A burgeoning strand of evolutionary economic geography (EEG) research is addressing questions of regional path creation, based on the idea that place specific legacies and conditions play a critical role in supporting the emergence of new economic activities. Yet there has been little effort thus far to take stock of this emerging body of research. In response, the aims of this article are to offer a fresh synthesis of recent work and to develop a broader theoretical framework to inform future research. First, it presents a critical appraisal of the state of the art in path creation research. In an effort to address identified gaps in EEG research, this incorporates insights from sociological perspectives, the global production networks approach, and transition studies. Second, the article’s development of a systematic theoretical framework is based on the identification of key dimensions of path creation and their constitutive interrelations. This contribution is underpinned by a geographical political economy (GPE) approach that provides the ontological basis for the integration of the five key dimensions of path creation within an overarching framework and the positioning of regional processes in relation to the broader dynamics of uneven development. Informed by GPE, the argument is that knowledgeable actors, operating within multiscalar institutional environments, create paths through the strategic coupling of regional and extraregional assets to mechanisms of path creation and associated markets. To inform further research, the article outlines four concrete propositions regarding the operation of path creation processes in different types of regions and explores these through case studies of Berlin and Pittsburgh.
MacKinnon D., Dawley S., Pike A. & Cumbers A. (2019) Rethinking Path Creation: A Geographical Political Economy Approach. Economic Geography, 95(2), 113-135
Professor of Regional Development and Governance,
Director of CURDS
School of Geography, Politics and Sociology, Newcastle University, UK
The interview transcript
Hi welcome to coffee break with researchers, today I’m having a coffee break with Danny MacKinnon, he is a Professor of Regional Development and Governance and Director of CURDS, Center of Urban and Regional Developmental Studies at the University of Newcastle in the United Kingdom.
Hello Danny, thank you for accepting our invitation to a coffee break, how are you doing? I’m doing good, thanks.
I’m having today a Vietnamese black coffee, which one are you having? Also having a black coffee and my new coffee break with researchers mug. Great! in a recent paper you rethink how regional paths are created and put it in a more global context. Could you please tell me the main idea of the paper?
It’s really a lot of research has been done on path creation and evolution of the economic geography, the field we’re working with in. In recent years a lot of empirical research, case study research, but at least when we started writing the paper that didn’t seem to be a synthesis, which was bringing all this research together. So that was the first idea but they need to kind of synthesise and bring together this kind of floating range of research on path creation in recent years, and secondly the second main idea is about the need for what we saw as a need for a more integrated systemic framework for thinking about regional path creation in terms of its kind of key constituent aspects and dimensions, and the relationships between them so it’s about making implicit perhaps some of the concepts and criteria that were being used in key study research not least by ourselves and the work we’re doing on renewable energy
This sounds fascinating and which ones were the main arguments of the paper?
It is a theoretical paper so it’s very much at the level of arguments, that it’s not presenting empirical research but there were three main arguments I think. First of all, that operate in the context of kind of multi-level institutional environments so linking the local, regional, national, super national, the key regional actors predominantly could be public private Civic actors, a basis for path creation is their efforts to identify harness and valorize specific regional and indeed extra regional assets, so we define assets in terms of five types from natural assets, resources, institutional material assets, industrial assets, human assets, like skills and institutional assets. Second key argument is that this kind of path creation depends on these actors linking, matching, what we call strategically coupling these assets to broader mechanisms of path creation principally diversification, transplantation, attracting new investment from outside and kind of indigenous path creation growth from within. And thirdly it is a strategic coupling or matching between the assets and mechanisms and associated markets that ultimately gives the momentum and direction to path creation and kind o reproduces it and kind of expands regional economy I guess. So these were the main arguments.
This was a very comprehensive and ambitious project, what was your main motivation in doing the paper?
We have been going back I think we originally came up with a framework in the context of a research proposal in, I think early 2013, so the paper was quite a long time and the writing actually probably kind of lay there for a while before we actually picked it up and resubmitted it. Also the context of previous papers to other theoretical papers, on what kind of intervening in evolutionary economic geography as a field, so three ultimately been published in general economic geography. 2009 paper, which kind of engaged with what evolution economic geography was, and then a paper which came out in 2016, which was an kind of method and doing evolutionary economic geography.
So in the context of these papers, this is obviously focused on path creation. I think we also have a lot of evolution economic debates that have been focusing on path dependence previously and there been some kind of landmark theoretical papers written on path dependence by Ron Martin Peter Sunde so I think we kind, of there is an ambition to try and emulate them and write an equivalent paper on path creation. So I think that’s partly where that where that came from.
Thank you very much for that, and are there some policy implications you can draw based on the paper?
Yeah I mean that’s quite tricky for this paper because it’s a it’s a kind of quite an abstract theoretical paper but I think in very broad terms in terms of how you think about regional development, the biggest thing probably is a bit the need to place regional development, the harnessing of regional assets to stimulate growth, create new paths diversify, needed to be done in a context of wider economic processes, what we call mechanisms of path creation, so diversification, transplantation, attracting inward investments and even indigenous creation, but it’s about ensuring that the harnessing of regional assets is kind of geared towards linking broader economic processes targeting growth markets beyond the region attracting investment from outside. We had a PhD student, who worked as an economic development practitioner for probably 30 years and he’s gonna use this framework and he’s he’s been quite attracted to the emphasis on external forces next to regional connections needing to put regional development not context I guess I haven’t been working under these constraints as a practitioner.
Thank you very much again Danny, for these nice insights, it was a pleasure for me to have you here in a coffee break. I wish you all the best for your future research I hope to see you next time bye bye
Thank you good bye. Thank you for watching, if you’re interested in more details about this research find here the link to the academic publication. Thank you see you next time bye bye.Tags: agency, evolutionary economic geography, geographical economy, path creation, political economy, strategic coupling