Introduction: Origins of the Concept

Posted: 4 Nov 2009

Date Written: 1998


Reviews the theoretical and empirical study of the regional innovation system (RIS), serving as an introduction to a collection of essays on the notion. Though there has been an upsurge surrounding the study of national systems of innovation since the 1980s, it was not until 1992 that the term 'regional innovation system' came into use. The RIS is characterized by economic coordination emphasizing the importance of cultural factors, including trust, cooperation, and social network relationships. A typology of regional innovation systems is formulated, drawing on regional science and innovation studies, and rejecting the neoclassical explanation in favor of an evolutionary theory of economics. This formulation includes analysis of grassworks, network, dirigiste, localist, interactive, and globalized RIS, as well as the key roles of governance and business innovation. In contrast to neoclassical theory, which posits the firm as a homogenous, atomistic unit of rational utility maximization, in evolutionary economics the firm is differentiated, making use of heterogeneous inputs, and learns through the double feedback loop of assessing its own experience and the experience of peers. The process of innovation becomes systematic as it develops within clusters of inter-firm relationships. 'Learning by doing,' 'learning by using' and 'learning by interaction' are three complementary approaches to instilling a learning culture in industry -- that is, a culture characterized by institutional, cooperative learning that leads to innovative progress. Policy should serve as the infrastructure reinforcing this learning economy by supporting linkages between society and economy. Finally, to set up the question of the region's importance to economics in the age of globalization that will be explored in later essays in this book, the region is defined as a system of collective order maintained through trust and reliability, rather than, at it has traditionally been defined, an area characterized by economic specificity, administrative homogeneity, and shared culture. The other essays in this book are organized intto three categories: market-driven and informal coordination, network governance, and the impact of public policies. (CJC)

Keywords: Regional innovation systems, Utility maximization, Evolutionary economics, Innovation process, Regional economies, Learning networks, Social networks, Interfirm alliances, Experiential learning, Organizational learning, Cultural values, Regions, Clusters

Suggested Citation

Cooke, Philip, Introduction: Origins of the Concept (1998). University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership Historical Research Reference in Entrepreneurship, Available at SSRN:

Philip Cooke (Contact Author)

University of Wales ( email )

King Edward VII Avenue, Cathays Park
Cardiff, CF10 3NS
United Kingdom

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