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James Karlsen and Miren Larrea

This chapter advances the discussions on leadership by proposing that action research contributes to, not only the analysis of territorial leadership, but also its construction. Action research requires the active participation of researchers and territorial actors in co-generative transformation processes that give shared leadership as a result. This approach invites researchers to explore their own agency in the construction of territorial leadership, which is an evolution in their research positionality from observer to active participant. Researchers cannot avoid influencing the social processes, such as the construction of regional innovation systems through territorial leadership. Action research provides frameworks and methods for them to be aware of and to actively address this influence. In the chapter, examples are presented and discussed.

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Arne Isaksen and James Karlsen

The chapter discusses typical features of innovation activity in peripheral regions; regions located outside daily commuting distance from large cities.  Such regions exhibit different place-specific conditions to those found in dynamic core regions, which cause peripherally located firms to innovate in certain ways. Many peripheral regions are characterized by organizationally thin regional innovation systems and bonding social capital. These are features that stimulate incremental innovations based on experience-based knowledge, which is typical of the Doing-Using-Interacting (DUI) innovation mode. Characteristics such as many DUI innovations, little local knowledge flow, low related variety of knowledge and technology and high levels of bonding social capital may result in peripheral regions becoming trapped in path extension: firms and industries strengthen their existing activity through incremental innovation, while the development of new activities through radical innovations is difficult to achieve. Firms in peripheral regions, in particular, need to source extra-regional knowledge in order to achieve more radical innovation activity. Reliance on extra-regional knowledge sources also points to the fact that external investments and policy initiatives are especially important for industrial development in peripheral regions. Firms in peripheral regions, however, need to develop organizational learning strategies in order to be able to exploit external knowledge from distant sources in their internal innovation processes.

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Ainhoa Arrona, James Karlsen and Miren Larrea

There are different ways to interpret what policy learning is. There is diversity, for instance, when it comes to who is learning, what they are learning and the result of the learning process. This chapter shares, first, some of the perspectives developed in the framework of regional innovation policies. Then it focuses on the role of researchers in the field to contribute to policy learning. When addressing the role of researchers, we depart from the opinion held by some authors that policymakers do not always have the absorptive capacity required to implement policy recommendations delivered by researchers. Subsequently we offer a hypothesis that what is hindering these processes is not only the lack of absorptive capacity by policymakers but also the taken-for-granted assumptions that linear transfer works. Linear transfer is the process through which knowledge is first generated by researchers, secondly translated into recommendations and finally implemented by policymakers. We argue that behind the low level of effectiveness of these procedures lies, as much as the requirement for capabilities by policymakers, the need for a better understanding of the policy process by researchers. We try to address this last issue in two ways. First, we propose some frameworks from policy sciences that can help complement the ones in regional innovation policy literature. Then, based on in-depth interviews with policymakers in the Basque country, we share some insights into why policymakers find recommendations from researchers hard to implement, signalling how this connection could be improved. In the concluding section, we propose some methodological features of research that could help enhance policy-learning processes.

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Mari Jose Aranguren, James Karlsen, Miren Larrea and James R. Wilson