Center for Regional Economic Development (CRED)

Location dynamics and regional economic policy 

Core competence: Regional innovation systems

Regional Innovation Systems (RIS) are economic systems in which companies, universities, research institutions, individually or in cooperation with each other, create, disseminate, and apply knowledge in various forms. Regional Innovation Systems are an important vehicle for strengthening the economic power and dynamics of a region. Prominent examples include Silicon Valley in the United States, the pharmaceutical and biotechnology cluster in Basel, or the watch industry in the Swiss Jura region.

The analysis of RIS has a long tradition in economic geography and regional science research. The approach is also used in Switzerland's New Regional Policy (NRP) to promote more rural and peripheral regions. We analyze Regional Innovation Systems using quantitative and qualitative data.

Is there a Regional Innovation System in the Emmental?

When one thinks of the region Emmental, the Swiss cheese "Emmentaler" comes to mind. Less well known is the fact that the region is home to numerous innovative export-based companies and that the secondary sector is an important pillar of the Emmental's economic structure. World-leading companies such as Jakob AG Rope Systems in Trubschachen or PB Swiss Tools in Wasen, i.E., not only produce in the Emmental but also drive research and development at this location.

This project deals with the innovative development of rural regions such as the Emmental and focuses on the following questions:

  • What role does the Emmental play as a location for innovative companies?
  • How do companies benefit from the more peripheral location of Emmental, and to what extent do advantages and disadvantages arise from this location?
  • Can one speak of an Emmental Regional Innovation System?
CRED: Regionale Innovationssysteme / Regional innovation systems
Figure 1: Share of full-time equivalents by sector in 2015, source: Swiss Federal Statistical Office.

We analyze companies and their innovation behavior in rural and peripheral regions such as Emmental, Gruyère, or Appenzell. It should be noted that a peripheral location not only has disadvantages but that companies also see the unique advantages and that they exploit them in a targeted manner. 

Our analyses suggest that companies in peripheral regions use the local environment and appreciate the quality of life on the one hand and that they also obtain external knowledge via innovation networks that they cultivate. In sum, it can be said that Regional Innovation Systems do exist in the periphery, but that they have a different spatial orientation than their urban counterparts.

Current projects

Working title Research question
Social Innovations in Swiss Mountain Regions - Shifting Away from Growth Dependency in the Tourism, Construction and Healthcare Industries Welches Potential haben soziale Innovationen im alpinen Raum, um die Wachstumsabhängigkeit zu reduzieren? Heike Mayer, Monika Bandi Tanner, Irmi Seidl (WSL), Pascal Tschumi, Andrea Winiger, Samuel Wirth
Slow Innovation in Europe`s Peripheral Regions Inwiefern unterscheiden sich Innovationsprozesse in peripheren Räumen von jenen in urbanen Räumen? In welchem Mass sind Innovationsprozesse in Berggebieten abhängig von schnellem Zugang zu Wissensquellen, Märkten, etc.? Heike Mayer
Innovationen auf dem Land: Gibt es ein Regionales Innovationssystem Emmental?  Inwiefern ist es sinnvoll, das Konzept Regionaler Innovationssysteme auf ländliche Räume anzuwenden? Heike Mayer