The Journal of Technology Transfer

, Volume 44, Issue 6, pp 1744–1783 | Cite as

The role of geographical proximity for project performance: evidence from the German Leading-Edge Cluster Competition

  • Susanne Hinzmann
  • Uwe Cantner
  • Holger GrafEmail author


The role of geographical proximity in fostering connections and knowledge flows between innovative actors ranks among the most controversial themes in the research of innovation systems, regional networks and new economic geography. While there is ample empirical evidence on the constituent force of co-location for the formation of research alliances, little attention has been paid to the actual consequences of geographical concentration of alliance partners for the subsequent performance of these linkages. In this paper, we address this underexplored issue and aim to complement the rare examples of studies on the relevance of geographical proximity for research outputs. We utilize original and unique survey data from collaborative R&D projects that were funded within the “Leading-Edge Cluster Competition” (LECC)—the main national cluster funding program in Germany in recent years. We find that the perception of the necessity of geographical proximity for project success is rather heterogeneous among the respondents of the funded projects. Moreover, the relationship between geographical distance and project success is by no means univocal and is mediated by various technological, organizational and institutional aspects. Our findings strongly support the assumption that the nature of knowledge involved determines the degree to which collaborators are reliant on being closely located to each other. The relevance of geographical proximity increases in exploration contexts when knowledge is novel and the innovation endeavor is more radical, while this effect is less pronounced for projects with a stronger focus on basic research. Moreover, geographical proximity and project satisfaction foster cross-fertilization effects of LECC projects.


Geographical proximity Research collaboration Project performance Innovation policy 

JEL Classification

O3 O38 L14 R1 R32 



The study was financially supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) for the research project “Begleitende Evaluierung des Spitzencluster-Wettbewerbs” Susanne Hinzmann thankfully acknowledges the German Research Foundation (DFG) for providing a scholarship within the DFG-GRK 1411 “The Economics of Innovative Change”. We wish to thank two anonymous referees, members the research group DFG-GRK 1411, as well as participants at the 7th Summer Conference in Regional Science in Marburg and the Workshop on “Clusterforschung und Evaluierung von Clusterpolitiken” for helpful comments and suggestions. All remaining errors are our own.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Economics and Business AdministrationFriedrich Schiller University JenaJenaGermany
  2. 2.Department of Marketing and ManagementUniversity of Southern DenmarkOdenseDenmark

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