Industry-wide standard supports companies to innovate responsibly

4 February 2021

Innogen Masters students trial the application of the British Standards Institution (BSI) Responsible Innovation Guide, PAS 440, in two early-stage biotechnology companies.

The BSI Responsible Innovation Guide (PAS 440) provides a framework for companies to demonstrate how they are innovating responsibly, including the balance between potential benefits and harms of new technologies. It also includes guidance for stakeholder engagement to help ensure that differing interests and values are taken into account in the innovation process.

PAS 440 was trialled in two early-stage biotechnology companies: MiAlgae and Norfolk Plant Sciences, which are using biotechnology-based processes to develop products for future markets. The impact of PAS 440 on the companies and their innovation plans was assessed through interviews with company representatives and key stakeholders.

MiAlgae is producing an omega 3-rich algae-based oil from co-products of the whisky industry to supplement the current supply of omega-3 oils from wild-caught fish, potentially improving the environmental sustainability of the aquaculture industry and contributing to the circular bioeconomy.

MiAlgae and its stakeholders agreed that PAS 440 has the potential to improve brand value and stakeholder relationships, and could see how it could easily be incorporated into its standard operating procedures. They also commented on the need for wider recognition and adoption to fully realise its benefits.

Norfolk Plant Sciences (NPS) is commercialising a purple tomato juice containing enhanced levels of anthocyanins, which could reduce the incidence of cancer and improve cardiovascular function. Company representatives agreed that PAS 440 provides a bridge to better understand the balance between positive contributions and potential hazards from an innovation and could help companies be better prepared for the challenges of a rapidly changing innovation ecosystem.

These case studies, which were carried out as Masters dissertation projects, highlight some of the benefits of implementing PAS 440 and making it an integral part of future development processes. By reassuring stakeholders that all aspects of the innovation are being carefully considered, PAS 440 fosters wider recognition of the need to conduct innovation responsibly to successfully bring safe and beneficial products to market.

Since its launch in April 2020, PAS 440 has had an enthusiastic reception from companies across many innovative sectors of the economy. As of December 2020, the guide has been downloaded from the BSI website more two thousand, seven hundred times, more than the total for all the BSI standards supported by Innovate UK.

Innogen’s research had a major input to this standard and it looks as if we are pushing at an open door in getting it taken up by companies. The next stage will be to make it accreditable and perhaps even to contribute to an international standard on Responsible Innovation”, says Prof. Joyce Tait, co-Director of the Innogen Institute and technical author of the PAS 440.

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