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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