Expecting Innovation: experiences and expectations as foundation of research strategies in the German iron and steel industry during the 20th century

Prof. Dr. Michael Schneider, Düsseldorf (Principal Investigator)

Daniel Wylegala M. A., Düsseldorf


Today the innovative capability of an economy is the target of wide ranging expectations. Innovations resulting from research and development (R&D) can ensure the competitiveness of entire economic branches, as well as that of individual businesses. For this reason investment in R&D has been a component of commercial as well as state activities in various organisational forms since the end of the 19th  century. Since then a whole array of expectations are attached to this specific form of investment, in particular expectations that such investment in basic and applied research may also bring a return. Against this background the proposed project will clarify which expectations companies in the German iron and steel industry held both towards their own R&D as well as towards the collaborative industry research network, to which university research institutions as well belonged as others, in particular the Düsseldorf based Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, later the Max Planck Institute for Iron Research, which was founded in 1917/18 and still exists today. In this way attention should be paid to an industry which – unlike the chemical industry – has so far not stood at the centre of innovation research, even though it too expended considerable financial resources for operational and supra-operational research. The expectations connected to this, and the experiences on which those expectations were built, however, remain largely in the dark. This subject requires investigation, if the overall  development of the German iron and steel industry is to be fully understood. The timeframe under examination will encompass the 20th century, from the end of the First World War to the beginning of the 1980s, whereby the main focus of research will lie on the period after the Second World War.


Pahlow, Louis/Schneider, Michael C.: Global flows of knowledge. Expectations toward transnational regulatory aspects of intellectual property rights in the 20th century chemical industry, in: Management & Organizational History, 14 (4), 2019, pp. 350–365.