Networks and Knowledge

Perhaps the most interesting implications of recent developments in the field of economic geography relate to the impact of the spatial organisation of regions on flows of knowledge. In particular, it is considered that differences in regional development and growth can potentially be explained by differences in the conditions for creating, accumulating and – crucially – transmitting knowledge.

Through research funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council, NESTA, the European Union’s Framework Programme, and a range of regional authorities, researchers at the Centre have focused their research on examining the inter-organisational networks underpinning the flow of knowledge within and across regions. The Centre’s work has focused on the role of networks as a capital asset – network capital – facilitating the flow of economically valuable knowledge.

While studies often apply the network concept in a broad manner, few have sought to apply it in a more formal and constrained way, the Centre’s work has sought to establish a more precise rendering of the potential role of networks and knowledge within regional development and growth processes. Building on work in the field of relational economic geography, some of the key questions the Centre is seeking to tackle include: (1) How does the role of both the geographic space and network space associated with inter-organisational knowledge networks differ across regional settings? (2) How are inter-organisational knowledge networks associated with the innovation performance of network actors? and (3) Are the geographic and network space characteristics of such networks associated with the innovation performance of network actors?

The Centre’s recent work has focused on the role of knowledge sourcing networks and open innovation, in particular understanding the spatio-temporal structure of networks in terms of the geographic coverage and the nature of constituent network actors. Other recent work in this area has covered university-industry knowledge networks, with studies impacting on the discourse concerning the role of university knowledge transfer activity to regional economic development. Whilst the underlying discourse has tended to stress the latent potential of university knowledge as a driver of regional development, the Centre’s work has impacted on these debates by questioning the extent to which such knowledge can stimulate regional development.

For information on this research stream please contact Professor Robert Huggins.