How to ensure that societal benefits of neurotechnology are maximised and risks minimised? In December 2019, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) adopted the Recommendation on Responsible Innovation in Neurotechnology that provides some guidance in this respect. This is the first international standard in this domain and it aims to guide governments and innovators to anticipate and address the ethical, legal and social challenges in neurotechnology.

The Recommendation calls OECD member states and non-members as well as other actors to promote and implement the following nine principles of responsible innovation in neurotechnology:

  1. Promote responsible innovation in neurotechnology to promote health challenges;
  2. Prioritise assessing safety in the development and use of neurotechnology;
  3. Promote the inclusivity of neurotechnology for health;
  4. Foster scientific collaboration in neurotechnology innovation across countries, sectors, and disciplines;
  5. Enable societal deliberation on neurotechnology;
  6. Enable the capacity of oversight and advisory bodies to address novel issues in neurotechnology;
  7. Safeguard personal brain data and other information gained through neurotechnology;
  8. Promote cultures of stewardship and trust in neurotechnology across the public and private sector; and
  9. Anticipate and monitor the potential unintended use and/or misuse of neurotechnology.

These principles seek to cover all elements of innovation process from research and technology transfer to commercialisation and regulation. The Recommendation highlights the importance of

  1. High-level values such as stewardship, trust safety, and privacy in this technological context;
  2. Building the capacity of key institutions like foresight, oversight and advice bodies; and
  3. Processes of societal deliberation, inclusive innovation, and collaboration.

The Recommendation was developed through a 5-year process that included an international consultation and engagement with policymakers, key stakeholders and civil society. This included events such as the Workshop on Minding Neurotechnology: Delivering responsible innovation for health and well-being that took place in September 2018 in Shanghai and brought together diverse stakeholders including representatives from the main brain initiatives. These events resulted in a number of publications, for example, OECD working paper on Responsible innovation in neurotechnology enterprises.

To support the implementation of the Recommendation, the OECD envisages the development of practical tools and guidance including a collection of examples of best practices and lessons learned.

Members of the Human Brain Project (HBP) have participated in a number of events that contributed to the development of the Recommendation. Principles of the Recommendation closely aligns with the Responsible Research and Innovation approach that the HBP has been implementing in its diverse activities including work on public engagement, data governance and dual use where the HBP develops good practices that could be of interest for other brain projects, policy-makers and stakeholders.

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