Handbook on the Geographies of Innovation
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Handbook on the Geographies of Innovation

Edited by Richard Shearmu, Christophe Carrincazeaux and David Doloreux

The geography of innovation is changing. First, it is increasingly understood that innovative firms and organizations exhibit a wide variety of strategies, each being differently attuned to diverse geographic contexts. Second, and concomitantly, the idea that cities, clusters and physical proximity are essential for innovation is evolving under the weight of new theorizing and empirical evidence. In this Handbook we gather 28 chapters by scholars with widely differing views on what constitutes the geography of innovation. The aim of the Handbook is to break with the many ideas and concepts that emerged during the course of the 1980s and 1990s, and to fully take into account the new reality of the internet, mobile communication technologies, personal mobility and globalization. This does not entail the rejection of well-established and supported ideas, but instead allows for a series of new ideas and authors to enter the arena and provoke debate.
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Chapter 13: Putting the boot into creative cluster theory

Chris Gibson and Chris Brennan-Horley


Geographical clusters have become axiomatic in theories of creativity and innovation. Clustering is advantageous to firms to promote greater levels of innovation due to physical proximity and the networked relationships that are unleashed. Because of this, cluster theory has become a perennial feature in off-the-shelf urban development policy prescriptions rolled out across cities worldwide. The chapter seeks to provide a critique of this state of affairs, aimed at sobering the degree of enthusiasm to rush to clusters as the pre-eminent policy solution. First, the authors revisit key thinkers in economic geography who theorized agglomerating tendencies as a key dynamic within a framework that encompasses centripetal and centrifugal geographic forces. Second, they illustrate the roles that underlying geography and history play in shaping the possibilities for agglomeration and dispersal of innovation activities. Two empirical examples from the authors’ previous work on the geography of creative industries are briefly revisited to illustrate. The first is a creative industries mapping project that sought to empirically document economic activity in Darwin, Australia, a small, highly suburbanized and physically remote city not normally associated with big city innovation. The second example is of bootmaking in El Paso, Texas. Drawing inspiration from recent critical, and grounded, work in evolutionary economic geography the authors argue that theorization of the geography of innovation must remain attuned to deeper run, geographically-contingent and cumulative-causal processes that shape present possibilities.

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