Handbook of Regional Innovation and Growth
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Handbook of Regional Innovation and Growth

Edited by Philip Cooke, Bjørn Asheim, Ron Boschma, Ron Martin, Dafna Schwartz and Franz Tödtling

Today, economic growth is widely understood to be conditioned by productivity increases which are, in turn, profoundly affected by innovation. This volume explores these key relationships between innovation and growth, bringing together experts from both fields to compile a unique Handbook.
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Chapter 15: Regional Economies as Path-Dependent Systems: Some Issues and Implications

Ron Martin


Ron Martin [I]f there is one single area of economics in which path dependence is unmistakable, it is in economic geography – the location of production in space. The long shadow cast by history over location is apparent at all scales, from the smallest to the largest. (Krugman, 1991, 80) Although the assertion that ‘history matters’ has come to be coupled frequently with references to the concept of path dependence, the precise meaning of the latter – and hence the significance of the former expression – more often than not remains rather cloudy . . . A clearer grasp of what the term ‘path dependence’ is about therefore ought to be part of the historical social scientist’s tool-kit. (David, 2007, 92) INTRODUCTION A key research question that has attracted increasing attention in economic geography concerns how the economic landscape evolves through time, and why that evolution takes certain spatial forms and historical trajectories rather than others (see Boschma and Martin, 2007, 2010). There is a growing consensus that ‘history matters’ in regional development, and the notion of path-dependence, originally developed in economics by Paul David and Brian Arthur in the mid- to late 1980s, is now widely viewed as a ‘foundational concept’ for giving analytical content to this belief.1 Indeed, it has been argued that to be ontologically convincing the theorization of regional growth and development has to be firmly rooted in the idea of path-dependent economic evolution (Scott, 2006). Certainly economic geographers now freely employ the concept in their theoretical and empirical work and...

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