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Michel Grossetti

In 1781, the "States of Languedoc," a French province, recruited at the University of Montpellier chemist Jean-Antoine Chaptal to develop the chemical industry in the region. The idea of using scientific and technological innovation to promote local economic development is not new. This idea has generated numerous policies since Chaptal. Some rely on the development of universities capable of training a skilled workforce and to provide scientific support to industry. Others give more purpose to promote the creation of new firms or the networking of existing ones. They do so in very different ways, from technology parks to policies of "clusters" funding projects that involve local collaborations. Finally, more recently, policies based on the theory of "creative class" have sought to attract not companies but persons whose profession is related to innovation activities, whether they be technical, economic or cultural. This text presents a review of these policies, from a series of studies conducted in France and across Europe. The text will not seek to make a survey of public policies analysis, but rather to give a view based on some field studies. The effect of public policies can be of three types: non-existent, simple maintenance of existing balances and changes in these balances. With regard to the policies of local development based on innovation, if the first two kinds are widespread, the third is much rarer. This is partly because many policies are based on misconceptions about the mobility of firms and individuals (business parks, creative class), or the effect of simple spatial proximity of linking people or companies (effect "cafeteria" or "coffee machine"). The search for quick fixes, inexpensive and visible, favors policies which are usually ineffective.
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Michel Grossetti, Denis Eckert, Marion Maisonobe and Josselin Tallec

Recent years have seen policies of ‘scientific development’ develop in various countries. These policies aim mainly at differentiating the means allocated to universities (or other institutions) based on ‘diagnoses’ and assessments rooted in beliefs concerning the spatial dimension of higher education activities and research. These representations may be regarded as ‘commonly held beliefs’ governed by the idea of an inevitable increase in hierarchical differentiations between cities, the existence of ‘critical mass’ effects imposed by a strengthening globalization, and ‘competitive’ scientific activity. Based on bibliometric research, our results show that those beliefs are often wrong. Though scientific activity is indeed highly centralized, the current trend is towards diversification and de-concentration rather than towards a reinforcement of the most important centers. The spatial concentration of researchers has no specific effect on their individual productivity. National contexts are not fading; they are merely being combined with the growth of international collaborations in a global context characterized by the decline of publications signed by a single person or a single team.

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Olivier Bouba-Olga, Michel Grossetti and Marie Ferru