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With Regard to Innovation... Getting the Regulatory Environment Right

October 31 2011


Innogen seminar - all welcome, no need to register


Seminar Room 1.06, Old Surgeons' Hall, High School Yards, University of Edinburgh

Organised by: Innogen at The University of Edinburgh


In principle, there are a number of grounds on which we might judge that a particular regulatory environment for new technologies is not right. For example, we might judge that risk (to human health and safety or to the environment) is not properly regulated or that the material regulatory permissions or prohibitions are out of line with the requirements of, say, human rights or human dignity. We might also judge that a particular regulatory intervention is not fit for purpose because it is ineffective, or counter-productive, or lacking sustainability, or something of that kind.

However, if the charge is that the regulatory environment is not sufficiently supportive of innovation, how might it be answered? Which parts of the regulatory environment (for example, the principle of procrastination rather than precaution; the Sony principle in relation to "dual use" technologies; and, above all, the patent regime) can claim to be innovation-sensitive and supportive?

In this paper, the central question is whether we might do better in supporting (or, at least, not obstructing) beneficial innovation while also regulating responsibly for risk as well as for ethical concerns.


Roger Brownsword is a graduate of the London School of Economics. His first academic appointment, in 1968, was at the University of Sheffield with which university he retains a link as an Honorary Professor in Law. Since moving to King’s in 2003, Professor Brownsword has led the development of TELOS, an inter-disciplinary research centre focussing on law, ethics, and technology.

Professor Brownsword is well-known as an advocate of a liberal legal education and this is reflected in his work as general editor of the Understanding Law series of texts as well as in his own contributions to the series -he and John Adams co-author both Understanding Law and Understanding Contract Law.

In recent years, Professor Brownsword has acted as a specialist adviser to the House of Lords Select Committee on Stems Cells and the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee; he was a member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics from 2004-2010; he was a Leverhulme Research Fellow in 2003-2004; he has served as co-editor of the Articles section of the Modern Law Review and he is now a member of the Editorial Board; he was a member of the Law panel for the Research Assessment Exercise in 2008; he is the founding co-editor of a new journal; Law, Innovation and Technology, which launched in 2009; and he currently chairs the Ethics and Governance Council of UK Biobank.

This talk will be recorded and then made available to view on the Innogen website a few weeks after the event.,25040,en.t4.html