Mobile talent or privileged sites? Making sense of biotech knowledge worker mobility and performance in Sweden
20 Dec 2007
Dept. of Social & Economic Geography and CIND, Uppsala Universitet, Sweden
Abstract. Great hope is currently put in biotechnological innovation to create economic growth and ensure future competitiveness of regions and nations. For some years, economic geography and economics have been focusing on privileged sites when explaining geographical variances in actors' ability to innovate: e.g. regional innovation systems, clusters, industrial districts and creative milieus. In such explanations, the basic notion is that certain sites, as a result of their privileged configuration, relative position and history, tend to support innovation to a higher degree than other milieus. Lately, however, there has been a shift in focus within some research communities towards what could be called a "talented people" explanation. The problem for those interested in biotech innovation policy and in the larger question about exactly how biotechnological knowledge production takes place, is that this debate offers two diametrically different understandings of (i) the geography of innovation and, in turn, (ii) how to actually design innovative spaces or increase rates of innovation. According to the talented people argument, innovation policy should be focusing on designing attractive spaces in which creative people want to live, while the privileged sites argument instead focuses on figuring out how to design creative spaces. In this paper, a unique dataset is used to explore to what extent the two debating concepts, privileged sites and talented people, can explain what is going on in biotech landscapes in Sweden.