TROPICAL GEOGRAPHY ›› 2019, Vol. 39 ›› Issue (3): 472-478.doi: 10.13284/j.cnki.rddl.003135

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Research Progress on Innovation Networks and Regional Growth from the Perspective of Economic Geography

Cao Xianzhong and Zeng Gang   

  1. (Center for Modern Chinese City Studies, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200062, China)
  • Received:2018-12-29 Revised:2019-01-24


“Innovation-driven and transformative development” is a national development strategy that has been implemented by the central government of China. Scientific and technological innovation is gradually surpassing the driving effects of investment and an export-oriented economy on regional economic growth, thus becoming the new catalyst for economic growth. The relationship between innovation and regional growth has become an important area of study for economic geographers. As the innovation modality has transformed from single-actor independent innovation to multi-actor cooperative innovation, research on regional growth based on the perspective of innovation networks is a new focal point for economic geographers. This study reviews recent research literature on the measurement of innovation networks, the relationship between innovation networks and regional growth, and innovation networks’ effects on regional growth. It was found that social capital may be used to represent informal linkages in innovation network; however, it is not clear whether social capital can promote regional growth. The unquantifiable characteristics of social capital restrict further research. As a computable relational investment, network capital can be used to represent formal linkages in innovation networks and function as an explanatory mechanism for understanding the economic value of firm innovation networks. Innovation networks have a positive role in promoting regional growth, but we cannot ignore the phenomenon of regional innovation networks “local embeddedness” and “over-embeddedness” that leads to regional development “path-locking.” An academic consensus has been reached: regional growth is characterized by networking. Extant research has explained the impact of innovation networks on regional growth from different perspectives; knowledge flow and multi-dimensional proximity are widely used to explain the regional growth mechanisms. Spatial proximity knowledge networks are also considered to be integral to increase regional competitiveness, knowledge flow, and proximity by better explaining the relationship between innovation networks and regional growth. However, the substitutive and complementary effects resulting from the proximity of innovation networks actors and the influence of code and tacit knowledge flow on innovation and development must be further investigated. Regional growth is a topic that economic geographers have consistently emphasized; however, explaining regional growth from the perspective of innovation networks differs from other approaches that utilize the perspective of capital, investment, human capital, and related factors. Thus, this approach has important theoretical significance. This study aimed to analyze the mechanism by which network capital affects regional growth by focusing on three basic characteristics: coordination, complementarity, and homogeneity of regional internal and external innovation knowledge. Exploring the influence of entrepreneurship, psychological and behavioral characteristics of innovation actors on innovation networks and regional growth. This study concludes with suggestions for further research, such as empirical research on different types of innovation networks and regional growth, testing and reflecting on the relationship model between the two, and summarizing the general rules of innovation networks effects on regional growth.

Key words: innovation networks, regional growth, regional development, economic geography