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June 13, 2007

« Have They Seen the Price of Gas?? | Main | By the Numbers: How We Get to Work! »

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In "The Geographical Processes behind Innovation: A Europe-United States Comparative Analysis " Riccardo Crescenzi, Andres Rodriguez-Pose, and Michael Storper look at the question of whether or not the spatial distribution of innovative factors can explain the "innovation gap" between the U.S. and Europe.

Among their findings:

The higher mobility of capital, population, and knowledge in the US not only promotes the agglomeration of research activity in specific areas of the country but also enables a variety of territorial mechanisms to fully exploit local innovative activities and (informational) synergies. In the European Union, in contrast, imperfect market integration, and institutional and cultural barriers across the continent prevent innovative agents from maximising the benefits from external economies and localised interactions, but compensatory forms of geographical process may be emerging in concert with further European integration.

(Full version of their academic working paper is available here.)

So, all these highly mobile Creative workers aren't just moving to find a better music scene and the ultimate tekka maki.  It turns out all that mobility helps to cross-pollenate the innovation process -- all the more reason that regional openness, tolerance, and low barriers to entry are important drivers to regional growth and prosperity.  (See Florida & Gates, "Technology and Tolerance:  The Importance of Diversity to High-Technology Growth" from 2001.)

posted by Kevin Stolarick

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Comments

Richard

Kevin - Great post. I've been a huge fan of Storper's stuff for a long time. He's one of the leading economic geographers out there and a thoughtful person.

My own sense is that this is pretty much all talent related. It's not "Americans" who are innovating but people from the world over located in America. I believe this advantage is running its course, as I pretty much argued in Flight. There are several reasons, but difficulties in global talent gaining easy access to the US is the primary one. The lack of funding for research and increased politicization of such funding is another. Poor and deteriorating scientific infrastructure quality relative to other parts of the world is a third. The rapid catchup in salaries and funding outside the US completes the picture. It is not as if any one country - or even that the EU as a whole - will overtake the US. But many countries will increase their draw of the global scientific talent pool. China and India are already retaining more of their top people and attracting other back. The UK, Canada and other places are attracting scientists who would have only gone to leading US universities a decade or two ago. Recall what happened to Berlin in the 20th century as it rapidly plummeted from the world center of science to a backwater. The point is not that the two are comparable, but that when such shifts happen, they can occur very quickly.

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