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Social networks and the geography of innovation

Boey, Augustin Ying Yip (2022) Social networks and the geography of innovation. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004467


This thesis examines the relationship between city-regional networks and the geography of innovation in the UK. Social and economic networks are vital to the economic vitality and creative dynamism of cities. They are the social infrastructure connecting individuals, ideas, and places--bringing them together in novel and more productive ways—and generating opportunities to advance the technological frontier. The complex patterns linking individuals and communities also affect performance by unevenly structuring access to economic opportunities. Network diversity at the city-regional scale likewise contributes to divergent local development by constraining prospects for cluster growth and technological upgrading. Social networks are broadly acknowledged as the locus of high-technology innovation. Unfortunately, insight into the causes and mechanisms underpinning the social gains of city-regional networks remains thin: networks with open structure are pervasively thought to underpin high-tech cluster success, yet this critical assumption has remained unexamined; the roles and contributions of networked individuals on regional innovation has yet to be systematically studied; and the question of how new high-tech industries at the cutting-edge emerge vis-à-vis networks in related industries has not received sustained examination. Moreover, the empirical literature has focused on a relatively limited set of prominent agglomerations—partly due to a lack of appropriate relational data to construct city-regional networks—leaving open questions of generalizability beyond these settings. This thesis makes five substantive contributions towards remedying these research gaps. First, it integrates emerging large-scale data sources and develops novel datasets to build and analyse UK city-regional networks. Second, it examines the impacts of highly connected individuals – ‘dealmakers’ – on local performance, finding a causal effect of regional dealmakers on innovativeness productivity. Third, it evaluates their asymmetric roles relative to other actors in importing externally sourced knowledge 4 into city-regions. Fourth, it systematically revisits foundational claims about the importance of open networks in sustaining highly innovative places. It develops a new measure of network openness by synthesizing complex multidisciplinary debates. It finds a causal effect of open networks on subsequent high-tech growth – the findings also suggest limits to open network effectiveness. Fifth, it provides a first empirical examination of emerging frontier industries focusing on fintech, exploring how much of its development has been shaped by antecedent capabilities and the social organization of regional finance and digital economy industries. The findings suggest that open network structures in the disrupting antecedent industry drive new industry growth.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2022 Augustin Boey Ying Yip
Library of Congress subject classification: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
T Technology > T Technology (General)
Sets: Departments > Geography and Environment
Supervisor: Storper, Michael and Lee, Neil

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