We are convinced that, in the future, only those technologies and products will be able to establish themselves on the markets that – in addition to their function – are ecologically and socially harmless.
From our point of view, it is insufficient for this goal to anchor the technology assessment institutionally and centrally. Instead, the technology assessment accompanying innovation must be part of each and every responsible scientist’s canon of methods.
Especially for innovations it seems reasonable for us to focus on the absolute impact (end-point) in the impact assessments of a product. Only this way absolute contributions for the unburdening of the ecosystems and social systems can be achieved while concurrently maintaining competitiveness.
Furthermore, we are asking ourselves which form of R&D projects would best correspond to the objective of sustainable development. We perceive participation, interdisciplinarity and transdicsiplinarity that we want to strengthen in our projects in the future.
The large joint project LeNa (German “Leitfaden Nachhaltigkeitsmanagement”) is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) and runs from October 2013 to September 2016. The project involves various Fraunhofer, Helmholtz and Leibniz institutes cooperating in order to prepare a comprehensive guideline on sustainability management for all institutions belonging to these organizations.
The LeNa project is divided into three sub-projects:
The first sub-project concerns the responsibility of managers and researchers towards society and the environment, while the second and the third relate to the improvement of internal processes in the institutions.
Within the LeNa-project Fraunhofer UMSICHT contributes to the development of a toolbox for responsible research. This toolbox is to be applied in the above-mentioned institutions by 2016 in digital or printed form. It will contain twelve fact sheets on the criteria of socially responsible research including e. g. transparency, orientation on social demands, transdisciplinarity and -with main authorship by UMSICHT - ethics. These fact sheets are intended to provide a generally intelligible practical help and an introduction to the topic, in particular, but not exclusively, for researchers without previous experience in sustainability issues.
Fraunhofer UMSICHT participates as a third party in the RRI Tools Project. RRI Tools is a major EU-project with the aim of developing a toolbox for socially responsible research. In contrast to LeNa the RRI Toolbox focuses on the research and innovation sector in all EU countries. The coordinator of the project (the national hub) in Germany is the Wissenschaftsladen Bonn, another national partner is the Federation of German Scientists. The third parties are practice partners of the RRI Tools in the scientific community.
*Examples of current measures