EGRG Masters Prize 2007

Regional paths to the knowledge economy: can all regions be knowledge based?

Pedro Marques (CURDS, Newcastle University)

In the last decades the knowledge economy concept has moved to the forefront of scientific and policy debates. However many questions have been raised about how much is ‘new’ in the ‘new economy’. From the point of view of economic geography some issues have also been raised: can the structures of a few relatively successful regions, that have been widely studied, be replicated everywhere? If innovation and learning are seen as a source of empowerment for firms and workers alike, how can we explain increasing territorial and social inequalities? Departing from a critique of the knowledge economy thesis and of the concepts that it derived in economic geography, this research builds on the concept of Regional Innovation Systems (RIS) to question if all regions can become successful RIS. It does so by looking at two case studies: the North East, UK and Centro region, Portugal. Two main conclusions are reached: that such concepts must move away from inward looking perspectives and link the prospects of regions with their national and international contexts; and that to build innovative and relatively successful regions one-size-fits-all models must be abandoned.