The Elgar Companion to Innovation and Knowledge Creation
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The Elgar Companion to Innovation and Knowledge Creation

Edited by Harald Bathelt, Patrick Cohendet, Sebastian Henn and Laurent Simon

This unique Companion provides a comprehensive overview and critical evaluation of existing conceptualizations and new developments in innovation research. It draws on multiple perspectives of innovation, knowledge and creativity from economics, geography, history, management, political science and sociology. The Companion brings together leading scholars to reflect upon innovation as a concept (Part I), innovation and institutions (Part II), innovation and creativity (Part III), innovation, networking and communities (Part IV), innovation in permanent spatial settings (Part V), innovation in temporary, virtual and open settings (Part VI), innovation, entrepreneurship and market making (Part VII), and the governance and management of innovation (Part VIII).
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Chapter 28: National and regional innovation systems

Harald Bathelt and Sebastian Henn


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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