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Culture and Innovation Dynamics: Explaining the uneven evolution of human knowledge


Prof Joanna Chataway, The Open University
Dr Eugenia Cacciatori, Universitá Bocconi
Rebecca Hanlin, The Open University
Prof Luigi Orsenigo, Universitá Bocconi
Prof Stefano Brusoni, Universitá Bocconi


Part of a collaborative research project funded under FP6, CID - Culture and Innovation Dynamics is a three-year basic research project funded by the European Commission (FP6), starting from January 2007. CID is part of New and Emerging Science and Technology (NEST), the activity in the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) whose aim is to support unconventional and visionary research with the potential to open new fields for European science and technology, as well as research on potential problems uncovered by science.

Aims and objectives

Innovation is the fundamental engine of growth, employment and better quality of life. Yet, whether we look at it from the point of view of income distribution, welfare effects, quality of life, scientific advances, or sheer profitability, we observe that such advantages are unevenly distributed. Why is that? How can we make sense of such sharp differences in our abilities to solve problems, to innovate, or to adopt new technologies?

This project posits that what problems are solved, how they are solved, and how and if their solutions are implemented and diffused, depends to a large extent on how the problems are initially framed. In turn, how problems are framed, and which problems are selected in the first place, depends on a number of basic cultural assumptions that often remain implicit and outright ignored in much of the literature on innovation and technological change. By cultural assumptions we mean the predominating values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours that characterize the functioning of individuals, groups or organizations. Such values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours determine what problems are selected for solution, how they are framed, and what happens to a solution when and if it is found.

On this basis, this project intends to analyze how existing cultural assumptions influence the organization, the processes and the outcomes of innovative and knowledge generating activities. We adopt a multi-method, multi-level, and multi-cultural research design.

Our strategy is multi-method as we combine qualitative and quantitative research strategies, appreciative theorizing, and formal modelling. Our strategy is multi-level as we look at how cultural diversity can foster -or inhibit- innovation and diffusion analyzing individual behaviour, private and public organizations, and society at large. Our approach is multi-cultural as it includes, conceptually and empirically, various cultural contexts, rather than focusing one specific culture. Modelling techniques from complexity sciences will be used to explore the interplay of the different levels and empirical settings.


Sabrina Miraglino, Project administrator,

Contact us

To find out more about our work, or to discuss a potential project, please contact:

International Development Research Office
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes
United Kingdom

T: +44 (0)1908 858502