Emerging technologies represented by nanotechnology, transgenic technology, stem cell research, biomedical technology, nuclear energy, robotics and military security technology are regarded as controversial examples of technological innovation, causing research and policy concerns regarding the social control of technology, ethical security and other aspects [1
]. The traditional paradigm of innovation is concerned with the advancement of technology and the enhancement of economic effects, while addressing the social crisis that may arise from innovation activities, and the problems of social ethics and social desirability arising from the innovation itself [2
]. As a new management paradigm, responsible innovation means the change in the existing innovation paradigm, and explores the future of innovation to make innovation meet social needs as well as moral and ethical constraints, which is an inevitable decision made by society to achieve sustainable development [3
]. However, whether to embrace responsible innovation is an important question for an enterprise that would need to gives up “high efficiency” and “low cost” procedures to then be able to carry out this type of innovation.
According to resource-based theory, the performance of corporate responsibility behavior depends on whether an enterprise has available abundant resources [4
]. At present, some scholars have discussed the relationship between innovative resources and responsible innovation. Zhang took the big data industry as the research object, constructed a theoretical framework based on inclusion, anticipation, responsiveness and reflexivity, and discussed the relationship between innovative resources and the development efficiency of technology (privacy security technology, data acquisition, data utilization and data regulation) [5
]. Antel took the field of fetal surgery as the research object and explored the relationship between innovative resources and the technical ethics of fetal surgery using case study methods [6
]. Lukovics compared the innovation environment of Hungary and the Netherlands using the social technology integration research method, and explored the impact of R & D costs and the number of R & D personnel on responsible innovation [7
]. However, the above research only uses qualitative research methods to explore the impact of innovative resources on responsible innovation; the research ignores the internal mechanism of the impact of innovative resources on responsible innovation. Therefore, this article attempts to verify the research results of previous scholars by using qualitative research methods, and then further explores the mechanism of innovative resources affecting responsible innovation. Relevant research have shown that the resources of enterprises determine the needs of enterprises, and the needs of enterprises lead to behavioral motivation [8
]. Some studies confirmed that there is a significant relationship between resources and behavioral motivation [9
]. Brekke and Girard also demonstrated the relationship between motivation and responsible behavior [12
]. Therefore, this article attempts to introduce motivation into the research model to explore what kind of motivation plays an intermediary role between innovative resources and responsible innovation. In addition, the regulation focus theory has important applications in the study of corporate behavior motivation [14
]. The regulatory focus theory divides the basic motivation of enterprises into two types: the promotion focus and the prevention focus. The promotion focus means that enterprises tend to pursue more efficient behavior patterns and pay attention to the growth of other enterprises, while the prevention focus means that enterprises are more willing to maintain the status quo and pay attention to the stability and safety of other enterprises [15
]. Companies that focus on growth and development will also take their social responsibilities into account to ensure their long-term development [16
]. Scholars verified the relationship between corporate growth and corporate social responsibility behavior using empirical methods [17
]. It can be concluded that the demand of enterprises caused by innovative resources will affect the behavioral motivation of enterprises and further promote the emergence of corporate responsibility behavior. According to the hierarchy of needs theory and the corporate behavior theory, we can know that behavior is driven by motivation, and motivation is stimulated by demand, which promotes enterprise behavior intended to meet demand [19
]. Many scholars have applied the demand-motivation-behavior framework to the category of business management. Liang followed the research path of enterprise demand-motivation-behavior, and discussed the requirements of innovative resources at different stages of enterprise development impact on corporate goals and behaviors. Finally, Liang found the consistency of enterprise needs and cooperative relationship behaviors [20
]. Huang studied the motivation of enterprises to join a brand alliance by examining the path of corporate demand-motivation-behavior [21
]. Therefore, based on the path of “demand-motivation-behavior”, this article takes innovative resources as the starting point, and explores the impact of corporate demand caused by different innovative resources on promotion focus and responsible innovation behavior. We inferred from this examination that the impact of innovative resources on responsible innovation is likely to be achieved by a promotion focus.
In addition, government is an important external stakeholder for an enterprise, whose regulatory approach will greatly affect the implementation of responsible innovation [22
].Faced with ethical safety issues in innovation activities, governments of various countries have promulgated a series of policies and measures to promote responsible innovation. These policy measures include the European Union’s “Horizon 2020” 8th R & D framework plan [23
], the American “National Nano Plan Environmental, Health and Safety Strategic Research Plan” [24
] and the Chinese “13th five-year plan for scientific and technological innovation” [25
]. It can see that the government governance method plays an important role in discussing the social issues of technological innovation. But at present, scholars have not reached a unified conclusion on the topic of the relationship between government governance and responsible innovation. Chen and Hofmann thought that public policies for innovation issued by the government would urge enterprises to consider moral and ethical issues during the process of innovation and create a positive external environment for enterprises to implement responsible innovation [26
]; Roeser, Xue and other scholars thought that the government’s technology governance policies distort the information symmetry among stakeholders and hinder the implementation of responsible innovation strategies [28
]. The inconsistency of previous research conclusions may be due to the fact that scholars regard enterprises and government as if they are two independent individuals, and ignore the interactions between government and enterprise during the process of policy formulation and implementation. Adaptive governance by contrast emphasizes that during the process of policy formulation and implementation, the government and enterprises maintain communication, share resources and learn from each other to ensure the sustainability and accuracy of the government’s policy [30
]. In the existing literature, scholars mostly applied adaptive governance to environmental governance [31
], shared economy supervision [32
] and local project management [33
]. Few scholars explored the regulatory role of adaptive governance in the process of responsible innovation activities. Therefore, this paper introduces the concept of adaptive governance to explore whether adaptive governance creates a favorable environment for responsible innovation and promotes the smooth development of responsible innovation.
This paper makes up for the shortcomings of previous studies and constructs a conceptual model of “innovative resources—promotion focus (adaptive governance)—responsible innovation” with promotion focus as the mediator variable and adaptive governance as the moderator variable. In addition, we analyze the internal mechanism of the impact of innovative resources on responsible innovation and the moderating effect of adaptive governance between innovative resources and responsible innovation, reveal the driving of the development of responsible innovation and provide a way to realize the sustainable development of technology and society.
3. Research Method and Data Survey
3.1. Source and Process of Questionnaire Survey
In this paper, the data are collected by means of questionnaires. The respondents are middle-level and above managers as well as technical R&D personnel, both of which have a better understanding of innovative resources, responsible innovation, regulatory focus of enterprise and adaptive governance of the region where the enterprise is located. There are two reasons for choosing middle-level and above managers and technical R & D personnel. First, the innovation activities of enterprises are mainly completed by technical R & D personnel, who have a certain understanding of the amount of innovative resources available and the establishment of management systems in technological innovation. Secondly, the middle-level and above managers of an enterprise often have a better understanding of the operation process of the enterprise; to ensure the legitimacy of the organization, they will continue to pay attention to the relevant policies on technological innovation. In addition, we mainly sent questionnaires to biomedicine, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, nuclear energy and other industries. We chose these rapidly innovating industries because emerging technologies have become the driving force of social development, while moral issues such as food safety, environmental pollution and social ethics gradually emerged as well. People are beginning to recognize the two sides of technological innovation.
This survey was conducted with two main preliminary steps. First of all, with the assistance of companies that cooperate with the research group and the university (mainly concentrated in Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning and other northern regions of China), the companies participating in the survey were determined. Second, we got in touch with the presidents of alumni associations in Beijing, Hebei, Henan, Shandong, Shanghai, Zhejiang, Chongqing and obtained their support. We selected the appropriate research company and then contacted the target company to obtain their support for the survey. The survey response method mainly involved on-the-spot responses. Before conducting the survey, we explained the relevant terms involved in the questionnaire, then the respondents began to fill out the questionnaire when they fully understood its relevant terms. For a small number of people who found on-the-spot surveys inconvenient, we sent the prepared questionnaire to the respondents by email, explained the terms appearing in the questionnaire through telephone communication and provided for the questionnaire to be submitted within two weeks (for those who did not submit on time, we urged them to submit twice, and for those who did not submit afterwards, we gave up).
This survey focuses on October 2018 to May 2019. After eight months, the data of middle-level and above managers and technical R & D personnel from 187 enterprises were finally collected. The industry includes pharmaceutical biology, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, nuclear energy and other industries. A total of 500 questionnaires were distributed in this survey. We removed two types of invalid samples: first, the questionnaire was not completed, which meant more than half of the items in a single variable were not answered; second, the questionnaire that was suspected to not be answered seriously, which mainly manifested in obviously regular answers. Finally, 361 valid questionnaires were collected from 187 companies, and the effective recovery rate was 72.2%. Among the 361 respondents, there are more males, accounting for 61.43% of the total; the education level of the respondents was mainly possessing a master’s degree, which accounted for 55.17% of the total respondents; the working tenure of the respondents was predominately 1–5 years, accounting for 61.54% of the total; the industries of the respondents were mainly concentrated in biomedicine, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, nuclear energy, accounting for 83.33% of the total. In addition, among the 187 enterprises, large enterprises accounted for 13.5%, while medium and small enterprises accounted for 86.5%.
3.2. Variable Measurement
The measurement of variables involved using a Likert 5-scale to compare the four aspects of enterprise innovative resources, promotion focus, responsible innovation and adaptive governance with the same industry, scoring from 1 to 5, where “1” means “very disagree”, “5” means “very agree”, and so on. The interviewees evaluated the current situation of their enterprises according to their subjective perceptions. The scale design is shown in Table 1
This paper focuses on the ethical and moral issues of technological innovation. It explores the relationship between innovative resources, promotion focus, responsible innovation and the moderating role of adaptive governance from the perspective of needs, motivation and behavior. This article uses a survey of 187 companies in Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning, Beijing and Shanghai to obtain 361 valid data. Then the data were analyzed by using the structural equation model, trust interval method and step by step regression method. The research results show that innovative resources have a significant positive impact on responsible innovation. Innovative resources (including financial capital, human capital and social capital) can improve enterprises’ risk prediction ability, introspection ability, responsiveness to the external environment and inclusiveness towards promoting the implementation of responsible innovation. In addition, a promotion focus plays a partially mediating role between innovative resources and responsible innovation. When innovative resources are gradually abundant, the needs of the company will gradually transform from the needs of survival to the needs of self-realization, and the company’s attention will expand towards sustainable development and self-realization. The company will then form a promotion focus. Promotion focus focuses on the growth and development of enterprises, and further promotes the implementation of responsible innovation, that is, promotion focus has a mediating role by encouraging innovative resources and responsible innovation. Finally, adaptive governance positively regulates the relationship between innovative resources and responsible innovation. Adaptive governance allows enterprises to participate in policy formulation, public-private resource sharing in the process of policy formulation and weak government intervention in enterprises during the implementation of policies, which increase the impact of innovative resources on responsible innovation. The theoretical contributions and implications for practice of this study, as well as the limitations of this research, are summarized below.
5.1. Theoretical Contributions
Responsible innovation is an important subject in the field of technological innovation. The focus of past research was to study the impact of existing enterprise innovative resources on responsible innovation through qualitative research [5
]. The results of some of past research were also confirmed by employing the quantitative methods used in this paper. However, some studies have ignored the inherent mechanism of innovative resources affecting responsible innovation. Therefore, we further explored the impact of three types of innovative resources, financial capital, human capital and relational capital on responsible innovation, then we revealed the mechanism by which different types of innovative resources affect responsible innovation. Finally, we enriched the quantitative research results of responsible innovation.
Moreover, the influence of the innovation resources on responsible innovation is further discussed. The current research focuses on the direct relationship between innovative resources and responsible innovation [7
]. Our study also confirms the direct impact of innovative resources and responsible innovation, and further explores the role of promotion focus as a mediator between innovative resources and responsible innovation. In addition, the mediation effect produced by the promotion focus is the theoretical extension and application of the “demand–motivation–behavior” theoretical framework in the field of management.
Finally, the positive regulation effect of adaptive governance between innovative resources and responsible innovation reflects the significance of government governance for responsible innovation. Previous research has focused on whether government regulation is a catalyst for responsible innovation in enterprises, but these studies have not reached a uniform conclusion [27
]. This article introduces adaptive governance into the research model and proves the positive role of adaptive governance in the implementation of responsible innovation in enterprises. It expands the theoretical framework of government regulation and provides new ideas for future research on government behavior.
5.2. Implications for Practice
As a concept of “sustainable development” in contemporary deepening and development, responsible innovation has important implications for China’s economic development, social progress and technological innovation. From a practical perspective, the theory and practice of “responsible innovation” could solve the problem of the disconnect between “responsibility” and “technical innovation” in some fields and departments in China. This could take full account of public value demands and address the public interests of all parties to the greatest extent. Such reflexivity could enable companies reflect on emerging or imminent value conflicts at any time and propose adjustments and solutions as quickly as possible. The inclusion of responsible innovation could involve building a platform that technical experts and the public could use to communicate with each other so that relevant engineering design information can be understood by the public, thereby reducing the possibility of value conflicts due to parties having incomplete information. A responsive company could observe the public’s specific attitudes to the implementation of technological innovation, appropriately adjust their pace of technological innovation and absorb the social factors surrounding technological innovation with an interactive, inclusive and open attitude, so as to truly provide a combined sense of “responsibility” and “innovation”.
The study explains the important role of innovative resources in implementing responsible innovation. First of all, companies should improve the repayment mechanism for corporate financing funds, make a comprehensive budget, predict and guard against all kinds of capital flow risks to ensure the stable cash flow of the enterprise; second, we should build a perfect incentive mechanism to prevent the loss of human capital from an enterprise by increasing the management’s shareholdings and base salary plus performance rates. At the same time, we should create an atmosphere of multi-disciplinary comprehensive research and encourage multi-disciplinary theoretical exchanges, cross disciplinary and interdisciplinary personnel exchanges and cooperation to attract multi-disciplinary talent; finally, by improving product quality, increasing charitable donations, ensuring the legitimacy of operation and employing other similar methods, companies should improve their reputation and corporate image, attract more stakeholders to establish contact with them, expand communication scope of their social network and enrich social capital.
Moreover, this study demonstrates the role of promotion focus in the implementation of responsible innovation. It shows that the promotion focus of an enterprise is also an important influencing factor that affects corporate responsible innovation. It creates an equal, transparent and innovative organizational atmosphere to provide resources and support collective learning, so as to enhance the self-efficacy of organizational innovation, guide enterprises to promote directional change and ensure the smooth implementation of responsible innovation. It also consciously expands the innovative resources available to companies such as financial capital, human capital and social capital, and enhances an enterprise’s operational risk capability, thereby encouraging enterprises towards a more practive focus.
In addition, the study proves the important role of adaptive governance in implementing responsible innovation. First, the government can introduce the idea of crowdsourced policy-making, involve the public in legislative decision-making, improve the innovation governance policy by integrating public knowledge or information and increase the agility and transparency of technology innovation governance. Second, the government can shares data with various stakeholders (especially enterprises), leading to these stakeholders establishing links between IT systems and guaranteeing the symmetry of information between the government and enterprises, meaning that government will be able to more easily understand the expertise and potential risks of a technology. This would make governance decisions more accurate and faster. Finally, the government should guide enterprises to conduct self-regulation. For example, in a certain industry, enterprises can set their own market entry conditions, technical standards, production safety regulations and social obligations to create a stable regulatory environment and help enterprises to internalize ethical behavior.
5.3. Limitations and Future Research
There are also some shortcomings in this study: on the one hand, the number of questionnaires collected in this paper is too small, and there was no research conducted on the relationship between innovative resources and responsible innovation according to the characteristics of different industries. Although the research results are universal, they do not have strong pertinence. Therefore, a large number of questionnaires can be conducted in the future, and the relevant theories of responsible innovation can be discussed according to the characteristics of different industries, so as to enhance the practical value of the theory of responsible innovation; on the other hand, this paper only examines the role of single intermediaries and regulation in the impact of innovative resources on responsible innovation, and the operation mechanism of this relationship is far more complex than that studied in this paper, as it can involve other factors such as corporate culture. There is also the question of whether there any behavior and other factors in the R & D process that will affect the action path of this relationship, which we did not examine. These problems need to be further explored and improved.