Ron Boschma: Proximity and Innovation: A Critical Assessment

Proximity and innovation: a critical assessment, Regional Studies 39, 61–74. A key issue in economic

geography is to determine the impact of geographical proximity on interactive learning and innovation. We argue that the

importance of geographical proximity cannot be assessed in isolation, but should always be examined in relation to other

dimensions of proximity that may provide alternative solutions to the problem of coordination. We claim that geographical

proximity per se is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for learning to take place. Nevertheless, it facilitates interactive

learning, most likely by strengthening the other dimensions of proximity. However, proximity may also have negative impacts on innovation due to the problem of lock-in. Accordingly, not only too little, but also too much proximity may be detrimental to interactive learning and innovation. This may be the case for all five dimensions of proximity discussed in the paper, i.e. cognitive, organizational, social, institutional and geographical proximity. Finally, the paper presents a number of mechanisms that offer, by their own, or in combination, solutions to the problems of coordination and lock-in. That is, they enhance effective coordination and control (solving the problem of too little proximity), while they prevent actors to become locked-in through ensuring openness and flexibility (solving the problem of too much proximity).


Ron Boschma (2005) Proximity and Innovation: A Critical Assessment, Regional Studies, 39:1, 61-74, DOI: 10.1080/0034340052000320887


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