In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Geography of Technological Change

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Resources
  • Journals
  • The Breadth of the Field
  • Long Waves and Cycles
  • Invention, Patents, and Spillovers
  • Research and Development Location
  • Transnational Corporations (TNCs)
  • Open Innovation
  • National Innovation Systems
  • International and Global Innovation Systems
  • Regional Innovation Systems and Clusters
  • Learning Regions
  • Knowledge Regions
  • Productivity
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Innovation Policy
  • Developing Countries
  • The Impact of Digital Technologies

Geography Geography of Technological Change
Edward J. Malecki
  • LAST REVIEWED: 20 December 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 January 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0081


Technological change, traditionally a concern of economists and agriculturalists, has grown into a wide-ranging attempt to understand the nature, causes, and consequences of technology over space and time. Beginning with diffusion, the field has evolved to consider origins in corporate research and development (R&D) and in activities that facilitate informal learning. Generally, the scope of the field has changed from technology to innovation to knowledge, with each expansion signifying wider knowledge over specific applications. The contexts range widely: from case studies of individual firms to cross-national comparisons of technological capability to policies for regions and places. Thus, the geographies studied range across scales, from global to local.

General Overviews

Research on technological change was dominated traditionally by mainstream or orthodox economists: Feldman 1994 is a guide to that literature. Nelson and Winter 1982 is the seminal work on innovation by heterodox economists. As the field of innovation studies expanded to take into account real places and diverse contexts of learning, geographers examined a wider set of situations. Massey 1995 and Malecki 1997 are influential syntheses of the geographical manifestations of technology. Bathelt and Glückler 2011, Cappellin and Wink 2009, and Gertler 1995 focus on knowledge and learning, which are important issues on which a great deal of research focuses. Cooke, et al. 2011 is an up-to-date collection of issues at the regional level.

  • Bathelt, Harald, and Glückler, Johannes. The Relational Economy: Geographies of Knowing and Learning. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

    A book on clusters and networks based on the economic and the social dimensions of knowledge and learning. The focus is on relations among actors and their actions and practices within the material, labor market, technology, and information linkages that comprise production structures and commodity chains.

  • Cappellin, Riccardo, and Wink, Rudiger. International Knowledge and Innovation Networks: Knowledge Creation and Innovation in Medium-technology Clusters. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2009.

    A thoughtful account of the types and phases of regional innovation networks, knowledge flows in different types of networks, and forms of organization and regulation of economic relationships. Applies knowledge networks to innovation policy as well as the differences between innovation policies and knowledge policies.

  • Cooke, Philip, with Bjørn Asheim, Ron Boschma, Ron Martin, Dafna Schwartz, and Franz Tödtling, eds. Handbook of Regional Innovation and Growth. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2011.

    DOI: 10.4337/9780857931504

    Contains forty-four chapters with state-of-the-art reviews of research on all aspects of innovation within and among regions, including industrial clusters, technological learning, and territorial knowledge dynamics. This is one of the best compilations with a regional focus.

  • Feldman, Maryann P. The Geography of Innovation. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer, 1994.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-94-017-3333-5

    Provides a geographic dimension as seen by an economist to the study of innovation and product commercialization. Also develops a conceptual model that links the location of production innovations to sources of knowledge inputs.

  • Gertler, Meric S. “‘Being There’: Proximity, Organization, and Culture in the Development and Adoption of Advanced Manufacturing Technologies.” Economic Geography 71.1 (1995): 1–26.

    DOI: 10.2307/144433

    Explains why some regions and nations are successful at adopting new production technologies and work practices, and how culture and institutions influence knowledge transfer and competitiveness. Interaction between users and producers of new machinery are essential, as is proximity, both geographical and organizational.

  • Malecki, Edward J. Technology and Economic Development: The Dynamics of Local, Regional, and National Competitiveness. 2d ed. London: Addison-Wesley Longman, 1997.

    A comprehensive overview of technology within and among firms, as well as entrepreneurship and policy for regional and national economies.

  • Massey, Doreen. Spatial Divisions of Labour: Social Structures and the Geography of Production. 2d ed. London: Macmillan, 1995.

    A highly influential account of how the organization of production in firms determines the location of occupations, including R&D. These, in turn, determine the nature of uneven development and the evolution of the economy of places.

  • Nelson, Richard R., and Sidney G. Winter. An Evolutionary Theory of Economic Change. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982.

    The classic account of how innovation takes place within firms and industries, focused on the capabilities of firms, learning and other “routines” that have become standard in the study of technological change. The original and still highly relevant account of how innovation happens by heterodox economists.

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