Recent years have seen a growing concern, from within a variety of (especially economics-related) disciplines, to develop concepts and categories that are of clear relevance to applied research. This concern has not been simply an interest in ‘conceptualisation for conceptualisation’s sake’. Rather, close inspection shows that it is driven by a dissatisfaction with the tendency of existing theories to treat various central categories, such as firms, regions, learning and technology, as closed black boxes. Implicitly, then, the relative plethora of new concepts has as its main feature, although rarely acknowledged, a realist or ontological orientation.