The geography of environmental sustainability and technological transformations: opportunities and challenges for regions and territories

Session organisers:
  • Alessandra Faggian (Gran Sasso Science Institute, Social Sciences, Italy)
  • Alberto Marzucchi (Gran Sasso Science Institute, Social Sciences, Italy)
  • Sandro Montresor (Gran Sasso Science Institute, Social Sciences, Italy)

Policy makers are increasingly focussed on the intersection between the need to steer the path of economic development towards a more sustainable route and the increasing opportunities and pressures arising from recent technological disruptions. High level fora and organisations are putting at the forefront of their agenda the need to leverage the potentially beneficial environmental effects of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and recent forms of automation technologies (World Economic Forum, 2018; European Commission, 2019).
While there is an ample literature on the relation between technological change and the environment (e.g. Jaffe et al., 2003), and an emergent strand of works is focussed on the geography of eco-innovations and green-technologies (Barbieri and Consoli, 2019; Montresor and Quatraro, 2019;), little is still known about how the relation between sustainability and recent technological disruptions – like digital, AI and automation technologies – unfolds especially at the regional and territorial level. The peculiarities of green technological change (Barbieri et al., 2020) and its possible intertwining with other technological disruptions open up interesting opportunities and challenges for regions and territories, on which we invite scholars to discuss.
The special session welcomes contributions that look at interconnection between sustainability and technological transformations, by placing emphasis on important regional and territorial elements, like heterogeneous knowledge-bases, skills, infrastructures and institutional set-ups.
In particular, we invite contributions on the following (albeit not exclusive) themes:

  • The geography of digitalisation and regional environmental performances
  • Complementarities and trade-offs in the unfolding of the green and technological transformations
  • Patterns of regional specialisation, diversification and the challenges associated to green and digital/automation technologies
  • Implications for the regional demand and supply of skills and human capital
  • The role of regional openness and connectivity (foreign direct investments, international trade, and migration)
  • Regional specialisation and inequalities within and across territories, including differential patterns between core and peripheral/inner areas
  • The role of smart specialisation strategies and cohesion policies in facilitating the intersection between sustainability and technological transformations

Barbieri, N., Marzucchi, A., & Rizzo, U. (2020). Knowledge sources and impacts on subsequent inventions: Do green technologies differ from non-green ones?. Research Policy, 49(2), 103901.

Barbieri, N., & Consoli, D. (2019). Regional diversification and green employment in US metropolitan areas. Research Policy, 48(3), 693-705.

European Commission (2019), Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. The European Green Deal. Brussels, COM(2019) 640 final.

Jaffe, A. B., Newell, R. G., & Stavins, R. N. (2003). Technological change and the environment. In Handbook of environmental economics (Vol. 1, pp. 461-516). Elsevier.

Montresor, S. & Quatraro, F, (2020) Green technologies and Smart Specialisation Strategies: a European patent-based analysis of the intertwining of technological relatedness and key enabling technologies, Regional Studies, 54:10, 1354-1365, DOI: 10.1080/00343404.2019.1648784.

World Economic Forum (2018), Harnessing Artificial Intelligence for the Earth. Fourth Industrial Revolution and the Earth Series.


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