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Creative Regions: Technology, Culture and Knowledge Entrepreneurship

Philip Cooke and Dafna Schwartz (Editors)

Routledge: London (2007), 294 pages, Hardcover (£60), ISBN: 978-0-415-43428-7.

Reviewed by Roberta Comunian, School of Geography, University of Southampton.

Creative Regions: Technology, Culture and Knowledge Entrepreneurship is a rich collection of papers critically engaging with the role of knowledge and innovation in regional and international contexts. The papers are the responses to a conference call on “Enabling knowledge strategies” aiming to address questions such as how knowledge can be managed in diverse territorial contexts and how knowledge moves from institutions, businesses and other cultural organizations in regional contexts. The emphasis in trying to collect these materials has been put both “on science and culture, mechanism and strategies, with evolution and change” (p1).

The papers are introduced by a theoretical framework written by the editors. As Cooke and Schwartz underline in their introduction, the book aims to contribute and to be rooted into the larger framework of evolutionary economic geography (Boschma and Martin, 2008) and within this framework explores further understanding of role of knowledge in local economies.

The definition issue - what is a creative region? - is a central contribution of the editors, further unfolded through out the book. Creative regions are not simply regions with high concentration of creative industries. They are regions where knowledge and innovation are linked to different forms of cultural assets and entrepreneurship.  “Possession of variety of cultural assets in visual arts, music, and theatre and so on is a fundamental element of the creative region. However, as we shall elaborate, it is not the same asset as creative industries. The latter may relate to the former and perhaps overlap on occasions, but they are a broader, more diffuse and profitable market-oriented platform of related activities whereas the ‘cultural economy’ is often not” (p7). This is a very original position statement as much of the research about ‘creativity’ and ‘creative regions’ have been narrow focused and has concentrate on concentration and development of creative clusters and attraction of the creative class (Florida, 2002).

The book is articulated in three parts, addressing different perspectives of economic geography research on creative regions. The first part, Regional Innovation Systems, benefits from four contributions addressing regionalised knowledge and the role of location in firms’ competitive advantage.  While Dietmar and Hilpert develop a comparative approach between various European regions preserving traditional knowledge base and regions engaging in the modernisation of their knowledge base, Raunio addresses the role of social capital in innovative environments in Finland. De Bruijn and van Oort look at firm-internal knowledge assets and agglomeration in the Dutch context. However, Kosonen’s paper investigate the problem of regions lagging behind the knowledge economy and the role of local institutional capacity and cooperation

The second part, Cluster evolution, variety and policy, offers further five chapters focusing on the analysis of different case studies of creative regions.  More research from the Dutch context is presented by Rutten and Boekema which address the evolution of smaller clusters and role of cluster schemes in growth processes. Stoerring and Dalum take further the discourse on cluster development comparing two Danish case studies showing different stages of the cluster evolution. Birch’s contribution looks at British biotechnology industry and concludes that the relation between places and innovation needs to be conceptualised through the understanding of functional, relational and associational features of knowledge-space dynamics. Lazzaretti presents the case study of Florence and critically acknowledging the work of Florida (2002), she assess the relationship between culture, creativity and model of local development in cities, that like Florence are characterised by concentration of ‘high culture’ experiences. Finally Rasmussen and Lynov present the case study of Musicon Valley in Denmark and question the delicate system of interrelations between innovation in science and in the creative sector.

The last part Knowledge transfer, R&D outsourcing, open innovation focuses specifically on general frameworks of knowledge and innovation. Cooke presents a new theoretical approach and focus on the importance of ‘open innovation’ and R&D collaborations in ICT and biotechnology sectors in UK. Burfitt and Collinge further elaborate on the importance of R&D when outsourcing of knowledge becomes a global trend and when regions, with previous manufacturing profiles need to deal with the challenge of production knowledge not goods. Wink in the following chapter also concentrate on the outsourcing of knowledge services, looking at the role of engineering and design in the aircraft sector in the Hamburg region. The last paper, from Izushi, develops the issues of knowledge management and knowledge community, looking at how communication and collaboration within firms and between firms is often the key to local innovation.

One of the most valuable lessons of the book is centered on the need to provide a better understanding of the limits of public policy and the impossibility of engineering processes of innovation. “The most fruitful avenue is that creative regions must work out their own salvation through knowledge accumulation and innovative thinking customised to regional assets and needs. The policy approach is thus an ‘envisioning’ one but boarder than those utilised in economic development thinking hitherto and based on evolutionary methodologies and platform policies (p.12)”.

Considering this interesting wide breath of the research collected, I was disappointed in finding no article addressing the questions of social enterprise (Leadbeater, 1997) and case studies or examples of social/civic innovation. A wider understanding of the way innovation is experienced and achieved in different regions in Europe should also include the development of the third sector.

Overall the book provides a very useful collection of research into the knowledge economy literature. It tries to bring the gap between creativity and innovation and the role of creativity in a wider understanding of economic development, not limited to creative industries. It also attempt to link innovation and creativity to the cultural development of places and clearly proposes a relational model to address the interconnections between these different elements. Although the editors make a clear point in that ‘creative regions’ are not only region with creative and cultural economies but regions which are able to innovate and create knowledge, the book fails to provide a balanced portrait of the creative regions as creativity is in the majority of the papers, interpreted as creativity in science and technology sectors. The papers of Lazzaretti and Rasmussen and Lynov are the only ones investigating the creative regions as clustering of creative and cultural industries and may be a better balance could have been achieved This is auspicated in the editors introduction, but not completely fulfilled by the articles collection. The risk is that the title of the book, attracting researchers who are interested in the creative economy might be misleading. Overall, I think the book covers interesting dimension of the development of innovation and knowledge economic in different regional contexts, but it fails in trying to bridge the gap between research in creativity within the creative and cultural economy field and creativity within science and technology contexts.


Boschma, R.A. & R. Martin (2008) (eds.), The Handbook on Evolutionary Economic Geography. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar (forthcoming).

Florida, R. (2002), The Rise of Creative Class, New York: Basic Books

Leadbeater, C. (l997) The Rise of the Social Entrepreneur, London: Demos

(Added 26 March 2008)