Innovation and the spatial dimensions of information capture
Recent theories from the field of industrial geography contend that region-specific, 'untraded interdependencies', including networking, conventions and rules within the business community, are important assets in enabling small, innovative firms to learn about technological and organisational development. The 'learning region' has since been adopted as a slogan for economic development and renewal, despite limited empirical analysis on the spatial dimensions of actual learning processes. The purpose of this study is to analyse how innovative firms combine sources of information in a spatial setting. Analysis from the empirical findings reveals that small, innovative firms in the case study example of the instrumentation and control sector located in the outer area of the London Metropolitan Region (LMR), predominantly rely on a few key sources of information, recombined with knowledge of information from past employment. These key sources are usually linkages with other firms, particularly customers, that transcend regional and national boundaries. The spatial dimensions of information acquisition depend on the type of information. Sources that are more important at the regional level are relatively more important to more generalised aspects of information acquisition. Underpinning these observations is the significance of the relationship between the spatial dimensions of information flows and the nature of the firms' innovation characteristics. The specific information required for technological development is spatially dispersed from the firms' home region, whereas more generalised types of information diffuse more easily from region to region. The location behaviour of the firms is nevertheless explained by the need to co-ordinate information flows. This is because transport links are important in enabling the firms to access specific information beyond the region. The availability of various sources of more generalised information in the London Metropolitan Region is still regarded as a vital support mechanism for small-scale innovation in the IC sector. The policy implications of this analysis are addressed.