International Workshop

Regional development and proximity relations

18, 19 & 20 May 2011
International seminar organized in the framework of the
“For and About Regional Development” research programmes

Organized by André Torre and Fred Wallet, INRA, AgroParistech and PSDR Program

With the support of AgroParistech, INRA, Proximity Dynamics Group and Edward Elgar Publishers
Purpose of the workshop
The notion of proximity has been scarcely used in the economic and geographic literature concerning spatial dimensions and spatial relations. It used to be commonly replaced by related terms such as distance, localisation, neighbourhood, or transport costs. And it has long been uneasy to find a proximity related entry in the dictionaries, as well as dedicated theoretical developments in academic textbooks. However one can notice that this notion recently became very popular in the position of politics, and private or public stakeholders. Proximity is an argument for selling food or financial products, as well as a good slogan for local networks or social devices.

In parallel, the notion of proximity spread in the academic literature and is now commonly used by scholars in regional science, geography or spatial economics. The use of the word proximity increased and became important, in particular for authors interested in the question of districts, milieus, distance analyses, or in recent advances in economic geography. Interest has even gone beyond this field and is affecting now the works dedicated to innovation process, links between science and industry, relations between users and producers, national systems of innovation, innovative milieus, about also local labour markets or urban policies.

At the same time, a growing literature, partly inspired by the so-called French school of proximity, developed theoretical insights and investigations into the meanings of proximity processes. The idea that proximity has not only a spatial content rapidly emerged and led to theoretical developments; so that proximity is widely admitted today as a transitional concept, at the frontier between spatial and socio-economic interactions. It both refers to the geographic situation of the actors in terms of distance or transport costs, and to their position into networks in terms of cognitive, institutional or technological relations. Individuals or groups of persons can be linked by the means of their belonging to the same culture or origin, but also by their adherence to common codes, social norms, or shared mechanisms of coordination.

Despite the substantial literature on proximity processes and relations, only a few academic works have been devoted to studying the link between regional development and proximity relations. We launch the “Regional development and proximity relations” workshop because we consider that the integration of this notion into the framework of regional development analysis could provide interesting input due to its plasticity and ability to draw connections between spatial, economic and social dimensions.

The seminar will involve different kinds of scholars: some specialists of Proximity and several well-known researchers in the field of regional development. The idea is to try to assess the importance of proximity relations (or obstacles lead by proximity relations) in regional development processes, and discuss approaches of different disciplines. Each speaker will deliver a speech on this topic, followed by debates with the floor.

A following book, based on papers presented at the seminar, will be published by Edward Elgar Publishers.
Programme of the workshop
Wednesday 18

Opening presentation by André Torre (INRA, AgroParistech) & Antoine Bailly (Geneva University)

Proximity and endogenous regional development
Robert J. Stimson, Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network, University of Melbourne

Proximity relations at the heart of territorial development processes. From territorial governance and spatial conflicts to temporary geographical proximity
André Torre, INRA, Agro Paristech
Thursday 19

Territorial patterns of innovation
Roberta Capello, Politecnico Milan, President RSAI

Territory and proximity: what can be learnt from economics of platform?
Alain Rallet, University Paris XI South

The dynamics of innovation networks along the industry life cycle. The case of the global video game industry
Ron Boschma, University of Utrecht

When local interaction does not suffice: Sources of firm innovation in urban Norway
Andres Rodriguez-Pose, London School of Economics

Digital Accessibility and Geographical Distance
Peter Nijkamp, Free University, Amsterdam
Emmanouil Tranos, Newcastle University

The regional policy debate: a territorial, place-based and proximity approach
Roberto Camagni, Politecnico Milan
Friday 20

Territorial Resources and proximity relations: new perspectives for Regional Development?
Bernard Pecqueur, University Joseph Fourier Grenoble

Proximity and Innovation: a Complexity Perspective
Phil Cooke, Cardiff University

Conclusions: Antoine Bailly, Geneva University

Perspectives: André Torre & Fred Wallet, INRA AgroParistech