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Centre for Urban and Regional Studies, Helsinki University of Technology, October 2002. Innovative Places: Networks and the Virtual Rob Shields, Professor Carleton University, Ottawa Canada. 4 Explanations of innovative cities and regions :. 1. ‘ Growth Poles’

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Centre for Urban and Regional Studies, Helsinki University of Technology, October 2002.Innovative Places: Networks and the VirtualRob Shields, ProfessorCarleton University, Ottawa Canada

4 Explanations of innovative cities and regions:

1. ‘Growth Poles’

Traditional Agglomeration and Business Cycle theory (Schumpeter, Marshall)

-innovations are concentrated in cities because they are more hospitable environments for the incubation and formation of new firms in part due to the agglomeration of potential inputs.

-received wisdom until the 1970s

>widely critiqued (also by Schumpeter himself)

  • 2. Innovative Milieux / New Industrial Districts

  • Competitive Networks (Piore and Sabel 1984, Becatini 1990, GREMI)

  • -suppliers, producers, education institutions

    -national chains link producers to consumers

    -smaller firms concentrate to build and share local supply chains and skilled labour pools (institutional analysis; Scott 1990; Storper 1995)

    -firms spin-off innovative units locally but address international markets

    -typical of regional innovation clusters (Po Valley etc.)

    >doesn’t clarify causal linkages: do innovative places create innovative firms or vice versa?

3. Learning regions / Knowledge Economy

Knowledge economy theories (Lundvall 1992)

-Scandinavian (Denmark, Norway, Sweden)

-some local innovation systems are better at acquiring and using new knowledge than others because they are adaptable and have a highly knowledgeable labour force.

-Movement of labour between firms creates a system of learning and knowledge transfer

>what is knowledge?

>over-emphasizes the firm

4. Clusters, ‘Silicon Valley’

Competitive supply chain theory (Krugman 1991; Porter 1990)

-regional specializations and high quality local factors (supporting industries, firms, public sector) geared to demanding local and national clients/customers encounter international trading opportunities

-‘virtuous circle’ of innovation and competitiveness

>over-emphasizes local quality of rivalry/collaboration and of ‘best practice’ suppliers

>theory-lag: clusters increasingly found to be locally-specific. Can’t generalize

Recent evidence

-Innovation is concentrated in core metropolitan centres

-clustering is most typical of mature and primary industries, not high tech nor high productivity sectors.

-innovation systems and their geographies vary from country to country

-markets are international

-customers are demanding

-attract and retain specialized professional technical labour

(Feldman 1994; Hilpert 1992; CEC DG XII 1999; OECD 2001; Simmie et al 2002)

Innovation in Regional Metropolises

-hold indigenous labour and attract labour via ‘quality of life’

-language, regionalism

-local specialists can understand and apply cutting edge

ideas from elsewhere

-local competitive advantages

-distinctive technologies / training

-key universities/research facilities

-high-speed telecommunications / international airports

-spatial and temporal proximity of key suppliers

-access to national public sector demand and key large clients

  • (Simmie et al 2002; ISRN 2001; 2002)


‘Picking winners’

vs. Emergence


Sustaining Innovation

Role of public sector in promoting sustainability:-view of the whole

-view of everyday life as lived in place

-importance of strategic scale (regional?)

Sustainable Innovation?

  • Social reproduction in time and space

    • Long term view of particular importance

    • Soft Infrastructure (idealities)

      • Culture and civil society

      • Managing social spatialization

        • ‘Magnet’ effects


    • Hard Infrastructure (actualities)

      • Services, transportation networks

      • ecological sustainability

        (Shields 2001; 2002)

Images of Innovative Places

-‘Place’ is in many ways invisible and intangible.

-One only sees how ‘innovative places’ are actualized.

-Only certain Innovation ‘Affordances’ are taken up.

-Other affordances remain ‘virtual’

  • Virtual vs. concrete

    -Place is an entanglement of the virtual and concrete

     ‘Everyday Life’ is a synthesis of these

The virtual and the concrete

Matrix of the forms of the real and possible, the ideal and actual

Real (existing) Possible (representations)

Ideal :virtualabstract

Actual :materialprobability (%)

Summary and Conclusions

  • Reviewed 4 explanations of innovative places

  • Recent evidence: no single explanation gives the whole story

Summary and Conclusions

What roles can the public sector can play?

  • Important vantage point

    • Scale of space-time of planning framework

  • Sustainable innovation

  • Recognize that virtualities are real

  • Manage their relation to the concrete

    • Actualizing virtualities for collective long term benefits

    • Images/affordances/culture  Quality of local everyday life

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