The opportunity hidden in a problem

How the refugee problem will increase the radical innovation.


When looking at several news sources, the refugee crisis is been presented as a dreadful situation. Refugees are often being presented as a terrible burden on our society. Some groups are starting to fight the presence of these groups in society by protesting and aggression and sabotage towards refugees and their shelter.  This is a very big mistake because refugees will be able to help our society and economy. This is because refugees will be a source of innovation.

Radical innovation is innovation which contains new scientific knowledge, has a new user group or functionality and contains a new type of value.

When looking at the Dutch society we see new refugees arriving on a daily basis. Instead of just looking at the burden of extra demand for housing and care, we should look at the benefits they can provide for us. For example the building industry has an increase in work, due to the raising demand for housing(FD, 2015; Nos, 2015). In this case there is not just a chance for niche innovation, which is innovation using existing knowledge for a new market(the refugees). There is also a chance for radical innovation.  They are a new group; they have different (scientific) knowledge, different needs and different values. To summarize they create a very good baseline for radical innovation.

Also, we are currently retrieving a lot of knowledge through people from other countries that were offered a job here. Now we already have some of those people in the country, we can provide extra educational resources for them and increase the diversity in companies, gain new knowledge through their ideas and experiences. We can try to find the benefit in these people just as well as we would be able to see this in knowledge migrants or expats from, for example, China and India.


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An example for this could be an architect or project developer from Syria who has fled to the Netherlands. This person would be able to help with a radical innovation on the house market. Benefits will include the better understanding of the demand, the new ideas and the different culture which will increase the diversity and might help the creative process. This person might be able to responsibly innovate a solution for the housing shortages. 


Another example might be a teacher who knows a lot about how people are educated in Syria, by working together with local teachers they could come up with a new system to validate the educational level of the refugees. In this way the refugees can attheir educational level, which will enable these refugees to contribute to society.

Both examples show a radical innovation as discussed before because it consists of something new. These radical innovation will contribute, either directly (decrease housing shortage) or indirectly (enabling others in contributing), to society and our economy. This contribution to economy can be found in the increased jobs, such as in the building and educational sector.

We should try to see opportunities instead of issues, because then and only then will we be able to get the most out of every situation. We will have to learn to work together and value our different types of values, needs, knowledge and ideas. Then we will be able to responsibly and radically innovate to improve our society.


List of references:

-          Financieel Dagblad author Manon Stravens (2015). Forse impuls bouwsector door asielzoekers’. At financieel dagblad. Written 20-10-2015. Found on 21-10-2015 at

 -          Nos author unknown (2015). Bouwsector krijgt impuls door vluchtelingenstroom. Written 20-10-2015. Found on 20-10-2015 at