Knowledge and Proximity

European Planning Studies, Vol. 21 (5), 2013, pp. 700-721

38 Pages Posted: 22 Nov 2012 Last revised: 5 Jun 2013

Geert Vissers


Ben Dankbaar

Radboud University Nijmegen

Date Written: August 1, 2012


Over the years knowledge has come to be seen as crucial for economic progress, and proximity as conducive to knowledge exchange. As a result, knowledge-related processes are often considered as possible explanation of the spatial agglomeration of economic activities. However, knowledge and proximity are general concepts that have to be detailed before it is possible to specify the concrete mechanisms at work. Building on recent work that focuses on proximity, this paper develops a perspective in which proximity features as an enabling element, but no more than that, in ongoing processes of knowledge creation, transfer, absorption, and change. We argue that knowledge is to be viewed as activity and process, instead of an object or commodity. Concentrating on ‘knowledge agents’ - those engaged in knowledge-related processes, individuals and collectives - will be more productive than persisting to rely on the distinction between tacit and codified knowledge to explain spatial aspects of the economy. Finally, we argue that regions are different when it comes to the extent, and the way, they facilitate creation, transfer, and other knowledge processes. Contributions to local or regional economic development, whether through research or policy, have to take existing repertoires - patterns in collective knowledge - into account.

Keywords: knowledge, tacit knowledge, geographical proximity

JEL Classification: M29, O18, R58

Suggested Citation

Vissers, Geert and Dankbaar, Ben, Knowledge and Proximity (August 1, 2012). European Planning Studies, Vol. 21 (5), 2013, pp. 700-721. Available at SSRN:

Geert Vissers (Contact Author)

InnoTep ( email )

+31 6 41118247 (Phone)

Ben Dankbaar

Radboud University Nijmegen ( email )

Nijmegen, 6500 HK

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