Keynote Speakers

Christian Ketels and Deborah Strumsky: keynote speakers on May, 9th.

Christian Ketels: Cluster-Based Policies – Flavor of the Past, or More Needed than Ever?

Clusters are a mature concept, having been the subject of academic research for many decades. Cluster organizations and policies, too, have by now been around for a long time. Are these concepts still useful given how much conceptual tools, economic circumstances, and policy priorities have evolved since the 1990s and early 2000s? This talk will first discuss the cluster concept in its connection to approaches that have emerged more recently, like evolutionary economic geography and economic complexity. It will then discuss the use of the cluster concept as a framework to guide policy action, looking at the experience of the last decades. Clusters, it will be argued, remain a useful way to understand modern economies. And they can help to organize policy action in ways that are particularly important now, as economic circumstances and policy goals are changing, in many sectors and regions dramatically so. But to be effective, cluster-based approaches have to evolve, focusing more on the “how” than the “whether” of cluster-based policies. 

Christian Ketels is a global expert on economic competitiveness and strategy. He recently left Harvard Business School, where he served as a faculty member and Principal Associate at Prof. Michael Porter’s Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness for more than 20 years. He is Senior Advisor at the House of Governance, Stockholm School of Economics, Director and Co-Chair of the Innovation Fund Denmark and chairs the Advisory Board of the TCI Network and the Scientific Advisory Board of Orkestra, the Basque Institute for Competitiveness. Dr. Ketels has extensive experience of working with top level political, corporate, and academic leaders around the world, having advised a wide range of governments, companies. and international organizations like the World Bank, the IMF, NIB, and the European Commission. His work focuses on the foundations of long-term growth, the role of location and broader macroeconomic factors in company success, the competitiveness of locations, clusters and cluster-based policies, and on regional and innovation policies.

Deborah Strumsky: AI, Inventive Novelty, and Clustering in technology spaces

Artificial Intelligence advocates claim it will transform nearly all aspects of our daily lives. In the domain of technological invention and innovation, AI algorithms are already inventing new technologies and augmenting human inventive capabilities. The presence of AI methods certainly feels transformative to many of its users, and AI techniques holds the promise of accelerating global invention rates as well as the creation of badly needed disruptive and radical new technologies to meet emerging society’s global challenges. So, are we in a moment of revolutionary science? And if an AI algorithm can be an inventor, what does it mean for spatial patterns of invention? Have we finally seen an end to “distance matters”? Or, have we been here and seen this before?  We examine the evidence for the transformative capabilities of AI for inventive novelty and how we can explore clustering under alternative definitions of distance. We provide evidence for whether AI is reinforcing or undermining existing spatial hierarchies. 

Deborah Strumsky is professor of Economics at the Jönköping International Business School. She previously taught at Arizona State University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her primary research focus in on invention and technological change with a special interest in the creation technological novelty. Her current work investigates the role of invention in society’s ability to confront the challenges of climate adaption and mitigation, and whether human invention can be accelerated by incorporating artificial intelligence techniques to address climate crisis. She brings an interdisciplinary approach incorporates methods from economics, spatial modeling/GIS, complex systems, evolutionary biology, and cultural anthropology.

Ron Boschma and Annalisa Caloffi: keynote speakers on May, 10th.

Ron Boschma: An evolutionary approach to development traps in European regions

Recently, the development trap concept has been introduced to identify regions that get caught in persistent patterns of low economic growth and stagnation (Iammarino et al. 2020). Evolutionary scholars have indicated that self-reinforcing dynamics can limit the capacity of regions to innovate and develop new growth paths (Arthur 1989, 1994). However, an evolutionary approach to regional development traps is still underdeveloped. We build on but also go beyond recent work by Pinheiro et al. (2022), among others, that argue that regions might become trapped in low-complexity activities, because their opportunities to develop high-complex activities are very limited, since relevant capabilities are missing. We propose a novel concept of regional traps that is embedded in evolutionary thinking, and that accounts for the persistent weak ability of many regions to develop new activities and upgrade their economies into more complex activities. We build on the relatedness/complexity framework (Balland et al. 2019) to measure and identify regional traps and to develop a new typology of regional traps. We aim to shed light on the possible links between regional ‘development traps’ (low growth/stagnation traps) as defined by Iammarino et al. (2020) and our new typology of “regional traps”, following an evolutionary approach (Balland et al. 2019). Using industry data, we follow European regions over a long period of time and provide systematic evidence on how many regions in the EU are trapped, what kinds of traps they have fallen into, and to what extent these concern high- and low-income regions. Our definition of 2 regional traps centers around the structural inability of regions to develop new complex activities over a longer period of time, because their capabilities form a major obstacle to move into new and more complex activities. We will identify regions that once did well but have fallen into a trap, but we also showcase regions that managed to overcome such traps, and how. We explore how the different types of traps are linked to low-growth or stagnations traps, as measured by Iammarino et al. (2020). These insights are useful for policy discussions about regional traps, what to do about them, how to successfully escape them, and how to avoid them in the future. This is also crucial for the effectiveness of Smart Specialization policy in places that find themselves trapped or run the risk of falling into a trap.

Ron Boschma is full professor in Regional Economics at Utrecht University, and Professor 2 at UiS Business School of Stavanger University. Boschma has been full professor in Innovation Studies at Lund University where he was also director of the Centre for Innovation, Research and Competence in the Learning Economy (CIRCLE). He is member of the Executive Board of the International Regional Studies Association. Boschma has published on Evolutionary Economic Geography, the spatial evolution of industries, geography of innovation, regional resilience, regional diversification, and Smart Specialization policy. Boschma has been ranked by Thomson Reuters among the top 1% of cited researchers worldwide in all scientific fields every year since 2014.

Annalisa Caloffi: Assessing regional policy mixes for the digital and twin transitions

Policy mixes for the digital and twin transitions represent strategic frameworks designed to address the intertwined challenges and opportunities of digitalization and sustainability. These approaches recognizes that no single policy can effectively address complex issues on its own. Instead, a mix of complementary policies is often necessary to tackle multifaceted challenges, optimize outcomes, and mitigate unintended consequences (Howlett and Del Rio, 2015; Kern et al., 2019). Regional policymakers can use policy mixes to pursue different goals with a portfolio of policies, offering economic agents a set of opportunities they may choose from. However, they may also design predefined combinations of instruments to be used together to pursue multiple objectives at the same time (Flanagan et al., 2011; Kern et al., 2017). This can also occur through the use of conditionalities, aimed at orienting the efforts of economic agents in the desired direction (Mazzucato and Rodrik, 2023). Assessing the effectiveness of policies with conditionality, as well as that of policy mixes, is a challenging endeavor that requires consideration of different levels of analysis (Costantini et al., 2017; Zhao et al., 2020; Caloffi et al., 2022; Zhang et al., 2023). I will look in particular at two typical types of combinations: i) for the digital transition, the support for business investment projects that combine investments in digital technologies and workers’ training; ii) for the twin transition, the support for business investment projects in digital technologies that explicitly take into account environmental sustainability issues. Combining results from published studies and works in progress, I will highlight some challenges for the evaluation and design of regional policies.

Annalisa Caloffi is Associate Professor of Applied Economics at the University of Florence, where she teaches economics and industrial policy and economics of innovation. She is a member of the Florence data Centre and CAPP – Research Centre for the Analysis of Public Policies, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, and she is the director of a master’s degree programme in economics. Her research work focuses on the analysis and evaluation of industrial and innovation policies. On this topic, she has extensively published in journals such as Research Policy, Technology Forecasting and Social Change, Journal of Technology Transfer. Recent work deals with the use of digital platforms for the production of public goods and services and policies for a just twin transition. On these topics, she currently leads national and EU-funded research projects.

Their collective expertise and insights will undoubtedly contribute to the success of our event!