Regional innovation policy has grown in prominence and scope during recent years, with a realm of action that increasingly stresses the demand side (or the doing, using, interaction (DUI) mode of innovation) alongside a supply side innovation policy based on science and technology. This expansion of the accepted (or aspirational) realm of action for innovation policy and the high expectations on innovation policy to tackle new and pressing problems paradoxically coincides with changes in governance that may affect the capacity of regions to influence policies. The implication of these two trends (expansion of innovation policy and emergence of multi-level, multi-actor governance) is a need to pay closer attention to policy complexities, including tensions between different instruments and over time and also in terms of understanding actors (and their agency, and how it may shape/be constrained by institutions) in processes of change.
While regional studies have long recognised the importance attached to institutions and public policy in explaining regional development, there is ‘a theoretical blind spot’ in relation to the processes that connect micro behaviour of actors to institutional evolution and change (Maskell & Malmberg, 2007; Sotarauta & Pulkkinen, 2011). This Network aims to address this gap, seeking a better integration between scholarly efforts dealing with dynamic complex systems, geography and policy evolution. In particular, it seeks to advance the understanding of regional policy dynamics, the role of agency and leadership in policy change and institutionalisation, and associated challenges for policy evaluation. The Network will address these distinct yet interconnected questions by providing a scholarly forum for discussion in the form of 3 workshops to be organised during 2012 and 2013 in San Sebastian (Spain), Tampere (Finland) and Manchester (UK).
The special issue in Environment and Planning C “Understanding regional innovation policy dynamics: Actors, agency and learning” (Volume 35, Issue 4, June 2017) is a direct result of the RSA funded network with the same title. Several papers published in this special issue were originally presented and debated in the research workshops organised by the network.