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Edited by Philip Cooke, Bjørn Asheim, Ron Boschma, Ron Martin, Dafna Schwartz and Franz Tödtling
Chapter 40: Learning Regions
James Simmie INTRODUCTION ‘Learning regions’ are one of a family of concepts known as territorial innovation models (TIMs) that evolved from the late 1970s onwards. They were inspired by a growing debate about why localities still mattered in the context of the rapid internationalization of the global economy from around the 1960s. This was combined with a concern with shifts in standardized mass production manufacturing from what were seen as high-labour-cost areas in the First World to low cost areas in newly industrializing countries (NICs). In this context it was argued that the international competitiveness of local and regional economies in the First World increasingly rested on their relative abilities to adopt flexible, networked, knowledge-based and innovative production systems. Varying combinations of these characteristics were developed to explain either the continued competitive success of particular regions mostly in the US or Europe, or what policies were needed to insure the survival or renewal of less-favoured regions (LFRs). These included ‘new industrial districts’ in Italy (Bagnasco, 1977; Becattini, 1981), ‘innovative milieux’ in France (Aydalot, 1986), ‘new industrial spaces’ in the US (Storper and Scott, 1988), ‘spatial clusters of innovation’ (Porter, 1996) and ‘regional innovation systems’ in Europe (Braczyk et al., 1998). These theoretical developments were driven by three main debates. The first was the argument that the fusion of information and communications technologies was lessening the significance of geography, as information could be passed instantaneously from one part of the world to another as could many of the weightless products of...
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