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Cédric Brunelle and Ben Spigel

Resource-driven regional economies have experienced significant growth over the past decade due to increasing prices of raw materials such as oil and the need for customized and site-specific technologies to increase production and reduce risk. As a result, significant amounts of human and financial capital have built up in these regions. However, there are few examples of resource-dependent economies using these regional assets to successfully diversify away from their dependence on extractive industries, leading to profound declines as resource prices decline globally as they did in 2015. This paper examines the evolutionary lock-in and lock-out processes of resource economies and the potential of technology entrepreneurship to initiate path creation in these regions. Based on interviews with entrepreneurs, investors, and policymakers in St. John’s, Newfoundland, we explore the processes through which firms both inside and outside the resource industry are locked-in to existing economic trajectories and the ability of technology entrepreneurs to break out of these limitations and diversify into new industries and markets. We find that the relationships between the region’s culture, its investment environment, and global changes in the oil and gas industry combine to create and reproduce industrial lock-in within the region. If long-term regional diversification and path creation appears to be the exception rather than the rule for resource-driven economies, entrepreneurs stand out as the central drivers of change shaping the path-enabling potential generated through resource booms.

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Edward J. Malecki and Ben Spigel

We follow Schumpeter in attributing to entrepreneurs the spark to bring new combinations to market by combining knowledge, perceived opportunity, and other resources to form new firms. A link between innovation and entrepreneurship was first seen in new firms exploiting new technologies in high-technology regions. This context set the tone for research, which we explore in this chapter. We identify four topics: entrepreneurship in high-tech contexts, spinoffs from university research, the local/regional ecosystem or innovation system, and flows of knowledge within social and professional networks. Underlying these four attributes of high-tech innovation are cultural outlooks and orientations. Without an understanding of how culture influences entrepreneurial and innovative activities, it is difficult to study their relationship with the cultural contexts in which they take place. Building on a nexus-based view of innovation and entrepreneurship, we argue that culture is best understood as a process through which actors interpret the world around them and which can either encourage or discourage entrepreneurial and innovative activity.

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Ben Spigel

Researchers have long acknowledged the importance of culture in the innovation process. However, while culture is well integrated into frameworks such as Regional Innovation Systems (RIS), the actual processes through which cultural outlooks influence innovative activities is still poorly understood. Beyond this, culture is frequently viewed in an overly simplified way in which only one cultural attribute (such as ethnicity or geography) is seen as a deterministic force in the innovation process. The chapter provides a sympathetic critique of the ways in which culture is employed in RIS research and suggests that the work of Pierre Bourdieu is useful as an alternative to understand the role of overlapping and often confluent cultural outlooks within regions. This framework views innovation as a bundle of practices that actors employ based on their position within multiple, overlapping ‘fields’ of power relations and norms. The framework allows for a more nuanced appreciation for the role of culture that acknowledges the role of multiple sources of cultural influence.