This chapter discusses national (NIS) and regional innovation systems (RIS) as approaches that
have been successfully applied since the 1980s to describe patterns of innovation and knowledge
creation within specific territorial boundaries. However, as will be argued, the relationship
between both approaches has received little attention in the literature and remains
under-conceptualized. To address this deficit, we utilize the notion of the ‘social system’, which
describes the capability of a system to constantly reproduce itself, and conceptualize NIS as
systems that are able to define the boundaries between internal and external structures and to drive
and sustain distinct internal innovation dynamics. In contrast, RIS do not routinely share these
characteristics, as ‘normal regions’ do not have a sufficient localized economic base and/or
governance capacity to establish self-referential innovation processes. While the NIS approach is a
conceptual tool to analyze and understand the nature of innovation systems at the national level,
the RIS approach is better understood as a normative political device to mobilize innovation in
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