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Precaution and Evidence - Legal Systems as Context Factors of Engineering Innovation and Entrepreneurship

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

New Tools for Teaching Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

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Paper Authors


Bernd Steffensen University of Applied Sciences Darmstadt Orcid 16x16

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Studied Administrative Sciences and Sociology at the Universities in Kiel, Bielefeld (Germany), and Lancaster (UK). Doctorate in Sociology from the University of Bielefeld. Worked from 1992-2000 with Academy for Technology Assessment in Baden-Wuerttemberg (Germany). Since 2000 professor for Technology Assessment and Social Science Innovation Management at University of Applied Sciences Darmstadt. From 2010 to 2013 Vice President for Research and Technology Transfer since 2012 Head of the Graduate School Darmstadt.

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Kathryn A. Neeley University of Virginia

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Kathryn Neeley is Associate Professor of Science, Technology, and Society in the Engineering & Society Department of the School of Engineering and Applied Science. She is a past chair of the Liberal Education/Engineering & Society Division of ASEE and is particularly interested in the role of liberal education in developing engineering leaders.

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Engineering innovation and technology entrepreneurship—whether by a single founder establishing a new venture or a multidisciplinary team within a large industrial firm—are embedded in cultural, legal, and physical contexts that constrain, facilitate, and otherwise influence the innovation process. Within any entrepreneurial context, assessing and managing risks are high priorities. When it comes to environmental hazards and other threats to health and human safety, we face the challenges of optimizing potential benefits while minimizing possible negative outcomes and making a profit. These requirements will lead to the necessity to consider different and often new sets of values while developing technical products. Furthermore, it will change the nature of the engineering profession and of engineering education, especially education for engineering innovation and entrepreneurship. The US and the EU/Germany reacted on two levels to the new priorities of social values: We will, first, compare American and European perspectives and regulatory frameworks which define a firm’s responsibility for long-range damages of the environment or the health of workers and consumers. In Europe the precautionary principle is a regulatory tool to enforce a firm’s liability: when certain facts indicate a threat or the possibility of harm, firms are obliged to test the products rigorously and to collect data that proof its harmlessness. In contrast the US system is based on a cost-benefit analysis. Second, changes in the engineering curricula are possible options to address the need to consider a broader set of social values. We describe and discuss the different approaches offered by the EC2000 accreditation criteria in the US and comparable standards in Germany.

Steffensen, B., & Neeley, K. A. (2017, June), Precaution and Evidence - Legal Systems as Context Factors of Engineering Innovation and Entrepreneurship Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28752

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