Responsible innovation as an interdisciplinary research field

Since its inception in 2020, the interdisciplinary PhD programme RESINNREG has now admitted 24 candidates. RESINNREG plays a key role for Western Norway University in its engagement as a committed, active and reflexive regional development actor. The very first disputation is expected early in 2022.

The PhD programme, Responsible Innovation and Regional Development - RESINNREG https://www.hvl.no/en/studies-at-hvl/phd-opportunities/responsible-innovation-and-regional-development/ has now run for almost four semesters. The program highlights innovation in an applied and reflexive perspective and educates candidates who have both a theoretical and a practical approach to innovation.

In total 24 candidates have now been admitted to the programme. Their PhD projects contribute to developing innovation as an interdisciplinary research field. The candidates have backgrounds in various academic disciplines at three faculties, namely: The Faculty of Engineering and Natural Sciences (FIN), the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences (FHS), and the Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences (FØS).

As of this month, all of the PhD courses have been completed for the first time, and additionally, a brand-new website has been launched.  

A new milestone has been reached
RESINNREG educates candidates with knowledge of responsible innovation: innovation processes that balance economic, social and environmental goals and, consequently, face dilemmas and trade-offs in different regional contexts.  A new milestone has been reached, as all courses in the programme, which started in 2020, have now been completed.

The course component of the PhD programme consists of seven courses, including three mandatory courses – one on the philosophy of science, research ethics and responsible innovation, an introductory course to innovation theory, and an applied course geared to the practice of responsible innovation. There are also three elective courses that reflect the three pillars of the programme: Responsible Industry Innovation, Green Innovation and Public Sector Innovation, in addition to a course on qualitative research methods.

The core teaching faculty of the courses consists of Professors and Associate Professors at HVL in addition to some external guest Professors. In this start-up phase, all but one of the courses have been delivered as internal courses, exclusively for the participants in the programme. For the coming year, the plan is to open up more of the courses to external participants.

Establishing administrative routines
The development of a new PhD programme also includes the establishment and institutionalisation of good administrative routines. For example, the mandatory start-up meetings held for each of the new candidates and their supervisor team, where information of both an academic and administrative nature is reviewed in the group.

Further support is given at the compulsory mid-term seminar, which, in addition to the supervisor team and the programme administration, also includes an external reader of the preliminary work. The programme has performed four mid-term seminars thus far.

Extensive collaboration with other research networks
RESINNREG collaborates with research networks, research schools and other PhD programmes, and naturally has the ambition to further develop such external collaborations. Examples of Nordic networks are: the Nordic Research School in Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NORSI http://norsi.no/), the Norwegian Research Network for Innovation in the Public Sector (INNOFF https://www.innoff.no/), and the Responsible Research and Innovation Network in Norway (AFINO https://www.ntnu.edu/afino).

The purpose of this network participation is to exchange information on PhD courses, seminars, conferences, and special issues in journals, and possibly to establish cross-institutional collaboration on courses. For example, HVL participates in a 3-year project on “The role of Universities in building Innovation and Entrepreneurship Ecosystems” (UNEEC), which aims to create a collaborative network of researchers across four countries, to exchange and enhance competencies for the studies of the role of universities in building innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems. The collaboration includes a PhD summer school provided by each of the four institutions, and the network also contributes with travel expenses for the course participants from the different institutions.

New websites in place
RESINNREG has also recently launched a new website (https://www.hvl.no/en/studies-at-hvl/phd-opportunities/responsible-innovation-and-regional-development/). Here you can find information about the various courses, a presentation of the PhD candidates, publications by the PhD candidates, information about how to apply for admission, and information about the structure of the Responsible Innovation and Regional Development academic programme.

Inviting for academic seminars
Two seminar series have been established under the auspices of the PhD programme: one which is open to anyone that is interested, and one that is reserved for the PhD candidates in the programme. The internal PhD seminar is run by the PhD candidates themselves and has both an academic and social function: the seminar is very important for the cohesion of the group and for an exchange of ideas between the PhD candidates and across their different academic affiliations.

The external seminar, «RESINNREG webinar series» (https://www.hvl.no/en/studies-at-hvl/phd-opportunities/responsible-innovation-and-regional-development/webinar-series/), is a digital forum coordinated by HVL professor Lars Coenen. Invited speakers represent cutting-edge scholarship from different disciplines, covering different geographical background. Moreover, the webinar series aims to present research from established as well as early-career researchers. The program for the webinar series can be found on RESINNREG's website, and the link to the zoom participation is posted in the program.

Contribute actively to innovation and regional development
A key component of RESINNREG concerns its’ applied dimension and active contribution to innovation and regional development.

The mandatory course, «Doing responsible innovation» https://www.hvl.no/en/studies-at-hvl/study-programmes/courses/38/phdinn904), is particularly aimed at this purpose. The course has a theoretical component, but also includes project work in collaboration with non-academic actors.

For example, in the course, the PhD candidates are divided into various groups that deal with innovation projects in connection with local companies, actors in the public sector and other stakeholders. Thus, PhD candidates get an active role to engage in ongoing innovation projects taking place locally.

The first disputation is expected at the beginning of the new year
Last, but not least, the first RESINNREG dissertation has recently been submitted and provided that it is approved by the evaluation committee, in the new year, we will hold the very first dissertation from this programme.

Christmas greetings and good warm wishes for a Happy New Year from RESINNREG.

Jill M. Loga, head of the programme
Arnt Fløysand, chair of the programme committee
Eva Leirbæk, administrative coordinator