Providing insights into innovation and risk

21 November 2014

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Oxford Martin School expertise has contributed to the first annual report of the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Sir Mark Walport.

The report, Innovation: Managing Risk, Not Avoiding It, was published by the Government Office for Science on 19 November and is intended for policy-makers, legislators, business people and others interested in the link between risk and innovation.

In his introduction, Professor Walport writes: “The need to innovate is a fundamental requirement for social and economic progress. Innovative economies are more competitive, respond better to change, see higher returns on investment and create increased living standards. Innovative businesses are more productive and grow faster than businesses that fail to innovate. And it is not only businesses that must innovate: governments and social organisations need to innovate to adapt, respond to and shape the evolution of society. However, innovation is not an unalloyed good — almost all innovations can cause both benefit and harm. Because of this, discussion of innovation has become almost inseparable from discussion of risk.”

The Director of the Oxford Martin School, Professor Ian Goldin, contributed the chapter ‘Future Global Trends in Innovation’, examining how innovation and its consequences will continue to provide significant opportunities for progress, but are also likely to be associated with increasing systemic risk, complexity and uncertainty. Dr Toby Ord, James Martin Fellow at the Oxford Martin Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology, co-authored ‘Managing Existential Risk from Emerging Technologies’, which argues that despite the political and organisational challenges, policymakers need to take account of low-probability, high-impact risks that could threaten the premature extinction of humanity.