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Responsible innovation and social innovation: toward an integrative research framework

Karsten Bolz (Schumpeter School of Business and Economics, University of Wuppertal, Wuppertal, Germany) (Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Karlsruhe, Germany)
Anne de Bruin (School of Economics and Finance, Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand) (New Zealand Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Research Centre, Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand)

International Journal of Social Economics

ISSN: 0306-8293

Article publication date: 11 February 2019

Issue publication date: 20 June 2019




Responsible innovation (RI) and social innovation (SI) are two fields of innovation study experiencing burgeoning policy, practice and research interest. Despite this rapid rise in popularity, the scholarly literature in these two related areas of innovation study remains quite separate, stymieing the growth of shared research insights. The purpose of this paper is to propose a pragmatic, process-based framework that lends itself to advancing systematic research in both fields while retaining their distinct identities.


This conceptual paper outlines an analogy-inspired framework that builds on the logical thinking put forward by Philosopher Willard Van Orman Quine in 1962. It focusses on key processes that cross-cut both fields.


Reflexivity, collaboration and design are identified as three broad core processes that span both the RI and SI fields and form the basis of an integrative framework that highlights the scope for cross-field research pollination.


The literature that draws these two fields together is virtually non-existent. The paper uses analogy to facilitate awareness of the parallels between these two areas of innovation study. The integrative framework put forward in the paper is of value for advancing cumulative research in innovation fields of critical importance to the society.



The authors thank Armin Grunwald for his insightful comments that helped improve this paper. This work was supported by the Karlsruhe House of Young Scientists (KHYS) under the “Research Travel Grant” program which enabled a research visit to the School of Economics and Finance and New Zealand Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Massey University.


Bolz, K. and de Bruin, A. (2019), "Responsible innovation and social innovation: toward an integrative research framework", International Journal of Social Economics, Vol. 46 No. 6, pp. 742-755.



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