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Abstract Deadline: 03 May 2022 (500 word abstract)

Manuscript Deadline: 31 August 2022


Rethinking regional development under the imperative of environmental and socio-economic sustainability


Special Issue Editor(s)

Silvia Rita SeditaUniversity of Padova

Lars CoenenWestern Norway University of Applied Sciences; University of Oslo; University of Melbourne

Dieter F. KoglerUniversity College Dublin

Social and environmental sustainability issues are increasingly considered pivotal for shaping future trajectories of regional development and can be analysed under a variety of perspectives: innovation governance, management and process, organisational forms and business strategies, the institutional setting and the consumption angle. A cross-disciplinary approach is needed to create the basis of a theoretical and empirical understanding of how to include social and environmental concerns into consolidated trajectories of regional development. The aim of the special issue is to cover four areas of research, which remain unresolved and require further attention.

First, sustainability-oriented innovation and technology studies have received increasing attention over the past 10 to 15 years. The prevalence  of sustainable innovation management and governance is growing both in practice and in academia. Sustainable innovation entails the development and implementation of a radically new or significantly improved technical, organisational, business-related, institutional or social solution that meets a triple bottom line of economic, environmental and social value creation. How to govern and manage innovation in the face of this multiplicity and complexity raises questions for dominant concepts and paradigms of regional development such as competitive advantage, clusters and smart specialisation.

Second, novelties that integrate economic, ecological, and social values seem to have the potential to promote complex socioecological transformation at the local, regional, or national system level. These transformations are led by processes of cross-fertilisation that include direct/indirect knowledge spillovers to other actors in the economy, through the implementation of business strategies oriented towards a socially desirable outcome. In such a normative turn, questions of directionality and responsibility loom large yet run the risk of becoming black-boxed in totalising accounts of missions.

Third, the sustainability of regions can be captured as a sum of initiatives put forward by local, national or supranational institutions, which stimulate actions towards new production processes, new forms of organisations and new business models. An example is the rise of sustainability certifications, and certified companies, such as the B-Corps. The majority of studies in the literature address such multi-scalarity through case study methods. Greater methodological pluralism is warranted to capture the multi-scalar interconnections of environmentally, socially and economically sustainable regional development in both granular and systematic ways.

Fourth, bottom-up movements involving organisations (for profit and non-profit) and communities of consumption are emerging, creating the basis for an ecology of sustainability. Grassroot innovation has not only yielded a more capacious understanding of development; it has also opened up questions around agency and leadership in and of regions and the role of the commons, community and informality. Paradoxically we can witness that such informal and community-based approaches to innovation and experimentation are becoming increasingly formalised and institutionalised by policy through, for example, living labs and fab labs.

Envisioned topics

  • Economic structure and economic evolution of cities and regions
  • Geography of innovation and knowledge production
  • Theoretical and empirical foundations of Development and Smart Specialisation Strategies
  • Regional and urban policies for renewal and growth in a knowledge-based economy
  • Cluster life cycle, resilience and evolutionary trajectories of local systems towards sustainability
  • Clusters’ and regions’ transition towards sustainability

Moreover, the special issue will welcome contributions that develop innovative approaches in concepts, theory, methods or analysis and have deep or broad implications to inform transitions to sustainability, and that use observational, experimental or theory-driven modes of inquiry.

Submission Instructions

An extended abstract of no more than 500 words should be submitted to Silvia Rita Sedita at by the 3rd of May 2022. If successful, authors will be invited to submit the full paper through the journal’s online submission system in August 2022.

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