Ethics and Responsible Innovation

Module description


Technology and innovation are shaping and changing society (or are promising to) in dramatic ways. In recent years, pressure has mounted for technology and innovation to be ethically responsible - shifting innovation from a focus on delivering economic value to addressing societal challenges such as those outlined in the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the UK’s Industrial Strategy. This module will explore what ‘responsible innovation’ might look like, through research-led case studies. Students will have the opportunity to investigate emerging and potentially disruptive innovations such as driverless cars, genome editing, mineral mining on Mars, genetically modified insects that eliminate malaria, robotics, and geo-engineering as a response to climate change. These and other cases of technological innovation will be explored through the literature on responsible innovation. Together, we will examine different aspects of responsible innovation such as the political economy of innovation, the political landscape, the role of business, innovation in the Global South, and the role of publics in shaping innovation. As a final year module, students have the chance to engage in a significant amount of critical reflection, and self-directed study, spending time researching and reading academic journal articles that support the ideas put forward in the lectures and workshops. The module will equip students with the knowledge and skills to engage with debates about future technologies that will shape their world.

Additional Information:


The module draws on cases of technological innovation with international reach. Students are encouraged to consider the international and cultural dimensions of responsibility and social and environmental global challenges. Lectures and assignments address innovation in international development, including cases from South America, North America and Africa.

External Engagement

Guest speakers will be invited to participate in guest lectures and workshops.


Students have the opportunity to develop a number of skills valued by employers, including their creativity, critical thinking, and research and presentation skills. They also develop their ability to reflect on and address societal and technological challenges.


We directly address sustainability and sustainable development through contemporary global challenges and examine business’s role in developing technological innovations to address these challenges.

Full module specification

Module title:Ethics and Responsible Innovation
Module code:BEM3055
Module level:3
Academic year:2020/1
Module lecturers:
  • Dr Katie Ledingham - Convenor
Module credit:15
ECTS value:






Duration of module: Duration (weeks) - term 1:


Module aims

This module will introduce students to the significant role technological innovation plays in society and its relevance for business organisations. The module provides third-year students with relevant knowledge and skills to critically engage with technological innovation responsibly across a range of sectors as they prepare for the next stage of their career. Designed to engage students in debates and discussions about emerging technologies and business’s role in society, this module challenges students to think independently and work as a team.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Understand the need for ethical questions about emerging technological innovation
  • 2. Identify and explain some of the most cutting-edge technological innovations and the ethical questions they raise
  • 3. Examine the different dimensions of responsible innovation, including the political, business, ethics and societal dimensions

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Recognise and explain the concept of responsible innovation and the challenges and opportunities it presents for business
  • 5. Ability to critically reflect on new technological innovation from an ethical perspective
  • 6. Select and justify a chosen course of action

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Skills to reflect, analyse, think critically, communicate and present an evidence-based and consistent argument (in both oral and written form)
  • 8. Work independently and in teams

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities11Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities10Workshops
Guided Independent and Group Study129Reading, research, essay writing, group work

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group Project Pitch Group presentation in workshops, 5-10mins1-8Verbal

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Individual Essay 752250 words1-8Written feedback
Group Project Presentation (groups of maximum 5)2515 minute oral presentation and slide deck1-8Oral feedback from the class and oral and written feedback from the workshop lead

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Group ProjectIndividual Project report 2000 words - 25%1-8August
EssayEssay - 75%1-8August

Re-assessment notes

If you are referred/deferred in the module, you will be required to resubmit the failed or missing piece of work.

Syllabus plan

This syllabus list is indicative.

  • What is technological innovation and why might it not be responsible?
  • Situating innovation in the political economy
  • Responsible innovation
  • Politics and innovation
  • Business and innovation
  • Development and innovation
  • Risk and innovation
  • Publics and innovation
  • Exploring technological innovation case studies: driverless cars, genome editing, mineral mining on Mars, genetically modified insects, AI, geo-engineering and others.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Burget, M., Bardone, E., & Pedaste, M. (2017). Definitions and conceptual dimensions of responsible research and innovation: a literature review. Science and engineering ethics, 23(1), 1-19.

Sarewitz, D. (2015), CRISPR: Science can't solve it, Nature, 522, 413-414

Voegtlin, C., & Scherer, A. G. (2017). Responsible innovation and the innovation of responsibility: Governing sustainable development in a globalized world. Journal of Business Ethics, 143(2), 227-243

Woodhouse, E., and D. Sarewitz. (2007) Science policies for reducing societal inequities, Science and Public Policy 34 (2): 139–150

Leach, M. and Scoones, I. 2007. The Slow Race: Making technology work for the poor, London, Demos,

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