Project to discover processes since antiquity
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OIKOS studies historic concept anchoring processes

Classicists at the National Research School in Classical Studies (OIKOS), Nijmegen, the Netherlands, are to study how innovative concepts are anchored into existing contexts through antiquity.

As part of the ‘Anchoring Innovation’ research programme, the OIKOS researchers received a grant of €18.8m from the Gravitation programme of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).

This funding will allow researchers from the five universities taking part to spend ten years researching the subject. By studying Greek and Roman antiquity, they aim to generate insight into innovation processes over the ages.

André Lardinois, Professor of Greek language and literature at Radboud University, said: “We want to know how innovation works and how it gets accepted. Not only in where technology is concerned, but also with regard to institutions, art and literature. In all these domains we observe combinations of what is new with what is familiar; sometimes things really are new or familiar, sometimes people just imagine they are. To be successful, an innovation must connect with something familiar, that is to say: it must be anchored.”

“Take the advent of electric cars, for example,” says Ineke Sluiter, professor of Greek Language and Literature at Leiden University and lead applicant for the funding. “In the first electric cars, the socket for plugging in would be in the same place as where one would insert the nozzle when taking gas in one’s old car; and the design of the charging points is that of a petrol pump. So the innovation is anchored in the familiar world around us. You see the same processes in ancient Greece when they introduced coins and democracy,” Sluiter added.

Lardinois concluded: “‘Anchoring Innovation’ is designed to show that if a society wants to innovate successfully, it must not only take the sciences seriously, but must use the talent available to it, including the humanities. We want to contribute to processes of innovation, including those of today.”