Innovation, networking and globalisation
: the role of regional innovation systems in the global innovation processes

  • Nicola Redi

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


In the global economy, innovation is one of the most important competitive assets for companies willing to compete in international markets. As competition moves from standardised products to customised ones, depending on each specific market needs, economies of scale are not anymore the only winning strategy. Innovation requires firms to establish processes to acquire and absorb new knowledge, leading to the recent theory of Open Innovation. Knowledge sharing and acquisition happens when firms are embedded in networks with other firms, university, institutions and many other economic actors. Several typologies of innovation and firm networks have been identified, with various geographical spans. One of the first being modelled was the Industrial Cluster (or in Italian Distretto Industriale) which was for long considered the benchmark for innovation and economic development. Other kind of networks have been modelled since the late 1970s; Regional Innovation Systems represent one of the latest and more diffuse model of innovation networks, specifically introduced to combine local networks and the global economy. This model was qualitatively exploited since its introduction, but, together with National Innovation Systems, is among the most inspiring for policy makers and is often cited by them, not always properly.
The aim of this research is to setup an econometric model describing Regional Innovation Systems, becoming one the first attempts to test and enhance this theory with a quantitative approach. A dataset of 104 secondary and primary data from European regions was built in order to run a multiple linear regression, testing if Regional Innovation Systems are really correlated to regional innovation and regional innovation in cooperation with foreign partners. Furthermore, an exploratory multiple linear regression was performed to verify which variables, among those describing a Regional Innovation Systems, are the most significant for innovating, alone or with foreign partners. Furthermore, the effectiveness of present innovation policies has been tested based on the findings of the econometric model.
The developed model confirmed the role of Regional Innovation Systems for creating innovation even in cooperation with international partners: this represents one of the firsts quantitative confirmation of a theory previously based on qualitative models only. Furthermore the results of this model confirmed a minor influence of National Innovation Systems: comparing the analysis of existing innovation policies, both at regional and national level, to our findings, emerged the need for potential a pivotal change in the direction currently followed by policy makers. Last, while confirming the role of the presence a learning environment in a region and the catalyst role of regional administration, this research offers a potential new perspective for the whole private sector in creating a Regional Innovation System.
Date of Award24 Jun 2014
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorRoghieh Gholami (Supervisor) & Emmanuel Thanassoulis (Supervisor)


  • innovation
  • globalisation
  • networks
  • regional innovation systems
  • innovation policies
  • regional economy
  • venture capital

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