Abstract: Innovations in Dutch Shipbuilding: A Systems of Innovation Approach

Mila Davids and Hans Schippers


Originating in a small country with a limited home market, Dutch firms have long been active on a global market. Before the twentieth century their dependence on foreign technical knowledge was striking. The adaptation and subsequent distribution of foreign innovations were common in most industrial sectors. During the nineteenth century, the Netherlands was a country that lacked a strong knowledge infrastructure. This situation changed during the twentieth century. Due to this developing knowledge infrastructure, also referred to as a national innovation system, the innovativeness of Dutch industrial enterprises gradually grew. In this paper, we focus on the shipbuilding sector, which operated in an international market, and address the question of how its innovative capacity evolved over time. Was the Dutch industry able to compete with foreign companies or did they remain "followers" with respect to innovation, and how important was the national innovation system in this respect? To answer these questions we examine the market situation and product as well as process innovations in the first half of the twentieth century. We focus on the whole constellation of actors in Dutch shipbuilding, their relations, interactions, and interdependence, as well as on the institutional setting, to gain a better understanding of the innovation processes in Dutch shipbuilding in the first half of the twentieth century.

BEH On-Line Paper