Technology and Economic Development: The Dynamics of Local, Regional, and National Change

Posted: 4 Nov 2009

See all articles by Edward J. Malecki

Edward J. Malecki

Ohio State University (OSU) - School of Public Policy and Management

Date Written: 1997


This study examines the effects of technological change on economic growth and development, synthesizing extensive research from multiple disciplines, including geography and planning, regional science, entrepreneurship, technology policy and economics. It uses the framework of regional development to encompass economic dynamics at all spatial scales: national, regional and local. The concept of regional development is introduced as the qualitative or structural features of a region's economy, as opposed to its sheer size or growth rate. The analysis also examines the core-periphery dichotomy, where the core is defined as a set of regions in which complexity, technology, and control are the norm, and where linkages to other nodes and the global system are common. The discussion also draws a distinction between economic growth and economc development; the former designates increases in population within a specific area, or increases in the quantity or the value of the goods and services, and does not necessarily lead to qualitative improvements in life, the way development does. Technological capability is closely related to capability in R&D. Economic change, including technological change, is an evolutionary process. Much technological change is cumulative within firms, and within regions and nations. The analysis explains some reasons behind this phenomenon. It then focuses on the internal organization of R&D within firms. Issues of strategy, organization and external relationships are the means of competing in a setting of rapid technological and political change. R&D is necessary for competitiveness, but not enough; conventional strategies are changing to encompass people -- their contacts and skills -- as another vital basis for success of firms in new technologies and in alliances and other cooperations. The location of economic activities is explored. There are two major sets of influences on the innovativeness and competitiveness of places: (1) technical skills and information are key in the process of technological change and competition; and (2) urban areas contain a complex synergy of factors that smaller, more remote places cannot attain. Producer services, which are strongly based on knowledge and symbolic analysis, are therefore typically clustered in cities. Small firms and entrepreneurship are examined as a crucial part of a well-functioning regional economy. Research has demonstrated the close relationship between entrepreneurship and regional and local development. Innovativeness developed within local inter-firm networks both supports existing firms and presents opportunities for starting new businesses in order to serve newly identified markets. Networks of firms complement and sometimes substitute for a firm's own technological capability. Networks of large firms and the globalization of economic activity are then considered. Policy attempts at national, regional and local scales to influence the location of economic activity are analyzed. The economic progress and prospects of developing countries are assessed. Policies for innovation, entrepreneurship, and the functioning of the economy are essential, and require flexibility in order to respond to changing conditions in the world economy, in specific product markets, and in technology. Concludes with a discussion of some of the central themes that were facing society at the end of the 1990s, including basic needs for human development, environmental issues, employment and human capital, and infrastructures for future technologies. (AT)

Keywords: Technological change, Human capital, Social capital, Cluster formation, Competitive advantages, Urban areas, Economic development, Regional development, R&D, Industrial research, Firm location, Agglomeration economies, Developing countries, Regional economies, Regional resources, Interfirm alliances

Suggested Citation

Malecki, Edward J., Technology and Economic Development: The Dynamics of Local, Regional, and National Change (1997). University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership Historical Research Reference in Entrepreneurship. Available at SSRN:

Edward J. Malecki (Contact Author)

Ohio State University (OSU) - School of Public Policy and Management ( email )

United States

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