Geography Geography of Innovation
Teis Hansen
  • LAST REVIEWED: 31 March 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 31 March 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0131


The theme of innovation (understood as the introduction of new products, processes, or organizational forms in the marketplace) is interdisciplinary in nature. Economic geographers started participating in the field early, but scholars from fields such as economics and innovation studies have also contributed to understanding the geography of innovation. Core topics have been to examine how innovativeness of actors is influenced by the geographical context and by relations to actors at different spatial scales. Thus, while many studies of the geography of innovation have focused on local and regional scales, there is now an extensive literature that takes a national, global, or multi-scalar perspective. An additional development has been an expansion of the object of study from mainly science-based innovations to experienced-based innovations. This is currently expanding even further into issues such as social innovation.

General Overviews

General overviews of academic work on the geography of innovation come from different theoretical starting points. Feldman 1994 covers the economics literature that deals with spatial aspects of innovation. Acs 2003 also takes a starting point in economics, but integrates insights from other disciplines to a larger extent. This book is also noteworthy as it takes an explicitly urban focus. Boschma and Martin 2010 gives an account of the topic from an evolutionary economic geography perspective, which is significantly inspired by thinking in evolutionary economics. Morgan 1997 and Bathelt 2010 bring together insights from economic geography and innovation studies, while Bunnell and Coe 2001 provides an overview of research on the topic of innovation from within the field of geography.

  • Acs, Z. J. Innovation and the Growth of Cities. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2003.

    Drawing together insights from economics, geography, entrepreneurship, and innovation studies, this book makes the argument that innovation processes are best studied by taking the city-scale as the point of departure.

  • Bathelt, H. “Innovation, Learning and Knowledge Creation in Co-Localised and Distant Contexts.” In Handbook of Local and Regional Development. Edited by A. Pike, A. Rodríguez-Pose, and J. Tomaney, 149–159. London: Routledge, 2010.

    This book chapter critically examines the previous emphasis on face-to-face interaction in innovation processes, by drawing on relational economic geography and highlighting the opportunities offered by advances in information and communications technology.

  • Boschma, R. A., and R. Martin, eds. The Handbook of Evolutionary Economic Geography. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2010.

    The essential resource on the recent evolutionary turn in economic geography, which foregrounds the role of innovation for economic development. See in particular chapter 5 by Boschma and Frenken.

  • Bunnell, T. G., and N. M. Coe. “Spaces and Scales of Innovation.” Progress in Human Geography 25 (2001): 569–589.

    A highly recommendable article, which reviews previous research on innovation systems according to their scalar focus (global, national, and regional) and connects this body of literature to research on innovation in networks. Argues that previous research has over-emphasized the importance of the regional scale.

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

    From a starting point in economics, this book focuses on the roles played by proximity to supporting and relating industries as well as universities for the innovativeness of firms. Empirically, the book focuses on the United States.

  • Morgan, K. “The Learning Region: Institutions, Innovation and Regional Renewal.” Regional Studies 31 (1997): 491–503.

    The author connects the literatures on economic geography and innovation studies to formulate a new research agenda. The paper outlines implications for regional development policies in less-favored regions.

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