It takes two to tango: toward a political concept of responsible innovation

Lucien von Schomberg*, Vincent Blok

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This paper proposes a political concept of Responsible Innovation (RI). As a first step, we diagnose the RI discourse with a conceptual ambiguity, struggling to accommodate both private and public interests. To address this ambiguity, we distinguish between weak RI, which seeks to govern a techno-economic concept of innovation; and strong RI, which seeks to conceive a political concept of innovation beyond techno-economic ideology and practice. Secondly, we consult The Human Condition, in which Hannah Arendt articulates a threefold distinction between the activities of labor, work, and action. Although Arendt does not explicitly address the topic of innovation, her equation of politics with the human capacity to “begin the unexpected” inspires a political concept of RI which fundamentally empowers the public sphere and drives radical novelty. Finally, we account for how this political concept of RI can be operationalized, advocating for its integration at both substantive and procedural level.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2264616
JournalJournal of Responsible Innovation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Hannah Arendt
  • Innovation governance
  • Philosophy of technology
  • Responsible innovation
  • Science and technology studies


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