Myths, Visions and Realities
Edited by Marina van Geenhuizen and Peter Nijkamp
Chapter 8: From Exit to Excellence: Turning Old Industry Regions into Knowledge Regions through Triple Helix Processes
Martina Fromhold-Eisebith INTRODUCTION A few decades ago, many regions of Western Europe that had been at the forefront of industrial development and technological progress before, suddenly experienced drastic economic decline and the loss of international competitiveness. Once rich in a natural resource, notably coal, which was high in demand by various growing industrial sectors, they were quite abruptly surpassed by providers from overseas that could deliver the same or better commodity qualities at lower costs (MacKinnon and Cumbers, 2007). Besides regions in the United Kingdom, France and Belgium, some parts of Germany feature as the most affected areas in Western Europe in this regard. The decline of the coal and steel sectors and the massive job losses inevitably associated with that have marked the regional industrial history from the wider Ruhr region to the adjacent western coal mining area around Aachen. While the future prospects of these ‘old industry regions’ looked quite gloomy during the 1960s and 1970s, when it was still unsure how the new paradigm of economic development would look, the picture has substantially changed until today. Processes of ‘industrial recomposition’ have gained ground that involve the ongoing reorganization of firms, corporate relationships and policies on various spatial scales (Herrigel, 2010). In Germany as well as elsewhere in the triad economies, some city regions have actually managed to actively enter the age of the knowledge economy, provoking the metaphor of ‘phoenix rising from the ashes’. The region of Aachen symbolizes this transformation quite well. In the 1950s and...
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