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Urban bias in innovation studies

In: The Elgar Companion to Innovation and Knowledge Creation


  • Richard Shearmur


Innovation is assumed by many analysts to be intimately connected with cities and with clusters of economic activity. The geography of innovation – as an area of study – does not seriously examine innovation by isolated firms or in remote areas, which it considers atypical. In this chapter I argue that the evidence upon which this assumption is based is biased towards identifying innovation in clusters and urban areas, and that innovation theory contributes to this bias. I outline a theory that accounts for innovation both in urban and in remote areas, and which also accounts for the decline of many remote regions. This theory rests upon distinguishing initial firm-level innovation (that occurs similarly in urban and remote areas, as an increasing body of evidence shows) from subsequent growth and innovation diffusion (that often requires the market access and resources that cities provide). Evidence is presented that corroborates certain aspects of this theory. The chapter’s central argument is that once urban bias is overcome the geography of innovation can abandon some of its inhibiting assumptions and move in new directions.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard Shearmur, 2017. "Urban bias in innovation studies," Chapters, in: Harald Bathelt & Patrick Cohendet & Sebastian Henn & Laurent Simon (ed.), The Elgar Companion to Innovation and Knowledge Creation, chapter 27, pages 440-456, Edward Elgar Publishing.
  • Handle: RePEc:elg:eechap:15485_27

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    Cited by:

    1. Gernot Grabher, 2018. "Marginality as strategy: Leveraging peripherality for creativity," Environment and Planning A, , vol. 50(8), pages 1785-1794, November.
    2. Anne Margarian & Cécile Détang-Dessendre & Aleksandra Barczak & Corinne Tanguy, 2022. "Endogenous rural dynamics: an analysis of labour markets, human resource practices and firm performance," SN Business & Economics, Springer, vol. 2(8), pages 1-33, August.
    3. Zerrer, Nicole & Sept, Ariane, 2020. "Smart Villagers as Actors of Digital Social Innovation in Rural Areas," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, vol. 5(4), pages 78-88.
    4. Nicole Zerrer & Ariane Sept, 2020. "Smart Villagers as Actors of Digital Social Innovation in Rural Areas," Urban Planning, Cogitatio Press, vol. 5(4), pages 78-88.
    5. Mayer, Heike, 2021. "Wirtschaftliche Entwicklung und Innovationsdynamiken in Kleinstädten," Forschungsberichte der ARL: Aufsätze, in: Steinführer, Annett & Porsche, Lars & Sondermann, Martin (ed.), Kompendium Kleinstadtforschung, volume 16, pages 140-154, ARL – Akademie für Raumentwicklung in der Leibniz-Gemeinschaft.
    6. Doloreux, David & Shearmur, Richard, 2023. "Does location matter? STI and DUI innovation modes in different geographic settings," Technovation, Elsevier, vol. 119(C).
    7. Johannes Glückler & Richard Shearmur & Kirsten Martinus, 2023. "Liability or opportunity? Reconceptualizing the periphery and its role in innovation," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 23(1), pages 231-249.
    8. Filippopoulos, Nikolaos & Fotopoulos, Georgios, 2022. "Innovation in economically developed and lagging European regions: A configurational analysis," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 51(2).
    9. Jose-Maria Garcia-Alvarez-Coque & Norat Roig-Tierno & Mercedes Sanchez-Garcia & Francisco Mas-Verdu, 2021. "Knowledge Drivers, Business Collaboration and Competitiveness in Rural and Urban Regions," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 157(1), pages 9-27, August.


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