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Responsible Research and Innovation

In recent years, the Vall d'Hebron Research Institute (VHIR) has implemented RRI in various actions, and in the same way that RRI form part of the new framework programme for research and innovation of the European Commission 2021-2027, Horizon Europe, the new Vall d'Hebron Strategic Plan seeks to include this concept transversally in many of its strategic lines.

What is it?

Responsible Research & Innovation (RRI) is a perspective that involves a joint approach by all the actors involved in research and innovation. Its aim is to align processes and results to create transformational research which has a real impact on the people's health and the economic environment.

The different European research framework programmes increasingly include the six core principles of RRI: 

  • Citizen participation. It aims to combine the greatest diversity of potential actors in order to favour a more inclusive research and innovation, and to let society play a more relevant role in all phases of research and innovation.
  • Gender equality. Integrating the dimension of gender into the content of R&D&I while tackling the under-representation of women. This also involves promoting gender equality in institutions and research groups, as well as in decision-making processes.
  • Scientific education. Working so that the future heads of research as well as other social actors have the adequate tools and necessary knowledge to make the best decisions and be able to fully participate in R&D&I process, an essential aspect to permit a sustained future dialogue between both parties.
  • Open access. This establishes that RRI must be accessible and transparent, and promotes making the results of research financed using public funds freely available, whether these are the publications or the data deriving from them.
  • Ethics. Requires that research and innovation respect basic rights and the highest ethical standards to ensure that the results are acceptable and relevant for society.
  • Governance. This refers to the responsibility of the institutions when preventing harmful or unethical R&D&I developments, such as implementing an organisational structure that takes into account the RRI principles.

RRI at the Vall d'Hebron Research Institute

The implementation of RRI in the new strategic plan has been conceptualised in the form of an RRI Task force, in which each one of the six RRI principles will be represented by a specific working group under the leadership of two co-coordinators (a researcher and a member of research support personnel). They will work to ensure that our research, the transfer of knowledge and the entrepreneurial culture of our professionals within the framework of RRI is aimed at creating an impact and generating wealth in terms of quality of life, both socially and economically, in a manner that is tangible, evaluated, tested, and in line with the 2030 sustainable development goals (SDG 2030).

The general objectives of these working groups are the following:

  • Organising governance and the way of working with the VHIR by way of a flexible, agile and coordinated structure that follows the RRI principles at our institution.
  • Promoting a collaborative setting which constitutes the future way of working within the VHIR.
  • Sharing knowledge in order to attain greater success in obtaining funding.
  • Transcending the limits of Vall d’Hebron and making ourselves a local, regional, national, state, and international model.

What have we done?

At VHIR, we have implemented and continued to develop activities that promote the principles of the RRI culture both internally within our institution and in society.

Citizen participation

With regard to citizen participation, the VHIR ensures patients are central to the IMI2 projects of the Innovative Medicines Initiative - EU Patient-Centric Clinical Trial Platforms (EU-Pearl) and Health outcomes observatory (H20) - and we have had patient associations and other members of society form part of the process of drafting our strategic plans (both for 2016-2020 and also for 2021-2025).

Our entity has also collaborated in the drafting of SARIS monographs for the Catalan Agency for Health Quality and Evaluation (AQuAS):

  • SARIS 1: How to measure participation in health research by the actors of the system Review of the literature
  • SARIS 2: Are we ready for citizen participation in health research?

We have also participated in the Patient Focused Medicines Development (PFMD) Guide and in the Working Group on Participation in Research #SomRecerca of AQuAS, as well as organising and participating in HealthIO.

Gender equality

On the road toward gender equality, the VHIR has implemented an Equality Plan at the institution, specifically emphasising the following aspects: the inclusion of women in decision-making committees and in management positions the establishment of a work-life balance policy.

Furthermore, we have created the Women in Science programme and we participate in the Ellas Investigan project run by the Women for Africa Foundation, welcoming African women researchers at our research centre. 

Among other publications, the VHIR has also participated in preparing SARIS monographs in this area, such as Women’s Advancement and Leadership in the Biomedical Research Centres of Catalonia II: Bringing about change (SARIS 7 monograph by AQuAS).

Scientific education

We actively promote scientific education, with examples like:

  • Partnership with the Autonomous University of Barcelona.
  • The VHIR Master’s in Biomedical and Translational Research.
  • Participation in training programmes for university students and doctors, such as the PhD4MD programme to train doctors in advanced biomedical research.

The VHIR participates in the following scientific dissemination activities:

  • Barcelona Science Festival.
  • Explora.
  • The Youth Mobile Festival (YoMo).
  • Escolab (a programme giving ESO (secondary education), sixth form and vocational students access to research centres).
  • Regular visits by students, donors, and local people.
  • Open days.

Open access

An open access policy is being implemented (open data), with actions including:

  • The allocation of an open researcher and contributor ID (ORCID) to each researcher.
  • The increasingly active monitoring of FAIR data culture (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable) at VHIR.


Our institution has long been committed to fostering the principle of ethics. Some of the steps taken in this regard are: 

We also have two operational ethics committees:

  • The Ethics Committee for Animal Experimentation (CEEA).
  • The Ethics Committee for Clinical Research (CEIm).

Furthermore, we have obtained the following certifications:

  • ISO 9001 (for the central VHIR facilities).
  • Best Clinical Practices (BCP).

In this area, we have promoted the exploratory study of the impact of research at the Vall d’Hebron University Hospital (AQuAS SARIS 5 monograph).


VHIR believes in participative governance, made possible thanks to the Internal Scientific Committee and the External Scientific Committee. In the latter, we also benefit from the perspective of patients, through the inclusion of a member of the European Patients Forum.

Furthermore, since 2015, we have a Business Council, where different actors from society participate and assess us on our activity. 

Lastly, since 2009, and together with the Vall d’Hebron University Hospital and the Vall d'Hebron Institute of Oncology, we have been awarded the status of Health Research Institute by the Carlos III Health Institute.