Regional innovation policy and practice: the role of demand-side interventions

Session organisers:
  • Elvira Uyarra (University of Manchester, UK)
  • Raquel Ortega-Argiles (University of Birmingham, UK)
  • Oliver Kirsch (Connected Places Catapult, UK)
  • Malcolm Harbour (Connected Places Catapult, UK)

In the last decades, we have seen a resurgence in place-based and mission-oriented innovation policies worldwide; however, the deliberate creation of markets through mechanisms such as public procurement has been relatively neglected, both conceptually and in the practical design of regional policies in general, and smart specialisation strategies in particular.
Evolutionary economic geography (EEG) approaches have mainly stressed the importance of firm-led regional branching through technological relatedness, overlooking other avenues for diversification on the demand (or application) side. State actors can influence the scale, sophistication and direction of demand, potentially shaping the selection environment for new, more socially desirable innovations, enabling the emergence of unrelated industries and capturing value in local business ecosystems. However, the processes through which public actors shape markets for innovation are far from being fully understood. Further, while innovation scholars have studied public procurement as an innovation policy tool, there is still little acknowledgement of the role of place and geography in these discussions.
This special session aims to explore the state’s role in shaping demand to support industrial and technological development in regions. In particular, we welcome submissions that deal with, but are not necessarily constrained to, the following:

  • Role of public procurement in place-based industrial policies such as smart specialisation. Challenges of implementation and evaluation
  • Role of market formation and market relatedness in new path creation
  • Challenges of articulating demand to support place-based societal problems
  • The role of demand-side policies in supporting regional economic resilience and post-shock recovery (e.g. post-Covid)
  • Understanding agency of public, private and non-profit organizations and intermediaries in market formation


  • Bocconi University


  • Intesa Sanpaolo
Photos from GEOINNO2022 are now published and possible to look through here.