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The Relational Geography of the Knowledge Economy in Germany: On Functional Urban Hierarchies and Localised Value Chain Systems


  • Stefan Lüthi
  • Alain Thierstein
  • Michael Bentlage


The objective of this contribution is to set out a theoretical context and then to investigate empirically Germany’s functional urban hierarchy based on the relational geography of the knowledge economy. Starting from a conceptual background that brings together the locational behaviour of multibranch, multilocation firms with a value chain approach, it looks at the extent to which this hierarchy is associated with the networking activities of advanced producer services and high-tech firms. The results provide evidence that the functional urban hierarchy in the German space economy is steeper than is claimed by the federal government. A maximum of six polycentric mega-city regions—Munich, Rhine-Main, Hamburg, Rhine-Ruhr, Stuttgart and to a lesser extent Berlin—can be regarded as strategic nodes in the global knowledge economy. A non-nested hierarchy with overlapping and trans-scalar urban networks challenges the traditional view of a nested hierarchy as an organising principle of space.

Suggested Citation

  • Stefan Lüthi & Alain Thierstein & Michael Bentlage, 2013. "The Relational Geography of the Knowledge Economy in Germany: On Functional Urban Hierarchies and Localised Value Chain Systems," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 50(2), pages 276-293, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:urbstu:v:50:y:2013:i:2:p:276-293

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    Cited by:

    1. Akhavan, Mina & Ghiara, Hilda & Mariotti, Ilaria & Sillig, Cécile, 2020. "Logistics global network connectivity and its determinants. A European City network analysis," Journal of Transport Geography, Elsevier, vol. 82(C).
    2. Stefan Lüthi & Alain Thierstein & Michael Hoyler, 2015. "The world city network: national versus global perspective," ERSA conference papers ersa15p66, European Regional Science Association.
    3. Tuba Yakıcı Ayan & Hakan Pabuçcu, 2018. "The assessment of knowledge economy efficiency: comparing Turkey with the European Union countries," Zbornik radova Ekonomskog fakulteta u Rijeci/Proceedings of Rijeka Faculty of Economics, University of Rijeka, Faculty of Economics, vol. 36(2), pages 443-464.
    4. Florian W. Bartholomae & Chang Woon Nam & Alina Schoenberg, 2017. "Urban Resurgence as a Consumer City: A Case Study for Weimar in Eastern Germany," CESifo Working Paper Series 6610, CESifo.
    5. Alain Thierstein & Sven Conventz, 2014. "Hub Airports, the knowledge economy and how close is close? Evidence from Europe," ERSA conference papers ersa14p413, European Regional Science Association.

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