Chapter 12: The Learning Region: A Constructive Critique
Robert Hassink 1. INTRODUCTION In the framework of the contemporary transformation from an industrial to a knowledge-based economy, the learning economy (Lundvall, 1996), learning regions and also learning cities have been propagated as future concepts for successful economic development in many countries of Europe (Morgan, 1997; Hassink, 2001; van Geenhuizen, 1999; Butzin, 2000; Scheﬀ, 1999; Boekema et al., 2000; OECD, 2001; Landabaso et al., 2001; Fürst, 2001; MacKinnon et al., 2002; Kunzmann and Tata, 2003). The capacity of both individuals and organizations to engage successfully in learning processes is regarded as a crucial component of economic performance in the knowledge-based economy. Therefore, ‘identifying and strengthening the factors that can support . . . economic learning have become critical goals for policymakers and academic researchers alike’ (Benner, 2003: 1809). Oinas and Virkkala (1997) and Lagendijk (1997) even speak about the 1990s as being the era of the learning economy and the learning region, and Malmberg (1997: 576) refers to the ‘learning turn’ in economic geography. The debate about learning regions has not been conﬁned to an academic and abstract one. Recently, both semi-academic empirical work on the learning region by the OECD (2001) and numerous policy initiatives launched under the label of learning regions (Lagendijk and Cornford, 2000) provide us with a considerable amount of empirical information on the learning region phenomenon. The OECD (2001) published a study called Cities and Regions in the New Learning Economy, which can be considered as the ﬁrst in-depth empirical study on the concept of learning...
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