In this article, we focus on the Dutch shipbuilding sector in the first half of the twentieth century and address the question of how its innovative capacity evolved over time. Our attention to the importance of the whole constellation of actors in Dutch shipbuilding, their interrelations, interactions, and interdependence, as well as the institutional setting for innovation processes, contributes to gaining a better understanding of innovation in this sector. The article shows that the development of public knowledge institutes and the growth of scientific interest in Dutch shipbuilding was a slow process. Moreover, the developing knowledge infrastructure in the Netherlands did not lessen the dependence on foreign knowledge. The article illustrates that the relations between actors and the importance of specific knowledge sources changed over time. It also sheds light on an often neglected aspect in system of innovation studies, the importance of individuals. This personal aspect helps explain why the importance of national contexts can differ considerably.