Innovation in the geographic periphery: optics and relationships

Amongst urban and economic geographers the accepted wisdom has been that innovation and creativity blossom in cities because of their density, diversity, cultural openness and global connections. The corollary of this belief is that innovation and creativity cannot flourish in peripheral or small town locations. Empirical observation does not support these straightforward claims: innovation and creativity occur in places distant from metropolitan areas. However, they are less visible, and often do not stimulate the local economy or community. In this paper I first suggest that innovative activities occurring in non-metropolitan are easy to overlook for a straightforward optical reason: they are less visible *because* they are not clustered or geographically concentrated. They are also easily overlooked because researchers are often themselves situated (geographically and relationally) in proximity to urbanized power bases and gatekeepers: they are therefore more attuned to urban perceptions of what innovation should be. I then turn to the process of innovation itself: *how* does innovation in geographically distant settings differ from innovation in more urban settings? It tends to rely to a greater extent on internal capacity, slow information and local know-how. Furthermore, certain geographically isolated innovators are situated towards the center of niche or specialized networks and relationships.

Discussant: Simone Ferriani

PLACES: Session 1