Edited by Harald Bathelt, Patrick Cohendet, Sebastian Henn and Laurent Simon
This chapter discusses national (NIS) and regional innovation systems (RIS) as approaches that have been successfully applied since the 1980s to describe patterns of innovation and knowledge creation within specific territorial boundaries. However, as will be argued, the relationship between both approaches has received little attention in the literature and remains under-conceptualized. To address this deficit, we utilize the notion of the ‘social system’, which describes the capability of a system to constantly reproduce itself, and conceptualize NIS as systems that are able to define the boundaries between internal and external structures and to drive and sustain distinct internal innovation dynamics. In contrast, RIS do not routinely share these characteristics, as ‘normal regions’ do not have a sufficient localized economic base and/or governance capacity to establish self-referential innovation processes. While the NIS approach is a conceptual tool to analyze and understand the nature of innovation systems at the national level, the RIS approach is better understood as a normative political device to mobilize innovation in localized contexts.
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