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Chris Gibson and Chris Brennan-Horley

Geographical clusters have become axiomatic in theories of creativity and innovation. Clustering is advantageous to firms to promote greater levels of innovation due to physical proximity and the networked relationships that are unleashed. Because of this, cluster theory has become a perennial feature in off-the-shelf urban development policy prescriptions rolled out across cities worldwide. The chapter seeks to provide a critique of this state of affairs, aimed at sobering the degree of enthusiasm to rush to clusters as the pre-eminent policy solution. First, the authors revisit key thinkers in economic geography who theorized agglomerating tendencies as a key dynamic within a framework that encompasses centripetal and centrifugal geographic forces. Second, they illustrate the roles that underlying geography and history play in shaping the possibilities for agglomeration and dispersal of innovation activities. Two empirical examples from the authors’ previous work on the geography of creative industries are briefly revisited to illustrate. The first is a creative industries mapping project that sought to empirically document economic activity in Darwin, Australia, a small, highly suburbanized and physically remote city not normally associated with big city innovation. The second example is of bootmaking in El Paso, Texas. Drawing inspiration from recent critical, and grounded, work in evolutionary economic geography the authors argue that theorization of the geography of innovation must remain attuned to deeper run, geographically-contingent and cumulative-causal processes that shape present possibilities.

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Neil Bradford and Allison Bramwell

The spatial dynamics of regional innovation cannot be explained by the locational decisions of firms and workers alone. Globalization continues to put primacy on the relationship between public policy and the economic competitiveness of regions. Policy makers across the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries are preoccupied with ways to encourage knowledge-intensive regional growth, not just in places where it is already well established but also in those struggling for reinvention. Largely resourced by public policy, a complex mix of formal and informal institutions shapes the context in which much economic activity occurs. This chapter brings institutions ‘in’ to the discussion of regional economic development, drawing analytical attention to the multi-level nature of economic innovation and how the interplay among different levels of government and multiple public and private sector actors shapes regional development trajectories. The three intersecting themes of governance, scale and agency provide an analytical framework for examining the ways in which ‘top-down’ multi-level institutional structures and ‘bottom-up’ associational governance dynamics enable and constrain regional restructuring and innovation. Following a conceptual overview of the New Regionalism, we offer brief policy illustrations of these ‘ideas in action’, highlighting selected regional innovation programmes underway in the European Union, the United States, and Canada, three jurisdictions long known for government engagement with problems of regional decline and renewal.

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Philip McCann and Raquel Ortega-Argilés

The chapter reviews the literature on the nature, role and links between R & D, innovation and productivity. The authors examine innovation from the perspective of the resource-based view of the firm, and discuss how non-spatial approaches explain the ways in which the characteristics of knowledge and technological regimes shape the evolution of the firm’s innovative behaviour. The analysis then moves on to set the insights of these non-geographical approaches squarely in the context of economic geography allowing for a discussion on the spatial effects of the prevailing technological regimes on urban and regional economic systems.

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Björn T. Asheim, Markus Grillitsch and Michaela Trippl

Since its development in the 1990s, the Regional Innovation Systems (RIS) approach has attracted considerable attention from economic geographers, innovation scholars and policy makers. The RIS approach figures prominently in the scientific discourse about the uneven geography of innovation and the factors that shape the knowledge generation and innovation capacities of regions. The aim of the chapter is to reflect on the emergence of the RIS approach, the current debate as well as future challenges. This chapter is guided by four overarching research questions: What are the origins and theoretical foundations of this approach? What has the RIS approach contributed to innovation studies and economic geography? What are the implications for innovation policy? And what are the recent lines of research and key research challenges in the future? The authors argue that the contributions of the RIS approach have been substantial. Still, the approach has often been applied in a rather static way, more as a heuristic than a coherent theory. The key challenges for current and future research therefore are to move towards a more theory-based, dynamic perspective on RIS, dealing with new path development and the transformation of RIS.

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Pierre-Alexandre Balland

Scholars and policy makers consider knowledge accumulation a major driver of growth and regional development. During the past two decades, the geography of innovation literature has provided a rich and detailed account of the underlying processes of regional knowledge production. More recently, a growing body of empirical literature has analysed the specific knowledge bases of regions and their evolution over time. The aim of these studies is not to explain why some regions produce more knowledge outputs than others, but why some regions produce a specific type of knowledge. The author refers to this body of literature as the relatedness literature. In the chapter the author discusses the theoretical foundations of this literature, its methodological framework and recent empirical findings. Based on evolutionary thinking, the spatial dynamics of knowledge are understood as a cumulative, path-dependent and interactive process. As a result, a main driving force is relatedness, as new knowledge is expected to branch out from related, pre-existing knowledge. Empirically, relatedness has mainly been formalized as a network, the knowledge space. In this network, nodes are knowledge categories, such as technological classes or scientific fields, and the links between these knowledge types indicate their degree of relatedness. The empirical analysis of relatedness and the knowledge space allows the mapping of regions’ knowledge bases, explaining scientific and technological change and identifying further opportunities for recombination and innovation. After having reviewed the empirics on knowledge space, the author discusses implications for research and innovation policy and suggests some avenues for future research.

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Elvira Uyarra and Kieron Flanagan

An extensive literature exists on regional innovation and knowledge-driven economic development, much of it claiming to be prescriptive. Yet attempts to translate insights from this literature into effective policies have met with mixed success. We identify some shortcomings in how much of this literature conceptualises policy and argue that a richer understanding of how real policy processes play out in the development of real places is a prerequisite for making more realistic and potentially effective prescriptions in the future, with particular emphasis on agency, institutional change, and multi-level, multi-actor dynamics.

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Alison Bain

Cities around the world have become intensely suburbanized. Several decades of profound demographic growth and urban restructuring have rapidly transformed the morphology and use of suburbs; yet, as the chapter argues, urban cultural policy and planning have inadequately grappled with this suburban structural and cultural complexity. Since the closing decades of the twentieth century, a fast-policy model of neoliberal cultural urbanism has been internationally deployed that targets the central city as the key site of creativity and innovation to the neglect of the suburbs. Such culture-led, amenity-driven urban revitalization strategies are formulated to secure competitive advantage by prioritizing the clustering of cultural and creative industries in the inner-city as a way to foster innovation and the symbolic dimensions of creative cities. The chapter reveals that what is often lost on policymakers in this paradigm of prescriptive creative urban policy are the socio-spatial divisions that are accentuated between city and suburb and between haves and have-nots.

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Andrés Rodríguez-Pose and Callum Wilkie

According to prevailing theories of agglomeration, location and innovation, innovative capacity and innovative activity are predisposed to concentrating in the ‘economic cores’ of the world. This would ultimately result in the emergence of a geography of innovation characterized by spatial imbalances and a distinct ‘urban’ or ‘city bias’. Some empirical evidence from both the developed and developing world would seem to validate this expectation – many core cities host a disproportionately large amount of innovative activity. There is also, however, growing empirical evidence indicating that spatial patterns of innovation are evolving and that, as a consequence, a more nuanced view of the geography of innovation would be necessary. The aim of the chapter is to explore the subtly evolving geography of innovation from both a theoretical perspective as well as an empirical one. More specifically, the chapter reviews the various theories that predict the concentration of innovation in large, core cities by exploring, using patent data, the spatial patterns of innovation in five developed and emerging countries. The chapter provides first order insights into the way in which the global geography of innovation is changing, and offers an interpretation and explanation for this evolving geography of innovation that feeds directly into a discussion of the policy implications associated with the gradual spatial dispersion of knowledge-intensive, innovative activity.

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Richard Shearmur

Innovation policy has become a mainstay of local and regional development policy because it is believed that innovative local firms will lead to local employment and income growth. Whilst it is unlikely that a locality and region will develop without local firms being innovative, the reverse does not hold: it is possible, and indeed feasible, that many smaller localities and regions harbour innovative firms without benefiting from the growth that they induce. In the chapter the author explores the reasons why it is believed that local innovation will lead to local growth, and then outlines why this belief is erroneous: innovation in local firms can lead to employment decline (in specialized regions where labour-saving technologies are developed), and local innovators are often being bought-up or compelled to open offices and production facilities in larger and more central places if their localities do not provide the resources necessary for expansion and growth.

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Keun Lee