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Proximity and Innovation

By Ron Boschma


submitted to Regional Studies special issue on Proximity edited by R.A. Boschma Broadly speaking, there is a general claim in the literature that the more proximity between actors, the more interaction, the more interactive learning, the more knowledge creation, and the more innovation. This paper takes a rather critical stand towards this claim. Proximity may also have negative impacts on innovation. Accordingly, not only too little, but also too much proximity may be detrimental to interactive learning and innovation. This is the case for all five dimensions of proximity discussed in the paper, that is, cognitive, organizational, social, institutional and geographical proximity. A number of concepts are presented that offer, by their own, or in combination, mechanisms of effective co-ordination and control that bring together complementary sources of knowledge (solving the problem of too little proximity), while they prevent actors to become locked-in through ensuring openness and flexibility (solving the problem of too much proximity). The final part of the paper sets out some preliminary ideas concerning the question in what way the different forms of proximity may be related to each other: are they substitutes or complements? This implies, for example, that the importance of geographical proximity for effective interactive learning and innovation cannot be assessed in isolation, but should always be examined in relation to the other forms of proximity that may act as substitutes in this respect

Topics: proximity, innovation, learning, interaction, geography
Year: 2005
OAI identifier: oai:CiteSeerX.psu:
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