A growing body of theoretical research is addressing the importance of learning in the organisational and technological renewal of firms, and therefore in their efforts to improve competitiveness (Daft & Huber, 1987; Levitt & March, 1988; Huber, 1991; Dodgson, 1993; Blackler, 1995; Dodgson, 1996). In these discussions, regions are thought to have important features for facilitating innovation too (Florida, 1995, Cooke, Gomez Uranga, Etxebarria, 1997; Morgan, 1997). This paper reviews literature on organisational learning and networks, learning regions as systems of innovation, and the role of proximity in the transfer of information and knowledge.
Literature on organisational learning and regional systems of innovation takes the embeddedness or relational perspective on innovation as a point of departure. Moreover, in studies on proximity the existence of embeddedness is often taken for granted. But, is embeddedness always as important for innovation as assumed?
And is proximity really of importance in systems of innovations? In this paper, these questions are explored empiricaIly. After a brief discussion of theoretical literature on organisational learning, economic networks, and spatial proximity, the paper focuses on the empirical exploration of patterns of learning in a specific Dutch region. Learning organisations are depicted as problem-solving actors. In coping with innovation problems,
actors participate in different kinds of networks. Finally, the spatial dimension of these networks is investigated.
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