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Marie Ferru and Alain Rallet

Debate about the role of proximity in the innovation process appeared in the early 1990s and was at the core of a small research group composed of French researchers, some from the field of industrial economics and others from regional economics. The originality of the group’s work was therefore not the use of the word itself, but using it with its various meaning, as until then the notion had been understood only in terms of its geographic dimension. The question of the geography of innovation has remained one of the main issues in the work raised by the French School of Proximity. Twenty-five years later, how do we situate all these studies? The paper aims at examining the trajectory of these studies, the stage they have reached in their life cycle: rise, maturity or decline? Is there saturation or renewal? Burnout or resilience? It gives a periodization of studies on proximity based on the publications it has produced and details the specific content of the two periods that we define, before suggesting some avenues for renewal which may lead to a “rebound cycle”.
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Alain Rallet and André Torre

This chapter argues that new approaches to the geographical dimension of innovation and its role in localized systems are necessary today, because existing ones either suffer from analytical shortcomings or have failed to take into account changes in the conception of innovation and in the organization of contemporary societies. The first section is devoted to the cluster-oriented approach, which highlights the systemic nature of innovation processes – seen as less and less technology-based – thereby moving closer towards a definition of industrial ecosystems. Then, we discuss the coordination-based approach, highlighting shortcomings in the analysis of the concepts of proximity and their coordination-related dimension. Finally, we discuss the need for a broader conception of innovation, and the necessity to look beyond its technological dimension by considering new forms and new sources of innovation, linked to social and organizational issues as well as environmental questions and the relation with local populations’ desire to express themselves.