Innovation and Space 3: Whose Knowledge, who Benefits? 'Peripheral' Perspectives on the Global Knowledge Economy beyond the Global North

Thilo Lang, Marian Augustina Brainoo & Markus Sattler (SFB 1199 & IfL Leipzig)


Departing from debates on the relation between innovation and space in economic geography, the third workshop in the “Innovation and Space” series discusses the conceptual, methodological and normative challenges for employing postcolonial/decolonial and poststructuralist concepts to overcome a static, Global North and urban centred view on actors and innovation.

We invite participants to discuss theoretical concepts of knowledge/innovation, networks/communities and space going beyond understandings from the Global North and allowing for more diverse and heterodox approaches to innovation in ‘non-core’ economies in their own right. In previous workshops in 2017 and 2019, we discussed how successful companies located in peripheral areas in Germany are embedded in trans-local/global networks, how they manage to create and maintain knowledge flows in order to shape their innovation processes. Moreover, it was discussed what to learn from studying innovation in ‘peripheral’ settings and how to theorize from the current research focusing on innovation outside of agglomerations.

 The 2021 workshop aims, first, for discussing new perspectives enhancing the current understandings of spatial knowledge and innovation dynamics from beyond the Global North and beyond agglomeration economies perspectives. Thereby, rahter than conceiving knowledge creation and distributional consequences as separated fields of inquiry, the workshop asks how the nexus between these two fields can be best united conceptually; and how this can be best achieved without relegating innovation to an entirely capitalist instrument to secure rents through patents or other kinds of entry barriers as the World-Systems perspective would posit.

Is innovation doomed to produce an urban-centred and inevitably capitalist global knowledge economy, and can ‘peripheries’ only be ‘integrated’ into a such defined spatial order (by means of their exploitation)? How can, and do, actors in such locations order space themselves? To what extent must place-based socio-material-bonding/belonging be taken into account to fully grasp the geographical stakes of knowledge creation and value distribution?

A second aim of the workshop is to discuss new qualitative methodological and empirical approaches to trace knowledge flows as well as firm strategies and to study the ways how economic actors shape, re-produce, re-interpret and challenge the ‘global knowledge economy’. Which methods are promising to study firm relations to globalization on different scales? How can the proposed conjuncture between the geography of knowledge creation/distributional consequences/belonging be researched in practice? How must research be designed in such Global North/South/East entanglements in order to avoid the re-production of power differentials between and among ‘researchers’ and ‘researched’ that such an approach seeks to overcome?

The event will take place online. Interested participants can register for the workshop by sending an email to Marian Augustina Brainoo or Markus Sattler with a short letter of motivation.

Workshop Timetable

Session 1 12:30 am – 15:00 pm

  • Introduction of participants
  • Presentation of the project: concepts and aims
  • Session on theory and concepts
  • Discussion

Alexandra Hughes (Newcastle U): GPNs, Innovation and the Periphery: Conceptual Notes from a Postcolonial Perspective

Moisio Sami (U of Helsinki): Competing Imaginaries of the Global Knowledge Economy

John O. Mugabe (U of Pretoria): ‘Unlocking Systemic Barriers to Innovation’ in Manufacturing SMEs in Africa’ with Case Studies from South Africa  

Gül Berna Özcan (U of London): Multiple Understandings of Innovation and the Global Knowledge Economy

Christof Parnreiter (U Hamburg): Innovation beyond Agglomeration Economies in a World-Systems Perspective

Coffee Break 3 pm – 3:30 pm

Session 2 3:30 pm – 5:30 pm

  • Session on methodology/empirical approaches
  • Discussion
  • Conclusions of the workshop (project team)

Dilshod Makhmadshoev (U of Strathclyde): Researching Innovative and Transnational Enterprises in Central Asia and Africa

Stefan Ouma (U of Bayreuth): Racing Venture Capital: An Intersectional Perspective on Start-Up Success in Africa

Sarah Radcliffe (U of Cambridge): Methodological Implications of ‘Decolonising Geographical Knowledges’: Knowledges and Innovations for Decolonial Worlds

Phanuel Wunu (U of Cape Coast): Internationalising Firms in Ghana: Researching SMEs in the Light of the EU Partnership Agreement with Ghana

The event will take place online. Interested participants can register for the workshop by sending an email to Marian Augustina Brainoo or Markus Sattler with a short letter of motivation.

Project Team

Sub-project A02  Innovative Technology Enterprises in Unlikely Places in Central Asia and Africa of the Collaborative Research Centre (SFB 1199) Processes of Spatialization Under the Global Condition

Dr. Thilo Lang, Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography, Leipzig, Germany

Marian Brainoo, Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography, Leipzig, Germany

Markus Sattler, Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography, Leipzig, Germany

Joshua Kurz, Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography, Leipzig, Germany

Lena Stephan, Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography, Leipzig, Germany