__MAIN_TEXT__
feature-image

Page 1

Risk and Responsibility in Innovation Lecture by Michael Bruch November 27, 2012 Milan, UniversitĂ Bocconi

Speech by Jonathan Hankins


I would agree with previous comments that there is definitely a role to play for insurers in innovation. I would also argue that the lecture Dr Bruch has just delivered is not only about innovation, but also about responsibility and obligation. Innovation is a complex phenomenon combining science, technology, finance, management, enterprise and organisations to achieve a goal that is not only scientific but also entrepreneurial and political. The ultimate use of any results will be outside science, even though they greatly need the contribution of science, in what is by definition a continuous process. Taken literally, innovation is something that comes about when an advance in knowledge, which is a result of a discovery, is accompanied by and combined with technology, and the power to put that advancement into practice (capital). It is not simply discovery. It is something more than that. It is part of a new historical situation arising from a combination of knowledge, technology, know-how, and the risks/opportunities developed and implemented by business or other powers. That is, it is something that was not there before and which has come about through a “new� combination of knowledge and power, bringing change into the social world. This change is appropriated, negotiated, lived through, or fought, by people – whether as citizens or as consumers.

Innovation, however, is also creativity, which necessarily implies unforeseeable change. It implies increased risk/opportunity and social power. It leads to unpredictability in the socio-political field (new institutions, types of relationship, of production, of war, and new powers), in the technical and economic realms (new materials,


sources of energy, tools and categories of goods), and the culturalaesthetic field (new styles, fashions, tastes and habits). If we look at the interest that governments currently show in nanotechnology development this relationship to power becomes easier to see. As an agent of change, risk is intrinsic to all innovation, and I would argue that it should be carried out responsibly. The development of nanotechnology in some ways exemplifies the problem of responsibility in innovation perfectly. As we have seen in Dr Bruch’s lecture, developments in the medical field offer new treatments for cancer, in engineering we are seeing ever lighter and stronger construction materials, and these advances will continue to ever more change the way we live and our surroundings. But as stated, these developments are not without risk, and risk requires responsibility to be taken. It is the entire process of innovation that must be responsible through the actions of all involved in it, in all of their different roles. It would help to have a societal understanding and a political framework in place for collaborative deliberation and for a collective capacity to rethink the fundamentals of our own premises and assumptions as we go along, changing the world we live in.

I would argue that Dr Bruch’s presentation can be seen as a call for responsible innovation in its entirety. In some ways he is saying that a company can only insure you if you play your part, as the innovator you must be transparent and thorough. But the cover is also reliant upon other actors. The consumer must be educated and informed so that when they purchase something they do it knowingly. This requires reliable information on the part of the


media as well as an absence of political manoeuvring. The regulator figure is also necessary, as they must inform and orchestrate the communication that underlies their decision making and intervention. The fact that insurance cover is seen as necessary before investment means that companies that cannot find insurance cover have difficulty securing funding for their products. This puts the insurance companies in an interesting position, as they have a direct influence on the innovation process. In some ways they become the gatekeeper, allowing those that display best practices to pass, and those who may not demonstrate an appreciation of the consequences of their work may find finance difficult. If we look at the risk analysis in Dr Bruch’s lecture we find that it is necessarily very widely drawn, sometimes even vague as the spectrum of possible effects is large and the time scale immeasurable. This does not mean however that it is not important or should be overlooked however. If we have no loss history, as in the case of nanotechnology, how can we measure the risk involved? Can we gain foresight? Can we use the experience of the insurance industry to create an algorithm for future risk that is not based on case history. If so could we in fact do the same for responsibility? The examples of needs and obligations given in Dr Bruch’s lecture are not only applicable to nanotechnology however. The process required for the adequate testing of exposure levels, medical studies, political decisions, the drawing up of regulation and its implementation are present throughout society. We cannot believe that ad-hoc regulation is an answer, because by definition it can only be implemented late on in the innovation process, when the factors that may be foreseeable have been measured, standardized


and formalized, and we should remember that many other factors that are more difficult to see will also play their part. Regulation is necessary, but if we accept that it can only appear late in the innovation process it cannot be the basis for our goal. The innovation process itself must be imbued with responsibility, its design and implementation must try to take implications for the future of present actions into account. As Dr Bruch mentioned perceptual risk is also an issue that needs to be addressed. Here we move into the political arena, an arena that should certainly not be overlooked given the influence of national, international and global politics in nanotechnology. The management of the perception of risk is as real as the management of risk itself, as perception affects decision-making. I would also argue that the need to pass information through the supply chain must be addressed. Those disposing of these materials must be informed about how to do it correctly to minimize environmental pollution. If I could raise some questions to the audience I would like to think more about ‘stewardship’, the responsibility insurance companies hold in granting cover to operators in the nanotech industry and how a premium can be calculated in the face of such uncertainty and indeterminacy.

Profile for Fondazione Giannino Bassetti

Speech by Jonathan Hankins  

Speech at the conference "Risk and Responsibility in Innovation" Lecture by Michael Bruch November 27, 2012 Milan, Università Bocconi

Speech by Jonathan Hankins  

Speech at the conference "Risk and Responsibility in Innovation" Lecture by Michael Bruch November 27, 2012 Milan, Università Bocconi

Advertisement

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded