Responsible Innovation: Ethics, Safety and Technology

Responsible Innovation: Ethics, Safety and Technology

How to deal with risks and ethical questions raised by development of new technologies.

About this course

There is no doubt that technological innovation is one of the key elements driving human progress. However, new technologies also raise ethical questions, have serious implications for society and the environment and pose new risks, often unknown and unknowable before the new technologies reach maturity. They may even lead to radical disruptions. Just think about robots, self-driving vehicles, medical engineering and the Internet of Things.

They are strongly dependent on social acceptance and cannot escape public debates of regulation and ethics. If we want to innovate, we have to do that responsibly. We need to reflect on –and include- our societal values in this process. This course will give you a framework to do so.

  1. The first part of the course focuses on ethical questions/framework and concerns with respect to new technologies.
  2. The second part deals with (unknown) risks and safety of new technologies including a number of qualitative and quantitative risk assessment methods.
  3. The last part of the course is about the new, value driven, design process which take into account our societal concerns and conflicting values.

Case studies (ethical concerns, risks) for reflection and discussions during the course include – among others- nanotechnology, self-driving vehicles, robots, AI smart meters for electricity, autonomous weapons, nuclear energy and CO2capture and coolants. Affordable (frugal) innovations for low-income groups and emerging markets are also covered in the course. You can test and discuss your viewpoint.

The course is for all engineering students who are looking for a methodical approach to judge responsible innovations from a broader – societal- perspective.

What you'll learn

  • Understand the urgent need to include ethical questions with respect to (new) technology.
  • Know various ways/instruments to analyze risks of new technologies, both forward looking as backward looking (causes of accidents)
  • Understand various types of innovation (like radical, niche, incremental, frugal ) and the conditions for success
  • Know how to deal with unknown risks (deep uncertainty) when it comes to new technologies
  • Are able to critically reflect on new technologies from an ethical and risk perspective (case studies).
  • Understand the concept of responsible innovation and Value Sensitive Design (VSD) and the implications for the design process

                                                                Enroll now

Module 'Frugal Innovations as Responsible Innovations'

About this module and what you'll learn about frugal innovation

In this module we focused on a specific form of innovations, i.e. frugal innovations. We started with a case study on frugal weather stations. Second, we presented frugal innovations from the business perspective of the private firm and explained how profit related motives drive commercialization of frugal innovations. Third, we switched to the responsible elements of frugal innovations focus by paying attention to the question how labour standards are of importance in the design and production of frugal innovations. The final web lecture paid attention to several ways of how frugal innovations can contribute to local economic development taking into account the preferences of the local customers in developing countries.

1. Web lecture about frugal weather stations:


2. Web lecture about the business perspective on frugal innovation:


3. Web lecture about frugal innovations and social standards:


4. Web lecture on frugal innovation and economic development: