Technology is not neutral, nor does it simply appear ready for use. People design, shape and use technology for specific purposes, and societies determine the institutions and policies that underpin it. Social needs and behaviors are often more important than purely market or political imperatives in determining technological development and impacts. The World Economic Forum calls for a social revolution alongside the 4th Industrial Revolution if the disruptive technologies now being developed are to lead to enhanced welfare and prosperity for all, rather than divided and dysfunctional societies and economies. Technological development must become more inclusive by involving as many people as possible and sustain social and environmental, as well as economic, relationships. We need to incorporate social innovation as an intrinsic part of technological innovation.

The Social Innovation session will present, exemplify, and interrogate this important addition to the RTO mission. It commences with a thought-provoking and inspiring expert talk, then gets personal so that all participants can articulate their experiences and ask questions. This is followed by a World Café roundtable offering each participant, in the company of a subject expert, a choice of three out of five table discussions covering both the basics of social innovation as well as specific contextual examples:

Table 1: New perspectives on innovation and social innovation: The role of social innovation in the portfolio of research, technology and innovation tools, the value it can add and how it is applied.

Table 2: The impact of social innovation: How the application of social innovation tools and methods can result in better outcomes and impacts for RTOs in tackling European and global challenges and in enhancing societal prosperity and welfare.

Table 3: Bottom-up: digital social innovation: How DSI develops and deploys open-source, user-friendly ICT tools for societal good, typically at community level, such as on a neighborhood time-share platform, by using hand-held sensors to measure air pollution at street level, or providing sharing and collaboration platforms that bring people together and improve their lives.

Table 4: Middle-around: the maker movement: Making is a creative, cultural and educational movement, using new technologies like 3D-printers, so that every organization and every individual can fully customize the products and services they consume, as well as  develop new skills and relationships through sharing designs, facilities and know-how that both meet their own needs whilst connecting with industry.

Table 5: Top-down: industrial development: Both large- and small-scale technological innovation can benefit greatly from deploying social innovation processes that are open, co-creative and inclusive, for example by crowdsourcing not only so-called ‘expert’ inputs but also the knowledge of customers, employees and ordinary people, as well as ensuring that value is widely shared amongst all stakeholders.

Finally, a concluding session will draw the threads together to get everybody thinking social innovation.


Prof. Dr. Martina Schraudner, Head of Fraunhofer Center for Responsible Research and Innovation, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Germany


Jeremy Millard, Senior Policy Adviser, Danish Technological Institute, Denmark

Antonella  Passani, Partner, T6 Ecosystems, Italy

Gesine Last, Research associate, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Germany

Prof. Dr. Jürgen Howaldt, Director Social Research Centre, TU Dortmund

Elisabeth Unterfrauner, Senior Researcher and Project Manager at the Centre for Social Innovation, Vienna, Austria