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Uneven Development

The creation of spatially uneven productive and innovative capacity

The institute has a long tradition in research on the spatial dimension of innovation, productivity change and economic growth with Professor emeritus Manfred M. Fischer providing internationally renowned research on spatial modelling and methodologies. One of key insights of work on the geography of innovation, productivity and growth is the role of inertia or path-dependence that results in spatially uneven development.

Drawing on different economic theories such as political economy, evolutionary and institutional economics we recognize that future regional and urban economic changes are always shaped by historical layers of industries, firms, infrastructure, institutional environments and social networks laid down during previous rounds of investment and production. This existing resource system forms at once the launchpad for and barrier to future change. We thus expect regions and cities to branch into related economic activities (industries, technologies, institutional environments) creating new pathways of economic development. As regions and cities are embedded in national, supra-national and global economic scales and linked through firm and social networks, the path-dependent endogenous creation of regional economic capacity is mediated through processes at other scales. Knowledge pipelines, trans-regional supply chains, and social networks influence the direction and pace of economic and technological change but the exact nature of the interaction of those multiple processes are not well understood at this point.

The research of the Institute seeks to address some of these theoretical and empirical blind spots. The link to socio-economics is its focus on heterodox approaches, the appreciation of historically and geographically specific processes shaping economic change, as well as its appreciation of institutional differentiation and recognition of the irreducibility of political economy to economy.

Research in this area is based on ongoing international collaboration including the University of California, Los Angeles, University College Dublin as well as research and teaching links with the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology, Department of Innovation System.