GEOINNO2020 reflections by Utku Ali Rıza Alpaydın, University of Stavanger
For the field of Geography of Innovation, proximity is a core concept for understanding knowledge exchange and innovation diffusion. The studies account for proximity´s importance to knowledge and innovation spill over across space generally portrays a tension between proximity’s geographical and non-geographical dimensions. The majority of these works favour the former, leaving proximity’s non-geographical dimensions proximity understudied and underestimated.
However, GEOINNO 2020 showed a reverse tendency, foregrounding proximity’s non-geographical dimensions– such as cognitive, organizational, institutional and social. Every session in the theme around “Proximity and Innovation” included at least one paper employing a broader perspective on proximity. For example, the paper by Sarah Franz (from University of Gothenburg) applied the proximity framework onto business model innovation, while Tausif Bordoloi (from University of Manchester) examined the role of proximities in the adoption of Industry 4.0 practices in the English automotive and aerospace sectors.
The challenge of proximity’s non-geographical aspects primarily stems from difficulties in properly defining these dimensions. This resonates with my own experiences in studying university-industry collaborations within RUNIN project. The discussions during GEOINNO 2020 have indicated the shortcomings of existing measures especially when applied to different contexts. Nevertheless, increased attention paid to non-geographical dimensions of proximity from different perspectives will contribute to developing more solid and generalizable measures that capture proximity dynamics’ essence.