As part of our profiles of TIM people, let us introduce Holmer Kok of the Stockholm School of Economics which is in, wait for it, Stockholm! Holmer, so…

What are your research interests right now?

Currently, I’m focusing my research on three core topics. First, I study factors that underlie the creation of impactful new technologies. In this respect, I pay particular attention to the characteristics of components that constitute such technologies. Second, I am interested in how firms and inventors appropriate the value of their own technologies. For example, I am part of a project (funded by a Swedish grant) in which we look at factors that allow original creators of inventions to benefit commercially from them. Third, I study various external knowledge sourcing strategies, such as strategic alliances and M&A’s. I particularly focus on the influence of R&D alliances on the ability of firms to access novel knowledge from their partners.

Next to this, I also engage in other research that does not so neatly fit into one of these three categories. For example, with two researchers from my PhD cohort, we are trying to better understand how the current portfolio of activities of firms shapes their subsequent entry into new markets. We are examining this issue in the wind energy industry. In another project, with colleagues from SSE, we intend to use an experimental approach to examine different “innovation practices” that managers can actually implement in their organizations to boost innovation, even when resources and time are constrained. We are developing this project in collaboration with industry partners in the Stockholm ecosystem.

At the 2019 Conference you were a finalist for the TIM Best Dissertation Award. Tell us about the dissertation and what you think is your most exciting contribution to academia.

I hope that the research I did during my PhD can inspire people to dig deeper into the process of knowledge recombination. I was always highly intrigued and fascinated by this process: the notion that every new invention originates from combining things that already exist in novel ways is very compelling. I hope that people further build on the ideas I set forth in my dissertation. In particular, I feel that the cumulative nature of knowledge recombination is an aspect that too few studies address. In a Journal of Management article that we recently published, which is based on a chapter in my dissertation, we demonstrated that “dormant knowledge” can produce considerable value when recombined in new inventions. We could only identify and think about such knowledge by considering the process of knowledge recombination as cumulative. Knowledge builds upon itself; some knowledge is further built on very rapidly and frequently, whereas other knowledge lies dormant for long periods. Both can produce value, but in different ways.

Tell us something personal about yourself.

My parents moved to Geneva, Switzerland, just before I was born. I spent the first 12 years of my life immersing myself in Swiss culture. When we moved back to the Netherlands, I initially had some difficulties with getting used to Dutch culture. In fact, some traditions, such as Sinterklaas, still elude me. I did my studies in Groningen, a lovely student city in the north of the Netherlands, and last year I moved to Stockholm, where I currently work as an Assistant Professor at the Stockholm School of Economics. The funny part is that, despite having Swiss roots, my colleagues at SSE frequently emphasize that my behavior is typical of a Dutch person (something to do with me being very direct). It is clear that there are many parts of me that are shaped by the different places where I have lived.

Having lived in quite a few different places in my life, I always feel that it is important to make the current place where I live “my home”. Otherwise, it is impossible to build strong, long-lasting ties. This is also one of the things I like the most about academia: the ties that you forge do not fade easily. This means that you can be very mobile, but still maintain strong ties with people all over the world. I still have frequent contact with my colleagues from Groningen, for instance. And often, in my experience, these ties can be reawakened at a moment’s notice. I find academia to be a highly collegial environment in that respect, something which is often underappreciated.

Thanks Holmer!

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