On the Paradoxical Nature of Innovation: Evidence from Social Networks in Fryslân

Research output: ThesisDissertation (TU Delft)

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With the ever-growing development of technology, being able to innovate is the ultimate goal to create an advantage for organizations, regions and countries. Innovation enables the prosperous growth of communities all over the world, but not all regions are able to keep up. This thesis focuses on regions that have not benefitted fully from this innovative development. Fryslân, a northern province of the Netherlands, is an example of such a region. This research aims to explore the social constructs that block progress and help regions to enhance their innovative output.

To provide a holistic understanding of regional innovation systems, this research determines two consecutive paradoxes. Paradox 1 relates to the interdependency of social and technical processes within innovation systems. A comprehensive approach to innovation must consider social processes as a part of innovation, which makes understanding social constructs crucial. Social relationships form a significant part of social constructs, which are the enablers of the knowledge exchange that will lead towards an innovation ecosystem. Paradox 2 focuses on the contradictory set of relationships between actors. Social relationships among a group of individuals are commonly identified as networks and therefore, social network analysis (SNA) is an appropriate tool to study the social constructs that are relevant for innovation systems.

The analysis showed that the networks in Fryslân are compact and not open enough for external knowledge. In addition, the actors that are involved are weakly connected to each other. Although the strong friendship bonds play a role in the hampering closed-like social structure of the province, the least problematic network in Fryslân is the friendship network and, therefore, it must be utilized for the purpose of innovation. Friendship does not have a direct link to innovation, but the power of existing networks and the local dynamics makes the friendship network the best path towards innovative progress.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Delft University of Technology
  • Brezet, J.C., Supervisor
  • van Engelen, J.M.L., Supervisor
  • Joore, Peter, Advisor, External person
Award date20 Jun 2018
Print ISBNs978-94-028-1091-2
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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