COLLABORATION

Responsible innovation initiative asks the hard questions about Australia’s tech future

SOURCE: Alex wong/Unsplash
CSIRO's Responsible Innovation Initiative will examine emerging technologies.

Innovation is happening at a faster rate than ever before. The things we take for granted today would have been viewed as science fiction just a few short years ago.

Technological progress is bringing great change, and while that has an overwhelmingly positive impact on our lives, it also comes with challenges of its own and ethical implications regarding the effects of these inventions on society.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia is more than aware of this responsibility that tech innovators hold and are taking steps to ensure there is clear moral guidance for the future of innovation in Australia.

Teaming up with the University of Queensland, the Australian National University and Charles Darwin University, CSIRO have created the Responsible Innovation Initiative. The project includes a five-year, AU$5.75 million investment to examine emerging technologies across a number of fields and determine their applications and potential challenges going forward.

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“We recognise that future science and technology provide significant opportunities to benefit our lives, but these are not without their own set of ethical, social and regulatory challenges,” CSIRO Responsible Innovation Initiative Research Director Dr Justine Lacey said in a statement.

“If left unresolved, these challenges can hinder the progress and innovation required for this science to deliver benefits to society and to future generations.”

“Responsible Innovation asks us about the kind of future we want to create and determines how we are going to achieve it, while ensuring we design and deliver socially-responsible science and technology for all Australians,” Lacey said.

The ethos behind the initiative aligns closely to CSIRO’s Future Science Platforms, which was created to drive innovation in science and technology, and aims to reinvent and create new industries for Australia.

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Postdoctoral Fellows from across the universities will be assigned to study technologies in one of five areas – synthetic biology, precision health, hydrogen, artificial intelligence, and Indigenous futures. There will also be resources made available to study new areas of innovation as they arise.

The University of Queensland’s Provost Professor Aidan Byrne said the collaboration will enable the development of new approaches that take all aspects of the innovation cycle into account.

“This collaboration allows us to examine and develop new policy and regulatory responses to new and emerging technological innovations,” Byrne said.

“Getting the right policy settings is important as this encourages, supports and shapes innovation to achieve economic, social and cultural objectives simultaneously.”