Theme : Responsible Innovation
Engineering sciences and technologies have multiplied the human capacity to understand and transform reality. We are able to realize plenty of projects long thought impossible: landing on Mars, transforming the human genome, changing the way the climate is working. But should we carry out these projects?
The question of the desirability of these projects is a crucial one for sciences and for society as a whole. Values such as prosperity, justice, respect for human beings and for the environment are at the core of these societal questions.
This value-based questioning applies to all engineering sciences and technologies. It raises the question of the objectives of technological innovations, but also its methods. The challenge bears upon the “why”, but also upon the “how”. For life sciences, data-based technologies or climate engineering, these questions are crucial.
In the meantime, virtually all human and social sciences address these values-based challenges and could contribute to identifying, framing and addressing these key societal issues. Economics, law, psychology, history, social sciences, political sciences, philosophy all contribute to the investigations on the conditions of just and responsible technological innovations.
CROSS 2022: Selected projects
Given technology’s role in current global issues, many want to make innovation responsible, for instance through anticipation and reflexivity. Yet the difficulties often seem insurmountable, a challenge that is much older than often recognized. To understand the political, economic and cultural arrangements that facilitate or thwart these attempts, the project proposes to investigate how past innovators displayed concern or indifference for the consequences of their activity − in other words, how the risks of innovation were dealt with in the past.
Focusing on the period between 1870 and 1918, the investigation brings into dialogue historical research and data science, by combining the digital analysis of a massive corpus of digitized American and Swiss patents and the historical investigation, through printed and archival sources, of debates over specific technologies.
The projects on an interdisciplinary approach to identify methods by which robotic technology can be deployed responsibly into agricultural systems. By creating metrics to assess the ethical and socio-economic indicators of robotic systems, the potential gains, and also the technology-readiness, we will develop a framework for identifying responsible and effective deployment of robotics in agricultural systems. To achieve this, we will first consider the barriers, success and also ethical issues in a number of case-studies of existing deployments of robotics in agriculture.
To practically demonstrate or instantiate the framework, we will focus on how robotics can be applied to be used in an ‘urban farming’ context. Specifically, how robotics can be used in local community spaces to assist in the growing, cultivation and harvesting of produce for the surrounding area. By physically deploying robots in an urban-farming setting up, we will be able to practical verify and explore the trade offs, and responsible innovation issues relating to their use for different applications within an urban-farming setup.
Until today, the food system remains widely neglected despite its massive impacts on climate change, resource use, and health. To develop sustainable business models for the whole food value chain, we aim to assess and implement the true cost of food, from farm to fork. This project aims at addressing this situation and shift consumer preferences and agricultural production towards products and practices with lower social and environmental impacts.
We propose to develop and implement a true cost of food model, from farm to fork, by providing two preliminary key components combined into a systemic solution. First, a definition of the true cost framework for Switzerland, identifying the stakeholders’ network, the main business models, regulations, external drivers (e.g., climate change), consumers’ habits, agriculture practices and the associated social and environmental externalities. Second, a true cost of food model, measuring and valuing the externalities throughout the value chain for a basket of representative products.