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Hub Airports, the knowledge economy and how close is close? Evidence from Europe


  • Alain Thierstein


  • Sven Conventz


Airports have stepped beyond the stage of being simply pure infrastructure facilities. Hub airports in particular are considered to function as supra-regional and international gateway infrastructure thus having a decisive impact on firms' competitiveness and stimulating urban development. Hub airports have ? through their capability of concentrating different types of flows, from local to global ? morphed into strategic nodes within the networked economy. Recent studies indicate that hub airports increasingly play a significant role for multi-branch multi-location firms with their decision making process about where to locate. Successively, knowledge-intensive companies have settled their regional, national and sometimes supranational branches in close spatial proximity to primary and secondary airports. Simultaneously to their enhanced functionality, hub airports in Europe are increasingly recognized as general urban activity centres; that is, key assets for cities and regions as economic generators and catalysts of investment, in addition to being critical components of efficient city infrastructure. Hub airports thus represent ? against the backdrop of knowledge intensive firms optimizing physical and relational proximity within their knowledge generation efforts ? a crucial case where new urban functionalities co-produce new emerging urban patterns and vice-versa. The paper will shed light on the following questions: Which role does the knowledge generation process of firms and their respective locational needs play for geographical and relational proximity? What role does the hub airport represent within the value chains of knowledge-intensive companies? What role does an airport assume within a multi-branch firm's decision-making process about locating activities? The paper reflects the empirical results of a research project that compares the firm location behavior at the airports of Amsterdam, Munich, Dusseldorf and Frankfurt. We conclude with some recommendations on how airport-linked real estate sites need to be planned in order to reach certain robustness towards the constantly changing spatial needs of its users.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:wiw:wiwrsa:ersa14p413

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. James Simmie, 2003. "Innovation and Urban Regions as National and International Nodes for the Transfer and Sharing of Knowledge," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 37(6-7), pages 607-620.
    2. Bowen, John T., 2012. "A spatial analysis of FedEx and UPS: hubs, spokes, and network structure," Journal of Transport Geography, Elsevier, vol. 24(C), pages 419-431.
    3. Meric S. Gertler, 2003. "Tacit knowledge and the economic geography of context, or The undefinable tacitness of being (there)," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 3(1), pages 75-99, January.
    4. 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.
    5. Redondi, Renato & Malighetti, Paolo & Paleari, Stefano, 2013. "European connectivity: the role played by small airports," Journal of Transport Geography, Elsevier, vol. 29(C), pages 86-94.
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    JEL classification:

    • R33 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Real Estate Markets, Spatial Production Analysis, and Firm Location - - - Nonagricultural and Nonresidential Real Estate Markets

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