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News > Club News > Researcher Profile: Knut Blind

Researcher Profile: Knut Blind

Knut Blind is one of the most prolific researchers on standards and standardization...
20 Nov 2020
Club News
Professor Doctor Knut Blind
Professor Doctor Knut Blind

Knut Blind holds the Chair of Innovation Economics at the Technische Universitaet Berlin and is Head of Innovation and Regulation at the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research. In his 25 year career, Professor Doctor Blind has published research on standards in relation to innovation, economic impacts, public policy and trade and on standardization processes in general. Doctor Blind also initiated a seminal methodology, in partnership with the Deutsche Institute für Normung (DIN), for investigating drivers for and impacts of standardization at the national level.

A few of Professor Doctor Blind’s publications that we enjoyed:

The Impact of Standards and Standardization on Innovation

Drivers for Companies’ Entry Into Standard-Setting Organizations

The impact of patents and standards on macroeconomic growth: a panel approach covering four countries and 12 sectors

 

What do you think will be the most important topics in standards/standardization research in 10 years?

I think there are a few key areas in which we’ll start to see more research. There’s a growing interest in standards for sustainability, clearly – the SDGs, climate change, energy, water. I expect we’ll see more and more work on these topics in relation to standards. In particular the link between international standards and the SDGs.

The role of standards in global trade and global value chains has already been important in the past, but will also be important in the future. We’re seeing some big topics in globalization, like changing distribution of power and market shares, as well as changing roles of significant actors like the US, China and the EU. Standards certainly have a role to play in these developments – in particular, for example, in achieving the goals of the European Green Deal. I expect we’ll see more research that looks at the role of standards in these global themes.

I also anticipate a renewed interest in the relationship between standards and economic growth, particularly on the trade dimension because standards help to increase companies' and countries' performance in global markets.

How has the audience for your research changed in the last 20 years?

I would say it has significantly broadened, and in different directions – people with an interest in standards are coming now from a broad variety of academic backgrounds.

We’re seeing more and more work on standards and trade, standards and innovation (particularly looking at technology transfer), standards and sustainability – the sustainability audience, in particular, is a group I would say is growing quite a lot.

I think the public policy audience is also growing – we’re seeing increased interest in standards as an instrument to push economic impact and innovation, but very recently to secure technological sovereignty. In addition, policymakers, including the European Commission in the context of the green deal, are seeing the link to the SDGs as a common frame and this helps to generate attention on standards as a tool towards achieving the SDGs.

Conversely, the number of people actually doing the research, but also offering teaching on standards and standardization is not growing so much. So we need to bring more people into this work.

The interest is there, though - to give you an indication, I worked with DIN on a lecture course this year – the course had students from engineering, information systems, physics, chemistry, sociology, construction, biotech… a very broad range of backgrounds.

One of the challenges, with research in this field, is that standards are so cross-cutting, so it’s difficult to know how to position it as a specialized field of research. But I think we have some new opportunities to promote it.

What have been some contributions from the junior researchers you work with that have excited you in recent years?

We had an interesting on PhD on linking standards to public procurement, in particular ‘green’ public procurement. This is becoming more of a mainstream idea, but it was a new topic when we were first working on it.

We had a project within a PhD on standards and ‘test beds’, which was a new idea – we developed a conceptual model for the relevance of standards in ‘test beds’ during the development of new technologies.

I also worked with another PhD student who was looking at the drivers for and the impacts of ISO/IEC 27001 on information security at the firm level. We used some new methods, including a combination of web mining and qualitative surveys, which gave a good overall picture of on the adoption and diffusion of this international management system standard and its impacts.

Another recent focus has been gender and standardization – specifically, the representation and contributions of women in standards development. We find that the women who are involved in standardization are more highly educated than the men – a greater proportion of female participants have PhD-level degrees, compared to male participants. However, women remain underrepresented in standards development. We’re now looking at their social networks in terms of standardization communities, to see how well-connected they are.

I’m also looking forward to seeing more new work looking at SDGs from the perspective of standardization.

What do you think is the most important thing for the public to understand about international standards?

That standards can contribute to achieving the SDGs. People are interested in climate change, energy, sustainability, food, health… all of these topics are part of the ‘common frame’ of the SDGs. And standards have a link to all of these things.

Also, the role of standards in opening global value chains and in technological sovereignty – particularly questions around intellectual property and access to key technology. I think the current pandemic crisis has drawn attention to standards as part of the global response to major international challenges and I hope we can build on this experience to tackle challenges in the future.

 

We are grateful to Professor Doctor Blind for sharing his insights with us. What did you find most interesting about his perspectives? 

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