Asked 29th Jan, 2015

What is Regional Innovation System (two opposite approaches found)?

Dear colleagues, please help me clarify the following issue:
Regional innovation system (RIS) is
a) a subsystem of a region ‘responsible’ for generation, diffusion and exploitation of knowledge (along with political subsystem, social subsystem, etc.)
or b) a certain regional context, a certain state of regional institutions, which in total makes a region as a system to be regarded as innovative (i.e. innovation is being present in various subsystems of the region, such as social, ecological, etc.)?
Any other explanation apart from the two mentioned above are welcome. Please cite your references.

Most recent answer

24th Feb, 2015
Marco Vivarelli
Catholic University of the Sacred Heart
I would tend to vote for B; please have a look to articles by Francesco Lissoni and Stefano Breschi.

All Answers (14)

30th Jan, 2015
Andrew Walters
Cardiff Metropolitan University
We do lots of work (from out Design Policy Group at PDR, Cardiff Metropolitan University) on how design can and should contribute to Regional Innovation Systems. From our perspective RIS is a) i.e. the stakeholders responsible for innovation; however, the aim of our interventions is closer to b) i.e. creating interactions between stakeholders so that the system is more likely to be regarded as innovative. I might be helpful for you to have a look at a report a colleague and I produced for an AHRC project on Regional Design Systems (link below) and to have a look at our EU project website on the same issue (link below).
Hope that helps,
30th Jan, 2015
Massimo Florio
University of Milan
There is discussion in this recen paper, with an example
Massimo Florio & Julie Pellegrin & Emanuela Sirtori, 2014. "Research intensive clusters and regional innovation systems: a case study of mechatronics in Apulia," Working Papers 201403, Centre for Industrial Studies (CSIL).
This is available in REPEC as well
2nd Feb, 2015
Hans-Werner Gottinger
STRATEC Munich Consulting
The concept innovation system originates from industrial policy through a national entity,e.g. a national innovation system, a regional innovation system could be equated with a clustering of innovation activities  by firms either as a planned focus as part of a national initiative as Sophia Antipolis in France, or as an organic growth of entrepreneurial activities in interaction with venture capital and state subsidization, as in Silicon Valley, California.
1 Recommendation
3rd Feb, 2015
Andrey Mikhaylov
Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University
Dear Dr. Gottinger,
are you saying that RIS does not actually cover all of the region (in the administrative-territorial sense), but it possesses a local nature, and is basically a technology park or an ‘industrial cluster’? If so, how can we differentiate RIS from other forms of spatial “clustering of innovation activities by firms”?
5th Feb, 2015
Guillermo Sánchez
Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria
In the following I am considering “regional” as of sub national scale. If “regional” has the supra national sense the next discussion should be adjusted but the base ideas are similar. However in this case another factor should be taken into account: which is the considered region. The situations will be different, e.g. in Europe, Central America, any part of Asia, etc.
From my own point of view, RIS is an approach derived from the National Innvation Systems (NIS) concept, following to Freeman, Nelson, Lundvall and others. NIS is a concept clearly understood however, the way to go from NIS to RIS is neither so clear nor linearly deductible. At the same level of RIS we can put other concepts like local or sector innovation systems. Nevertheless it is possible to build some theoretical support for the RIS concept starting with the NIS concept.
In order to do that, in my opinion, the keyword in the phrase is “system” which remits to “relationships”, e.g. in order to learn for the innovation. Then, the next question is relationships between whom? Who are the actors involved in RIS? In analogy to NIS, these actors could be, for example, engineers, technicians, investors, entrepreneurs, businessmen, educational systems, laws, regulations, etc. Firstly, these actors are both, human and non human; and secondly we can found in RIS actors from regional scope, others one from federal scope and similar actors from both scope.
Concluding, in my opinion what RIS is or means, is not clear. I am sure that is neither a cluster nor a district. It is a hard and long work the task of build a strong theoretical concept of RIS. However there are a lot of issues that require such kind of concepts so the work must be done. As a starting point for the thinking, regional / local / sector innovation system could be understood as a holistic approach of NIS.
I recommend the following reading in order to go ahead with the reflexion: Kadura, B.; J.Langbein y K. Wilde (2011), Strengthening Innovation Systems. Foundation, concept and strategic approach. Hamburgo, Alemania, Verlag Dr.Kovac. ISBN 978-3-83006020-8.
2 Recommendations
6th Feb, 2015
Argentino Pessoa
University of Porto
A system of innovation (SI) can be defined as “all important economic, social, political, organizational, and other factors that influence the development, diffusion, and use of innovations” Edquist (1997, p.14). In general a system consists of two kinds of bodies: the components [individuals and organizations (players or actors) and institutions (rules of game)] and the relations between these. There should be reasons why a certain array of components and relations has been chosen to constitute the system; they form a whole. It must be possible to discriminate the system in relation to the rest of the world; i.e., it must be possible to identify the boundaries of the system. However, only in exceptional cases is the system closed in the sense that it has nothing to do with the rest of the world.
Systems of innovation may be supranational, national or sub national (regional, local). The level of delimitation depends on the object of study. All the level approaches may be fruitful for different purposes or objects of study. Generally, the approaches complement each other rather than exclude each other. This is because it is a limitation to talk about globalization and regionalization without addressing the national level. Therefore, it is useful to consider regional systems of innovation as parts of national ones.
At the same time as in NIS (national innovation system) the boundaries of the system coincide with the national frontiers the RIS corresponds to the territory within the region. However, in the literature there are two not coincident ways of defining a region. While it is possible to describe a region as an area characterized by economic specificity, administrative homogeneity, and shared culture, the RIS perspective defines region as a system of collective order maintained through trust and reliability. This definition allows to emphasize the importance of cultural factors, including trust, cooperation, and social network relationships.
Further features of RIS can be found in chapter 6 of my book:
Argentino Pessoa (2012) Innovation and Knowledge Economics, CreateSpace, Charleston, SC, USA, ISBN: 978-1475088069, available either at the publisher ( or at Amazon.
1 Recommendation
6th Feb, 2015
Joanna Prystrom
University of Bialystok
Regional Innovation System is, generally speaking, a network of organizations, individuals and institutions who emphasize the role and the need to develop new technologies and innovative acitivity, support innovation in the concrete region.
1 Recommendation
6th Feb, 2015
Andrey Mikhaylov
Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University
Dear Dr. Prystrom,
in case we consider RIS as a localized network of heterogeneous actors (i.e. organizations, individuals, institutions etc.), is it possible that we might find two or more Regional Innovation Systems within a single region (meso-level)?
6th Feb, 2015
Jean-Pierre Segers
Riga Technical University
6th Feb, 2015
Joanna Prystrom
University of Bialystok
In my opinion, RIS concerns a concrete geographic region, which becomes questionable, because the geographic region can be seen on many levels, like for example the selected region in Poland, a group of several countries (the Baltic countries), etc. ...
6th Feb, 2015
Guillermo Sánchez
Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria
It is important do not forget that RIS, and NIS too, is a theoretical concept. It is an observation instrument (like a microscope) and not an object itself. Such concept allows us to understand the relationships system established (between the mentioned actors) e.g. in the considered region. Such instrument can be used to observe the region at all, an industrial sector within that region (e.g. automobile, agrifood, biotech, etc.), etc. This does not mean that there are one, two or more RIS; the observer is using the instrument for looking at different places.
2 Recommendations
11th Feb, 2015
Thanos Fragkandreas
University of Westminster
Hi Andrey,
My impression is that your question concerns both the definition and the constituents of a RIS.
In addition to the work of Charles Edquist, especially his chapter on innovation systems (, I would certainly recommend the work of Phil Cooke on RIS (
Another interesting approach can be found in technological systems of innovation literature, see for example (, in which both the content and the overall function of an IS are taken into account.
Lastly, Guillermo Sánchez raises an interesting point in his second post with regards to the existence of RISs. However, I am not quite comfortable with the idea of RISs being only theoretical constructs and devices. I would certainly argue that RISs do indeed exist, otherwise how could they be objects of our research? To avoid confusion and unnecessary debates, I am not suggesting that the RIS framework is free of limitations and problems, nor that all administrative or functional regions possess an innovation system, but rather that some regions exhibit more system-like interactions of innovation than others; it is in the latter case that the RIS approach has so far made an important contribution to our knowledge.
12th Feb, 2015
Mario Alvarez
Industrial University of Santander
Off course regional innovation concepts live in a geographical region.
As many related theories,  first the practice goes in advance. Studying the particular cases ( Silicon Valley for example) researchers elaborates theories!

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