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The usage of the term "innovation" has altered considerably over the last 200 years. Before the 20th century, the term was unusual in English, and it was utilized either to refer to the description or research study of the helpful arts or to point to technical education, as in the Massachusetts Institute of Innovation (chartered in 1861). The term "innovation" increased to prominence in the 20th century in connection with the 2nd Industrial Transformation. The term's meanings changed in the early 20th century when American social researchers, beginning with Thorstein Veblen, equated concepts from the German concept of into "innovation." In German and other European languages, a difference exists between technik and technologie that is missing in English, which usually equates both terms as "innovation." By the 1930s, "innovation" referred not just to the study of the commercial arts however to the commercial arts themselves.
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Scientists and engineers generally choose to define innovation as applied science, rather than as the important things that people make and utilize. More just recently, scholars have borrowed from European thinkers of "strategy" to extend the meaning of innovation to various kinds of critical factor, as in Foucault's work on innovations of the self (strategies de soi). Dictionaries and scholars have provided a range of definitions. The deals a meaning of the term: "the use of science in market, engineering, and so on, to invent beneficial things or to fix problems" and "a device, tool, approach, and so on, that is developed by innovation." Ursula Franklin, in her 1989 "Real Life of Technology" lecture, gave another meaning of the idea; it is "practice, the method we do things around here." The term is often used to imply a particular field of technology, or to describe high innovation or simply consumer electronics, instead of technology as a whole.