The Learning Region

The Learning Region

Foundations, State of the Art, Future

Edited by Roel Rutten and Frans Boekema

The aim of this book is to present a much-needed conceptualization of ‘the learning region’. The editors scrutinize key concepts and issues surrounding this phenomenon, which are then discussed in the context of recent literature. This unique conceptualization of the learning region presents a state of the art exploration of theories. Leading scholars from across Europe, the USA and South Africa draw upon various disciplines to explain how regional actors perform regional learning.

Chapter 1: The Learning Region: Foundations, State of the Art, Future

Roel Rutten and Frans Boekema

Subjects: business and management, organisational innovation, economics and finance, regional economics, geography, economic geography, innovation and technology, innovation policy, organisational innovation, urban and regional studies, regional economics


Roel Rutten and Frans Boekema This history of the learning region perhaps began at the 1991 annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers, when Michael Storper, in a session on ‘The geography of rationality and collective action’, presented a paper about learning regions. Although it is lost to history whether the term ‘learning region’ was actually coined at that particular session, there is no mistaking that the ‘learning-based regional production systems’ that Storper discussed in his talk were renamed as learning regions shortly thereafter. From the early 1990s onward, the term learning region begins to surface in the literature on economic geography. In the decade and a half since, a wealth of publications on the learning region has appeared in both journals and books. The thinking about learning regions was triggered by several studies, the above study by Michael Storper and the classic study on the competitive advantage of nations by Michael Porter (1990) among them, that showed trade specialization among advanced economies to be increasing. This specialization followed from the discovery of absolute advantage based on superior localized technological learning. In other words, learning-specialized sectors and industries were found to have a distinct geography of agglomeration in a limited number of subnational core regions. These regions often developed specific conventions of learning, which led Storper (1993) to call them ‘regional worlds of production’. In Storper’s words: ‘Much of the way a given production complex functions relies on the untraded interdependencies of the actors in that complex . . . The...

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