GEOINNO2020 reflections by Lisa Nieth, University of Twente

A key issue in the field of geography of innovation clearly emerging is the need to get beyond the broader macro-level to better understand micro-scale activities, individuals and their agency to better understand how and under which conditions innovation ‘happens’ in places. I was delighted that this topic emerged in a range of Keynotes and the breakout sessions during the conference. Presentations on the role of different local agents (Markku Sotarauta & Markus Grillitsch), university actors like students (Shiri Breznitz) or academics, or innovation intermediaries (Annalisa Caloffi) were particularly interesting in this regard. The presentation within the special sessions on “Innovation and Regional Transformation: Change Agency and Opportunity Spaces I” offered a great opportunity to showcase the scientific state-of-the-art in this area, and absolutely critically from my own perspective, the perennial question how to approach agency in a methodologically constructive way (Josephine Rekers).

It’s wicked issues like this methodological issue (the complex interrelation between intention, strategies, and reality) that make this micro-scale challenge so exciting. Advances are now being made that will allow us to understand how agents evolve, act, interconnect and potentially shape the innovation environment they are in. The papers I saw offer a great starting point to generate knowledge on this issue, creating interesting opportunities that can help both researchers and policy-makers to understand the practicalities of how spaces become more innovative. In return, this means that new territorial innovation policies can be designed along those lines, shaping the future of those places.

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