organizations to learn: Goal orientation and its influence on organizational learning". Journal of management, Vol. 41 No. 3, pp. 957-986.

Crossan, M.M., Lane, H.W. and White, R.E. (1999), "An organizational learning framework: From intuition to institution". Academy of management review, Vol. 24 No. 3, pp. 522-537. 

Fiol, C.M. and Lyles, M.A. (1985), "Organizational Learning". The Academy of Management Review, Vol. 10 No. 4, pp. 803-813. 

Hansen, J.Ø., Jensen, A. and Nguyen, N. (2020), "The responsible learning organization: can Senge (1990) teach organizations how to become responsible innovators?". Vol. 27, No. 1, pp. 65-74 

Huber, G.P. (1991), "Organizational learning: The contributing processes and the literatures". Organization science, Vol. 2 No. 1, pp. 88-115.

March, J.G. (1991), "Exploration and exploitation in organizational learning". Organization Science, Vol. 2 No. 1, pp. 71-87.

Nguyen, N. and Huber, G.P. (2019), "Editorial: Making a difference through organizational learning", The Learning Organization, Vol. 26 No. 1, pp. 7-11. https://doi.org/10.1108/TLO-01-2019-171

Novitzky, P., Bernstein, M.J., Blok, V., Braun, R., Chan, T.T., Lamers, W., Loeber, A., Meijer, I., Lindner, R. and Griessler, E. (2020), "Improve alignment of research policy and societal values". Science, Vol. 369, No. 6499, pp. 39-41.

Stilgoe, J., Owen, R. and Macnaghten, P. (2013), "Developing a framework for responsible innovation". Research policy, Vol. 42 No. 9, pp. 1568-1580.

von Schomberg, R. (2011) Towards responsible research and innovation in the information and communication technologies and security technologies fields. Brussels: European Commission, Directorate General for Research and Innovation. 

von Schomberg, R. and Hankins, J. (2019) International handbook on responsible innovation: A global resource. Edward Elgar Publishing.