Reconsidering regional structural conditions for industrial renewal

Regional Studies

Simon Baumgartinger-Seiringer | Lea Fuenfschilling | Johan Miörner & Michaela Trippl

In light of 'grand challenges' such as digitalization or sustainability, the question of how established industries can adapt and renew themselves in order to maintain their economic strength and to tackle said challenges has increasingly gained in importance in academic and policy debates alike. It is widely acknowledged that the renewal capacity of an industry is inextricably linked to its ability to innovate. A key research focus thus concerns the identification of favourable regional economic, social, cultural and institutional structural conditions for the generation and diffusion of innovations that will sustain the success of an industry in the long run.

However, arguably, established perspectives in the academic literature offer rather simplistic views, portraying structures as either per se enabling or constraining for certain forms of regional industrial change. Inspired by work in organizational institutionalism on 'institutional infrastructures', this article focuses on the degree of elaboration and coherence as decisive features of regional structural conditions. Arguably, this conceptual lens allows for a better understanding of the potentials and limitations for industrial change entailed in different structural configurations. Empirically, we investigate renewal processes in traditional automotive regions in Austria and Sweden.

Regional Studies. 56, 4/2022, S. 579-591