Transformative regional resilience and innovation

Session organisers:
  • Huiwen Gong (Eawag, ETH-Domain, Zurich, Switzerland)
  • Robert Hassink (Kiel University, Germany)
  • Canfei He (Peking University, China)
  • Annekatrin Niebuhr (Kiel University, Germany)

In current times of crisis, the notion of resilience is often used to analyse the recovery processes of systems from a shock. It refers to the notion describing that systems, such as sectors or regional economies, recover from shocks or can build up capabilities to deal with future shocks (Fromhold-Eisebith, 2015; Martin & Sunley, 2020). Recently, economic geographers and regional economists, in particular, have become interested in regional resilience in tackling the question of why some regional economies manage to renew themselves or to lock themselves out, whereas others are more locked in decline (Martin & Sunley, 2020; Evenhuis, 2017; Gong & Hassink, 2017).
Regional resilience is a process, consisting of four stages: risk/vulnerability before the shock, resistance during the shock, and reorientation and recoverability after the shock (Martin & Sunley, 2020). In most recent conceptual work, Martin & Sunley (2020) point at the relation between the intensity and duration of the shock and the different kind of transformations that could take place, ranging from short duration bounce-back resilience to long duration transformative resilience (Manca et al., 2017). Many scholars, policy-makers and media reports hope that the current COVID-19 crisis will create a chance for a transformation towards more sustainable regional economies, creating a window of opportunity for a sustainability transition and related innovations (Oliva & Lazzeretti, 2021). Giovannini et al. (2020) speak of bouncing forward through transformation, instead of bouncing back to pre-crisis conditions. On the other hand, while the urgency of socio-technical transformation is a consensus among scholars, so far, little attention has been paid to how the current crisis may potentially contribute to regions’ resilience in such a fundamental transformative process.
To unpack such regional transformative processes after the COVID-19 crisis as well as individual regions’ resilience in the mega-trend toward sustainability, we need more in-depth, quantitative and qualitative research into underlying mechanisms, as well as into the role of transformative agencies (Bristow & Healy, 2014; Kurikka & Grillitsch, 2020). The latter include institutional entrepreneurs, place-based leadership, regional policy intelligence, experiences and lessons from previous experiences. Therefore, this session aims at analyzing transformative regional resilience and innovation. We welcome both theoretical, conceptual, as well as quantitative and qualitative empirical papers. Concerning empirical papers, we particularly welcome papers with a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods. The focus will be on, but not confined to, the following topics.

  • The conceptualization and measurement of transformative regional resilience
  • Transformative regional resilience, industrial restructuring and innovation
  • Transformative regional resilience and sustainability transitions
  • Transformative regional resilience and smart specialization
  • The interrelation between sectoral resilience and regional resilience under socio-technical transformation
  • Crises, behavioural changes, and transformative regional resilience

Bristow, G., & Healy, A. (2014). Regional resilience: an agency perspective. Regional studies, 48(5), 923-935.

Evenhuis, E. (2017). New directions in researching regional economic resilience and adaptation. Geography Compass 11, 1-15.

Fromhold-Eisebith, M. (2015). Sectoral resilience: Conceptualizing industry-specific spatial patterns of interactive crisis adjustment. European Planning Studies, 23(9), 1675-1694.

Giovannini, E., Benczur, P., Campolongo, F., Cariboni, J., & Manca, A. R. (2020). Time for transformative resilience: the COVID-19 emergency (No. JRC120489). Joint Research Centre (Seville site).

Gong, H., & Hassink, R. (2017). Regional resilience: The critique revisited. In Creating Resilient Economies. Edward Elgar Publishing.

Kurikka, H. & Grillitsch, M. (2020). Resilience in the periphery: What an agency perspective can bring to the table. Lund University, CIRCLE: Papers in Innovation Studies No. 2020/7.

Manca, A. R., Benczur, P., & Giovannini, E. (2017). Building a scientific narrative towards a more resilient EU society. JRC Science for Policy Report.

Martin, R. & Sunley, P. (2020). Regional economic resilience: evolution and evaluation. In: G. Bristow & A. Healy, eds., Handbook on Regional Economic Resilience, 10-35. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

Oliva, S., & Lazzeretti, L. (2021). Unravelling the Sustainable Resilient Region: Exploring Regional Resilience in Sustainable Transition. In Rethinking Clusters (pp. 3-16). Springer, Cham.


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