chapter  2
14 Pages

Competitiveness of Regions from an Evolutionary Perspective

ByRON A. BOSCHMA

The notion of regional competitiveness has attracted a tions. Do regions compete, as firms do? Is it meaningful lot of attention since Porter published The Competi-to talk about the ability of regions to generate new tive Advantage of Nations (1990). It has increasingly been variety and to engage in learning processes? It is not adopted as a policy tool in the 1990s. Due to the necessarily true that they do, despite the fact that some process of globalization, cities and regions have been regions grow faster and show a better ability to develop confronted with increasing competitive pressures, and new economic activities than other regions. How does this made policy-makers at the regional and urban level one deal with the fact that regions are entities that do think about how to respond (Begg , 2002). not act, like individuals or organizations do? Taking

Economic geographers have also been eager to these remarks in consideration, does it make sense to embrace the concept because it promised to bring back talk about the competitiveness of regions? the relevance of geography into economics, despite The present paper aims to address these questions tendencies of globalization. There now exists a large from an evolutionary perspective. Since the seminal body of literature stating that regions are an important work of Nelson and Winter (1982), evolutionary resource of competitive advantage in a world of stronger economics has become a well-established field of interregional competition. Concepts like industrial research in economics that basically focuses on ecodistricts (Becattini , 1990), innovative milieus nomic change in situations of bounded rationality (for (Camagni , 1991), learning regions (Asheim, 1996) a good overview, see Nelson , 1995). In economic and regional innovation systems (Cooke et al., 1998; geography, it is increasingly recognized that evolutionCooke, 2001) have described the crucial importance ary thinking has a lot to offer (e.g. Boschma and of externalities in maintaining competitiveness that Van der Knaap, 1997; Cooke et al., 1998; extend or cross the boundaries of individual firms but Boschma and Lambooy, 1999). One reason is that which operate within the boundaries of a (loosely it fits rather well in the tradition of economic geodefined) territory. In this respect, the focus of attention graphy: it is well equipped to account for complexity has shifted from traded relationships to untraded inter-and place-specific developments (Martin , 1999). An dependencies on which regional competitiveness is evolutionary economic geography approach aims to based (Storper, 1997). This body of literature argues understand actions of economic actors and paths of that non-economic factors (such as cognitive, social, change in a context of time and space. It explains how cultural and institutional factors) are crucial for know-the behaviour of agents is situated and conditioned, ledge creation, learning and economic development. but not determined, by structures accumulated at the According to Lawson (1999, p. 160), these under-level of the organization (e.g. routines) and the environlying factors ‘are somehow more enduring, but less ment (e.g. social networks, institutions). In other words, ‘‘concrete’’ in some sense – factors which are ‘‘in the these surrounding structures enable and constrain, but air’’ or ‘‘untraded’’ ’. What is crucial is that these are do not determine actions of agents: chance events and believed to be spatially bounded, shaped and repro-human agency, often in combination with increasing duced through the interaction between local actors. returns, may result in unforeseeable changes. That

is, actions and repeated interaction of agents adapt,The notion of regional competitiveness, however, is

transform, upgrade or lock-in structures at the level of some policy implications of such a conceptualization of the region based on evolutionary thinking.both the organization and the external environment.