Health research is generally undertaken to resolve existing health problems or enhance existing solutions. Research ethics committees have been the main governance tool for research for more than half a century. Their role is to ensure that research is undertaken ethically. To close the increasing gap between science and society, other governance tools are required. The European Commission recommends and actively promotes the policy of responsible research and innovation (RRI). In addition to sound research ethics, a key feature of RRI is the involvement of different societal stakeholders throughout the research process.
But how accepted is the involvement of societal stakeholders in the research of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the health care sector? This question is examined based on 18 in-depth interviews with private health care industry representatives from across Europe in companies focusing on developing medical device technology. Findings suggest that SMEs are reluctant to undertake research involving patients, especially in the early stages of the research and innovation process. For some SMEs this is due to concerns about the dangers of raising expectations they cannot meet, while for others the main concerns are increasing costs and producing less competitive products. Implications of the research findings are discussed.
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