The significance of change agency for innovation and transformation in relationally peripheral regions

This research project departs from the acknowledgement that numerous mechanisms of innovations and with that the genesis of knowledge-based development paths are in a process of changing dynamically. The reasons for this are above all developments in the area of digitalization as well as new requirements resulting from decarbonisation targets. These result in new up to now insufficiently researched implications not only for economic centres but also for structurally weak areas.

Against this background, the project combines two current debates, both of which support the notion that, conceptually, a spatially differentiated analysis of knowledge-based development paths would be increasingly necessary. In practice, however, it seems far from sufficiently implemented.

Geographical innovation research on the development of industrial paths, for example, in principle recognizes the role of less developed regions. In practice, however, most studies remain focussed on technologically leading centres. In parallel, research on socio-technical transitions articulates the ambition of elaborating on the spatial dimension of actor networks and transformation in more detail, which - in a similar - remains far from fully achieved.

Conceptually, this project will build on approaches motivated by the agency concept are particularly relevant and suitable to empirically capture corresponding developments. Building on recent advances in the conceptual literature, we will seek to develop and operationalise empirical strategies that are more suitable for the study of less developed regions than established approaches based on resource endowments as documented in official statistics and databases.


A first aim of the proposed research project is to clarify and assess the impact of new dynamics of the economic and societal change on regional transformation processes. Secondly, it aims to identify options for actions arising in this context when establishing knowledge-based development paths.

In doing so, the focus of the research project is deliberately put on innovation networks in peripheral spaces. For these area the implications of emerging socio-technical dynamics remain insufficiently researched.



The planned project integrates two complementary approaches.

In a first phase we will perform an analysis of existing literature, to identify and describe possibilities actions which result from new drivers for regional innovation processes in peripheral regions. On that basis, we will develop a framework outlining which concrete options for action might arise from the strategic use of marginality in the periphery, the development of pilot areas and the imitation of innovation strategies of the centres.

In the second project phase, concrete actions to realise such options in practice are described and assessed. Based on different case studies, we will document which new foundations regional development paths have been created and which actors have participated in them. These include established business people and entrepreneurs as well as stakeholders from science, politics, administration and society that become pioneers of development paths in the region through individual or collective action.

To that end, Fraunhofer ISI will conduct a large scale web-scraping and analyse data from company databases. In parallel, project partners at the University of Greifswald (Prof. Schiller) will engage in qualitative research activities to which the team Fraunhofer ISI will contribute in various ways.


Publications, workshop


03.2022 - 02.2025


Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)


Universität Greifswald