The relatively new concept of territorial capital refers to all geographically bounded assets of a territorial nature on which the competitiveness potential of regions and places reposes. It finds its sources in the convergence of two main streams of literature: the formalized approaches of supply-based explanations of growth, and the theoretical heritage of the endogenous development literature. The chapter provides a taxonomy of the different forms of territorial capital, crossing the two dimensions of materiality and rivalry, defining nine categories with their own specific laws of accumulation and de-cumulation. The availability of data on these different categories of territorial capital makes it possible to build a spatial production function with heterogeneous capital assets, where the non-material terms explain the residual with respect to traditional production functions. This residual might be called the territorial relational surplus, and plays the same role, in a spatial dimension, that technical progress plays in a time dimension.
Territories may be conceived as multidimensional spaces, where each dimension represents the presence of stocks of single types of territorial capital: location, size, quality, internal and external interactions. Relationships of a functional, hierarchical or cooperative nature may take place within the single dimension (economic, social, environmental, cognitive, identitarian) or, more interestingly, among the different dimensions, generating huge and diversified cross-externalities and synergy effects. The conceptual breakthrough allowed by the relatively new concept of territorial capital consists in the almost infinite widening of the structural and functional relationships that are assumed to determine the growth potential of single places/regions, along the scientific trajectory of the last 70 years in the direction of an ideal place-based production function with heterogeneous capital assets. The full spectrum of territorial capital types may be considered and included, provided that good measures or proxies are available. The goal of this chapter is to make an assessment of the utilization of the territorial capital concept in regional development studies, from its development in 2001 to the present day. This includes analysing its definition and role in the interpretation of spatial development, before exploring its theoretical soundness and use in a regional production function. The latest empirical findings that use of the concept are then explored. The questions concerning its nature and intrinsic heterogeneity that remain open are considered, before concluding with the new contents and styles of policies suggested by the utilization of the concept.
The concluding chapter recalls the scientific trajectory of the European Research Group on Innovative Milieus (GREMI) and explains the new ways in which contemporary issues related to sustainability can inspire. Indeed, GREMI’s evolutionary regional economic approach based on synergies and cooperation, traditionally oriented to the interpretation of the production (supply) side, turns now to the interpretation of demand shifts from material goods to immaterial, relational and positional goods. The use value of these latter goods resides in collective fruition, mutual recognition, reciprocity and in their symbolic content referring to community identity. The milieu effect is back again, conducive to new behavioural attitudes by the business community and to original collective actions for the supply of commons and new relational goods.