Technology Carriers: The Role of Engineers in the Expanding Swedish Shipbuilding System
Doktorsavhandling, 2000

This study analyses the process which shaped the role or function of college-trained engineers within a technological system or innovation system during the period from the start of the 20th century until the 1950s and 1960s. With a conceptual framework of sociotechnical systems and of engineers as a social group of technology carriers this process is studied in one particular system, namely the Swedish shipbuilding system. The study deals with the temporal aspect of the engineers' ability to qualify as a social group of technology carriers, i.e. a group which has an interest in and the ability to bring forth, maintain and develop technological systems, addressing the different criteria of such an entity - it must have knowledge of and an interest in developing the system, be suitably organised and possess the necessary power or influence to realise its interest. The main conclusion is that during the period from the early 20th century until the 1950s the engineers' ability to function as technology carriers increased as they became increasingly well organised and came to hold most leading positions within the system, one expression of which was their gaining of an informal monopoly of the position of managing director of the large shipyards. The engineers' role, however, was not formed in a vacuum. On the contrary, it was formed in interplay and conflict with other groups within the system, whose members possessed other kinds of knowledge, among them naval officers, sea captains, engine-room officers, economists and practically trained technologists. With a systems approach to technology and innovation this study emphasises interaction between system components. As technology carriers the college-trained engineers formed important links between the different organisations of the system, representing producers as well as different kinds of users, organisations laying down rules and regulations and other supportive functions such as education and research.

sociotechnical systems


engineering education

20-th century

user-producer interaction

professional associations


technological systems

technological knowledge

history of technology

systems of innovation

industrial research


Lars O. Olsson

Chalmers, Institutionen för teknik och samhälle





Doktorsavhandlingar vid Chalmers tekniska högskola. Ny serie: 1628

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