Rethinking Territorial Innovation: World Market Leaders outside of Agglomerations

Lukas Vonnahme (SFB 1199 & IfL) & Thilo Lang (SFB 1199 & IfL)

Publication Date

May 2017


Leipzig: Leipziger Universitätsverlag




Working Paper

Working Paper Series

SFB 1199 Working Paper



Additional Information


This paper presents the theoretical framework and research design to study the innovation patterns of world market leaders (WML)1 located in geographically remote regions of Germany. We conceptualize WML as firms that maintain particularly strong translocal relationships with other actors. These firms must be capable not only of marketing their products globally, but also of continuously generating knowledge about the respective technological fields as well as about users, competitors and potential collaboration partners in order to sustain their competitive advantage and market leadership.

Partially contradictory to assumptions in literature on the geography of innovation, these firms do not seem to be primarily reliant on local forms of knowledge creation, and instead maintain translocal and global collaborations to create knowledge for their innovation processes. The aim of this project is thus to understand firm-level conditions and procedures that facilitate and maintain relationships across distance, to create knowledge for innovation processes. In so doing, this project relates to the overarching research interests of the Collaborative Research Centre (SFB 1199): “Processes of Spatialization under the Global Condition”. Through the elaboration of spatial varieties of collaboration and innovation processes, the project will help to better understand processes of spatialization, highlighting the relation of proximity and distance, as well as helping to identify spatial formats relevant to economic actors highly networked in a globalized economy.

Regarding the research design, we propose a standardized survey to investigate spatial aspects of innovation patterns of firms at focus as a first step. This survey will be enlarged by a random sample of WML located in agglomerations, to expose potential differences of the implementation of innovative activities, as dependent on the location. In a second step, qualitative interviews with representatives of selected firms will shed light on the central questions of the project. We want to understand which conditions and procedures enable WML located outside of agglomerations to engage in and utilize translocal knowledge creation processes. The influence of local relationships and factors that bind firms to their locations are questioned and put in relation to translocal collaborations.


Lukas Vonnahme (SFB 1199 & Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography (IfL), Leipzig University, Germany)
Having studied geography in Marburg, Lund and Frankfurt, Lukas Vonnahme joined the Leibniz-Institute for Regional Geography in 2014. His research interests include regional economic development, social networks and innovation management. Recently the topics entrepreneurship and startups as well as the ecosystems in which startups rise and grow raised his attention.

Dr. Thilo Lang (SFB 1199 & Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography (IfL), Leipzig University, Germany)
Having studied spatial and environmental planning in Kaiserslauten and urban planning in Hamburg, Thilo Lang gained his PhD in Potsdam and Durham. As the head of a department at the Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography, his research interests focus on the production of space and transnational urban and regional development in the context of current processes of socio-spatial polarization and rising disparities across Europe. Further long-term research interests include urban and regional change, shrinking cities and regeneration, as well as peripheralization as a multilevel process. One current focus is on innovation outside of conurbations and alternative local and social economies.