Every country and every company in the world wants to be innovative. Innovation is encouraged, subsidized and praised. Innovation is also extensively studied. Research in innovation and economics, management, psychology and engineering is booming at nearly every university in the world. Thousands of scholars have turned into “innovation experts”. They study the legal, fiscal, cultural and socio-economic conditions which are conducive to innovation, they describe best practices and make recommendations on how to be innovative.
Innovation may bring a lot of good to society, but innovation is not a good in itself. History abounds with examples of innovations and new technologies that have had serious negative consequences or that just failed to address significant problems and make meaningful contributions to society. In order to avoid these types of innovation, and in order to promote beneficial innovations, systematic attention to public values and grand challenges should be more central to the study and practices of innovation in engineering and the applied sciences.
The Department of Values, Technology and Innovation at Delft University of Technology studies ways to align innovation, entrepreneurship, systems engineering and system design with the grand challenges in a responsible way. The department’s technological focal points are water management, climate change, sustainable energy systems, internet and social media, sensor networks, transport and logistics, nuclear power, and high tech systems. The department’s fundamental research regards the ways in which values — such as safety, security, sustainability, equity, social justice, privacy, and accountability — can be exemplified, accomodated and expressed in a responsible way in these key technologies.
The Department of Values, Technology and Innovation unites three capacity groups: (1) Ethics and Philosophy of Technology, (2) Risk, Safety and Security, and (3) Economics of Technology and Innovation. The mission of the department is to contribute to internationally leading research and education in the field of responsible innovation. The three capacity groups have as a common denominator the focus on ‘values’, e.g. safety, security, efficiency, sustainability, equality, privacy and accountability. Through this mission and focus, the department occupies a unique international position.