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Sustainable Innovation

Knowledge is crucial for companies to innovate.

Mila Davids, employee

By analyzing long term changes it becomes easier to understand the obstacles for change.

My name is Mila Davids. I’m a business historian / historian of technology. To me knowledge from the past is essential to understand the current society and way of living. The possibility to download music, for example, has a long history, which not only goes back to the lp, cassette- and cd-player, but also to the first computer. Moreover, by analyzing long term changes it becomes easier to understand the obstacles for change. You will see that a working technical device alone is not sufficient. It makes clear why electrical vehicles are not yet common. Studying the past is more than just fun, we also can learn from the past. Also companies and government bodies are willing to draw lessons from history. Therefore: history matters, also if you want to become, for instance, a consultant.

The central focus in my research is the development and spread of knowledge. It explains the raise of our global knowledge society. Knowledge is crucial for companies to innovate. A large number of my research projects focus on knowledge acquisition strategies in various companies.

I like to read, to dance, to draw, to hike, to travel and to visit art exhibitions, alone or with my husband and daughter. I also like to spend time and eat with my friends.

Projects

The importance of the current knowledge society
This research project investigates two important features of technological change; innovative companies and the development and circulation of knowledge. The 20th century is the century in which a lot of knowledge organizations come into being and prosper. Industrial laboratories, scientific institutes, but also exhibitions and branch organizations played a decisive role in firm innovation processes. Cooperation and networks are of great importance to transfer knowledge. Various sectors, among which consumer electronics, food, chemicals, but also textile and the graphic industry are investigated. Firms with large laboratory, next to shopkeepers and techno starters illustrate the diversity of knowledge essential for innovation. The unraveling of innovation processes sheds light on the 20th century knowledge society. 

The Netherlands as the cradle of thousands of professionals worldwide
Nowadays almost all master programmes are international in character. However, from the 1950s until the end of the 1990s the term ‘International Education’ was used for the international post-graduate and training programme for mid-career personnel from developing countries. It was rooted in the initiatives of the United Nations to offer technical assistance to developing countries. Examples are the International Training Center for Aerial Survey (ITC), the Institute of Social Studies (ISS), the International Institute for Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering (IHE), the Philips International Insitute (PII) and the International Agricultural Center (IAC). Thousands of students have attended these courses. Education is considered as one of the most important mechanisms to transfer knowledge and a crucial factor for development. The project is not only interesting in its own right. It also contributes to debates on the role of knowledge transfer and circulation in economic, technical and social transformation in less developed countries. 

Knowledge in a tub ….
Almost daily we’re confronted with advertisements from Unilever. Becel margarine, Andrelon shampoo or Omo detergents. Normally we perceive Unilever as a marketing driven company. The expansion of firms in the 20th century, however, is unthinkable without the development of industrial research laboratories. This not only counts for Unilever. Without knowledge on aromatics and nutritional value margarine would not have been so profitable. Without the research into unsaturated fatty acids, which started already in 1959, Becel would not have been such a success. This research makes us aware of the large body of knowledge embedded in each daily product. This body of knowledge, however, is not build within short notice. Moreover, this historical analysis contributes to answering the question on the role of Research and Development (R&D) within a multinational company. A question which in course of time pops up now and than and also is of prime importance today.

Small but innovative
In this research project we investigate how within Dutch small and medium sized enterprises (SME’s) innovations come into being. For a long time the dominant picture was that only large companies are innovative. Today more and more attention is paid to the innovative performance of smaller companies. Within the Dutch economy SME’s play an important role, which is one of the reasons why government stimulates the sector. The Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation and Syntens are interested in the results of our historical research. The ministry for policy reasons, while Syntens is interested in the effectiveness of steering instruments. Such analysis offers not only a historical overview, but also makes it possible to draw conclusion on which factors determine the innovative performance of SME’s in the long run.