chapter  10
17 Pages

Innovation and Creative Places: Ian Miles and Sally Gee


This chapter focuses on how innovation relates to the spatial contexts in which it is located. A later chapter considers ‘cultures and innovation’. Economists and geographers have long studied the propensity of similar activities to be grouped together in space. This is known as agglomeration. In the 20th century, cities were widely seen as the most important and visible units of economic agglomeration. Moving beyond the basic idea of economies of agglomeration, cities were seen as supporting economic growth by leveraging localization and urbanization (Fujita and Thisse, 2002). They are implicated in innovation in various ways. Many observers argue that the level of the nation-state is typically too large to give adequate grasp of innovation dynamics. Cities are complex networks of institutions that, according to de la Mothe (2004), enable fi rms and households to deal with uncertainties and changing contingencies in a complex and dynamic environment. They constitute pools of human capital in which social and intellectual diversity can foster creativity and innovation (Florida, 2002). With a critical mass for specialized activities and being the base for a great diversity of such activities, there is opportunity for innovative cross-fertilization (Castells, 2001). Individual cities work within global networks, while being ‘brands’ in their own right, sites of economic and cultural activity and symbolic signifi cance. They are also nodes in internationally connected economies and international city networks (Scott, 2006). This is of particular relevance for innovations that embody widely distributed knowledge, and whose generation requires ‘open innovation’–type (Chesbrough, 2006) processes. There has been an explosion of interest in these themes in the 21st century. A survey of literature on cities and innovation from Athey et al. (2005) outlines some major lines of debate here. We should acknowledge that there are traditions of sophisticated analysis going back for several decades, including notably the work of the GREMI group on ‘creative milieu’;1 and at the turn of the century Hall (2000) reviewed much earlier work on creative cities. But there is also a powerful argument that location does not matter so much, indeed that it is practically obsolescent. We begin with this point of view.