Local Advantage in a Global Context
New Horizons in Regional Science series
Edited by Charlie Karlsson, Börje Johansson and Roger R. Stough
Chapter 3: Innovation and Space – From Externalities to Networks
Corinne Autant-Bernard, Pascal Billand and Nadine Massard 3.1 INTRODUCTION There are many studies describing the geographical structure of innovative activities within various countries, both in the American and European contexts.1 All of these studies register a considerable spatial polarization of activities connected with innovation. They are accompanied by a relatively high theoretical production, which, since the end of the 1980s, has aimed to describe the different forms of local development through innovation. Local innovation systems, districts, technopoles, scientific parks, innovative environments, high-tech clusters – the terms are many and often correspond to differing views of the innovation processes and their inscription in space. Such differences are often the result of underlying theoretical traditions, as are the normative ambitions attributed to these concepts (Massard and Torre, 2005). Beyond these differences, however, all have one term in common: they are based largely upon the notion of geographical externalities. The positive impact of geographical proximity upon innovation seems essentially to be due to a limiting of the diffusion of knowledge externalities in space. This simple hypothesis, for which the theoretical implications concerning ‘local advantages’ are quite heavy, has led to a few dangerous short-cuts in terms of public policies. A review of the empirical studies that developed at the beginning of the 1990s, attempting, in particular, to measure the geographical dimension of these externalities, highlights the many subtleties of this hypothesis (Autant-Bernard et al., 2008). It provides elements for analysis that enable a finer understanding of the relations between innovation and space and the...