GEOINNO2020 reflections by Rhoda Ahoba-Sam, University of Lincoln
In a conference on the ‘Geography of Innovation’, there is bound to be many conversations around the topics of geography and innovation. I personally fell into the ‘geographical proximity is important’ argument after stating this to be one of four main factors responsible for academics’ networks evolution in my conference presentation, ‘Perceptions of importance and evolution of academics’ networks’. I was challenged as to why proximity continues to be so important given so many systems such as social media work to overcome?!.
Interestingly, on Thursday, I chaired a session of three excellent presentations that skilfully advanced the debate. First, Ina Drejer from Aalborg University presented a paper investigating the effect of policy implementation on UICs. Next, Claudio Fassio from Lund University, Sweden pointed out that just as in Ina’s presentation, geographical proximity was an important determinant of UICs in his study of multinational practices. Finally, Renato Garcia from the Institute of Economics, University of Campinas, Brazil iced the cake concluding that not only was geographical proximity important, but when combined with cognitive proximity produced a synergic effect.
The continued importance of geographical proximity in UICs is too often underplayed and excused with the availability of several forms of ‘virtual contact’. While we cannot over-rule the value of ‘meetingness’, ‘propinquity’, ‘proximity’, or ‘co-location’, it is probably time to accept the challenge of the initial question regarding proximity, and reveal and analyse the underlying mechanisms rather than merely stating its importance.