SESSION 3: RRI and sustainability transitions – connections, tensions and untapped potential?

Organisers: Stephanie Daimer, Ralf LindnerUlrike Wunderle, Agnes Zolyomi
Speakers: Fabio FeudoDouglas Robinson

In this session, we identified conceptual and practical connections between Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) and sustainability transitions. Our guiding question was what the research communities and the communities of practice representing and developing those themes can learn from each other.

The RRI community has developed and advanced approaches over the past years how to change research and innovation (R&I) processes in order to better align them with societal needs and aspirations, but has generated only few spill-over effects to classical domains of R&I. The diagnosis of the NewHoRRIzon project that has studied the mainstreaming of RRI in all parts of Horizon 2020 has found that this mainstreaming has not taken place. However, there is a lot of potential for transversality and integration of societal dimensions into classical disciplinary research and innovation projects.

Sustainability transitions (ST) research is a field of exponential growth in the past years, stemming from environmental studies in the natural, technical and social sciences, and having broadened over the past years to a multi-disciplinary community. While the community increasingly aspires to contribute with its research and innovation to environmental (and increasingly to societal) sustainability, its approaches to research and innovation often follow established avenues of academic search and knowledge generation processes.

In this session, we wanted to bring together RRI and ST researchers for an exchange how to make RRI practices fruitful and useful for ST research, how ST research has developed over the past years de-facto RRI approaches or opened up to societal input and participation and how these connections can be strengthened for example in research projects addressing European Green Deal topics or the five mission areas specified by Horizon Europe.


  • Welcome and Introduction from the session hosts
  • Douglas Robinson: Conceptual keynote on “Achieving Missions & delivering the Green Deal: Complementary insights, challenges and opportunities for RRI and Transition Studies”.
  • Practical experiences to link RRI and sustainability research from different angles of the NewHoRRIzon project and beyond.
  • Interactive Session with the aim to structure ideas and contributions and in order to explore potential follow-up activities to the session.
  • Wrap-up and farewell.

Envisaged outcome:

We aimed for a structured collection of ideas how to connect RRI and ST in order to stimulate learning in both communities and awareness. Depending on the ideas and preferences of participants to take a lead for further activities, this might lead for example to one or several blog articles to be published in blogs read by the RRI and ST communities, to a joint publication or to a joint project proposal under Horizon Europe.

Read the Executive Summary

Watch the recorded session