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The role of Regional Innovation Systems in a Globalising Economy: Comparing Knowledge Bases and Institutional Frameworks of Nordic Clusters. Bj ørn T. Asheim & Lars Coenen Based on and financed by project ‘Nordic SMEs and Regional Innovation Systems’ (Nordic Innovation Centre). CIRCLE.

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The role of Regional Innovation Systems in a Globalising Economy: Comparing Knowledge Bases and Institutional Frameworks of Nordic Clusters

Bjørn T. Asheim & Lars Coenen

Based on and financed by project ‘Nordic SMEs and Regional Innovation Systems’

(Nordic Innovation Centre)


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CIRCLE Economy: Comparing Knowledge Bases and Institutional Frameworks of Nordic Clusters

  • Centre for Innovation, Research and Competence in the Learning Economy

  • New centre of excellence in innovation system research at Lund University

  • One of four centres in Sweden

  • Uppsala, Chalmers and KTH


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  • Outline of the presentation Economy: Comparing Knowledge Bases and Institutional Frameworks of Nordic Clusters

  • Project ‘Nordic SMEs and Regional Innovation Systems’

    • aim / case studies / final report

    • findings / policy recommendations

  • Comparing Knowledge Bases and Institutional Frameworks of Nordic Clusters


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Project aim: Economy: Comparing Knowledge Bases and Institutional Frameworks of Nordic Clusters

To investigate the existence of similarities and differences vis-à-vis competitiveness and innovativeness between clusters of Nordic SMEs in different regions and sectors and to compare the extent to which regional factors underlie the success/failure of clusters in comparison to industry/sector specific factors


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  • Structure of final report Economy: Comparing Knowledge Bases and Institutional Frameworks of Nordic Clusters

  • Introduction

  • Conceptual clarification

  • Summary of case studies

  • Comparative case analysis

  • Policy recommendations

  • Downloaded from my home page at Lund University


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The case studies Economy: Comparing Knowledge Bases and Institutional Frameworks of Nordic Clusters


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  • Comparative analysis: Economy: Comparing Knowledge Bases and Institutional Frameworks of Nordic Clusters

  • SMEs, innovations and innovation systems: a broad perspective

  • Across-the-board innovativeness in high, medium and low tech SMEs as a basis for competitiveness

  • Multi-scalar SME-innovation systems linkages in the light of spatially distributed knowledge reservoirs

  • Geographical differentiation based on industrial knowledge base


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  • Comparative analysis: Economy: Comparing Knowledge Bases and Institutional Frameworks of Nordic Clusters

  • SMEs, clusters and cluster life-cycles

  • Horizontal vs. Vertical collaboration in innovation

  • Relationships between SMEs and large firms

  • Cluster life cycles and the need for different policy approaches


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  • Comparative analysis: Economy: Comparing Knowledge Bases and Institutional Frameworks of Nordic Clusters

  • Social capital and trust: cornerstones for regional collaboration in innovation

  • Understanding innovation as interactive learning implies that cooperation is necessary for the competitiveness of SMEs

  • Social capital is defined as features of social organisation that facilitate action and cooperation for mutual benefit such as networks, shared norms and values and trust

  • Initiatives in social networking arrangements

  • seem to work well in a Nordic cluster context


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  • Comparative analysis: Economy: Comparing Knowledge Bases and Institutional Frameworks of Nordic Clusters

  • SMEs and the regional knowledge infrastructure

  • Research collaboration between SMEs and knowledge infrastructure is not a cure-all

  • University spin-offs is a typical high-tech phenomenon. Managerial skills are often lacking

  • Regional supply of skilled labor most important general innovation support that universities can provide SMEs


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Science base vs knowledge base difference?

  • Important to distinguish between:

    • Science base

    • Knowledge base

      And between:

    • R&D intensive industries (OECD view)

    • Knowledge intensive activities


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Distributed knowledge base difference?

  • Transition from an internal knowledge base of a firms to a distributed knowledge base of firms where the whole value system of a firm or value chain of a product must be taken into consideration when the knowledge intensity of a product is determined

  • More and more highly complicated combinations of different knowledge types codified (embodied and disembodied), artisan and experience based, tacit knowledge


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Distributed knowledge base difference?

  • The knowledge intensity enters as embodied knowledge incorporated into machinery and equipment or as intermediate inputs (components and materials) into production processes of other firms in the value chain/cluster

  • This demonstrates that the relevant knowledge base for many industries is not internal to the industry, but is distributed across a range of technologies, actors and industries, making the OECD ranking of R&D intensive industries less relevant


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Theoretical perspectives: difference?

  • Different types of RIS (=systemic linkages and relations between regionally dominant production structures and knowledge infrastructures)

  • Territorially embedded RIS (’grassroots RIS’)

  • Regional networked innovation systems (’network RIS’)

  • Regionalised national innovation systems (’dirigiste RIS’)


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Knowledge bases, clusters and RIS difference?

  • The relevance of different types of RIS must also be placed in a context of the knowledge base of various industries

  • Innovation processes of firms are strongly shaped by their specific knowledge base

  • Distinguish between two types of knowledge base:

    a) analytical (science based)

    b) synthetic (engineering based)



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Clusters - RIS difference?

  • The different knowledge bases of industries have implications for the relations between clusters and RIS as well as for the definition of a cluster

  • Distinction between:

    - The existence of ’pure’ regional clusters where relations to RIS are established at a later stage of a cluster’s life cycle in order to support localised learning and innovation in the cluster (auxiliary), and

    - The existence of relations between clusters and RIS from the emergence of the cluster as a necessary input in the development of the cluster (integrated)


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Clusters - RIS difference?

  • The traditional constellation of industrial clusters surrounded by innovation supporting organisations in a RIS is normally found in contexts of industries with a synthetic knowledge base

  • The existence of RIS as a necessary part of the development of an emerging cluster will normally be the case of industries based on an analytical knowledge base


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  • Relationship RIS-cluster difference?

  • synthetic knowledge base: tendency for loose coupling, auxiliary configuration

  • analytic knowledge base: tendency for necessary coupling, integral configuration


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Clusters and localisation economies (specialisation) difference?

  • Sectoral specialised clusters exploit localisation economies

  • Sectoral specialisation can be the result of different industrial development paths

  • In traditional cluster-RIS relations, based on industries with a synthetic knowledge base, the logic behind building RIS is to support and strengthen localised learning of existing industrial specialisations in a region, i.e. to promote historical technological trajectories based on ’sticky’ knowledge in the region


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Clusters and localisation economies difference?

  • In contexts of relations between clusters and RIS as a necessary condition for the emergence and growth of the clusters it is a question of promoting new and emerging economic activity based on industries with an analytical knowlegde base, requiring close and systemic industry-university cooperation and interaction in e.g. science parks, located in proximity of knowledge creating organisations (e.g. (technical) universities


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Clusters and urbanization economies (diversity) difference?

  • Clusters can also be found in regions exploiting urbanization economies

  • Such regions, constituted by an urban agglomeration, are characterised by a diversified industrial base in contrast to the specialised base of e.g. industrial districts’ type of clusters

  • I.e. Different historical and emerging technological trajectories co-exist


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Clusters and urbanization economies difference?

  • Within urban agglomerations one can identify the existence of relations between clusters and RIS as a necessary condition for cluster development as well as traditional clusters which established links with the RIS at a later stage in their life cycle. However, one can argue that the diversity of urbanization economies is especially important in the promotion of radical innovations (cities as creative nodes/geography of talent), and, thus, of great significance for industries based on an analytical knowledge base



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  • Varieties of capitalism/varieties of regional innovation systems

  • Useful in comparative analysis of countries, no focus on regions

  • Strong dichotomization

  • Inert and inherited institutional landscape (policy learning)

  • Application in regional context thus far:

  • Entrepreneurial Regional Innovation Systems (ERIS) versus Institutional Regional Innovation Systems (IRIS) (Asheim & Gertler, 2004; Cooke, 2004)


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IRIS (Cooke 2001/2004) systems(associated with coordinated market economies)

  • R&D driven

  • User-producer relations

  • Technology focused

  • Incremental innovation

  • Bank borrowing

  • External supply-chain networks

  • Science park


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ERIS/New economy innovation system systems(associated with liberal market economies)

  • Venture capital driven

  • Serial start-ups

  • Market-focused

  • Incremental and disruptive

  • Initial public offerings

  • Incubators (university – industry relations)


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Knowledge bases – institutional frameworks systems

  • Synthetic knowledge base - IRIS

  • Analytical knowledge base - ERIS

    ): Regional differentiation of innovation policies (US/European blend) at intra- and interregional levels within countries, representing different degrees of efficiency with respect to knowledge exploration, examination and exploitation

    ): Regionalisation of regional policies (innovation, entrepreneurship and talent are increasingly important) in many countries


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