Academic journal article Trames

Innovation Diffusion and Architecture and Dynamics of Local Territorial Networks

Academic journal article Trames

Innovation Diffusion and Architecture and Dynamics of Local Territorial Networks

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Local rural development is assumed to consist of complex transformation and adjustment processes based on the utilization and management of endogenous/ exogenous actual and potential human, economic and environmental resources occurring on a given territory. The combined action of these variables creates, often going beyond consolidated administrative borders, area-specific issues whose management requires a cross-area collective action (that can engage neighbouring territories also from different administrative regions) for the presence of cross-area problems and cross-area externalities (Reese 1997, Beer and Maude 2002, Beer et al. 2003). These variables can be encompassed in some analytical dimensions:

* economic factors--firms' structure and productivity, composition of the economic activities, firms' competitiveness degree at local, regional, national and international level, etc.;

* technological factors--technology penetration in local products and production processes and management, etc.;

* geographical factors--physical and environmental conditions, geoeconomical advantages and disadvantages, etc.;

* infrastructural factors--infrastructural quality and quantity (roads, railways, transportation and storage facilities, energy, IT, etc.);

* cultural factors--educational levels, mentalities, local history, social relations, social exclusion and cohesion, etc.;

* institutional factors--quality and quantity of local administration and public services, presence or proximity to knowledge generators (universities, research centres, etc.) and extension agencies.

The dynamics and characteristics of these territorial patterns are often caused by some specificities of local development itself whose efficiency/inefficiency may be generated by adequacies/inadequacies in one or more of these dimensions: deficiencies in one of these dimensions usually imply appropriate compensation interventions in the other spheres as in the case of marginal areas with particularly adverse geophysical conditions whose development may be fostered for example through infrastructural and/or technological actions. Severe development crises may result from simultaneous collapses in all these dimensions. These inadequacies may operatively act as 'frictions' whose parallel actions may contribute to determine differences in sensibility and in reaction to innovation, change and development processes among neighbouring areas as well: in particular differences in performances in the institutional sphere may also explain why, in certain conditions, some static rural areas remain static even in the presence of a high potential innovation supply, consistent investments and subsidies, geophysical and geo-economic advantages or adequate infrastructure. These conditions highlight the critical role played by the institutional setting, and the related concepts of institutional strength/thickness, which may act as anchor and dynamo within development processes thus influencing the well-being of local communities through the production and provision of both private goods (which are expected to be obtained through the market) and public goods (health, security, education, environment, etc.). The importance of this role is also emphasized by the fact that public administrations have the primary responsibility in the provision of public goods and the eventual presence, quality and dimension of intentionally/ unintentionally executed forms of institutional inertia may be translated into the public agents' capability to avoid and correct development discrepancies linked to public goods, for example created by market failures. Local institutions also play a relevant role in stimulating collaborations and synergies among endogenous/ exogenous agents to attain common goals to solve development inadequacies: 'acting together' is in fact a critical precondition to support concrete and realistic development processes and to make all the investments conveyed into development actions and initiatives more effective and efficient. …

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