Knowledge Bases and Relatedness: A Study of Labour Mobility in Norwegian Regions

  • Rune Dahl FitjarEmail author
  • Bram Timmermans


Two ideas have emerged as central in evolutionary economic geography in recent years: First, innovation is often the result of meetings between related ideas, and regions are therefore best served by hosting a variety of related industries. Second, innovation often comes from the combination of different knowledge bases. However, there have been few attempts at linking these approaches in empirical studies. This paper connects the dots by examining relatedness among industries with similar and different knowledge bases in specific regional contexts. We focus on regions expected to have different types of innovation systems, from the organisationally thick and diversified RIS of large cities through the more specialised RIS in intermediate cities to the organisationally thin RIS found in small rural regions. The analysis finds that industries with different knowledge bases are related in various regional settings, with combinatorial knowledge base industries having a central role in many regions. However, there are also cases of potential lock-in, where relatedness is mainly found among regions with the same knowledge base.


Relatedness Knowledge bases Regional systems of innovation Labour mobility 



The research for this paper was funded by the Research Council of Norway, project no. 209761. Data from the Norwegian employment and educational registers were provided by Statistics Norway. An earlier version of the paper was presented at the 2016 Regional Innovation Policies Conference in Cardiff. We would like to thank participants at this session, as well as an anonymous reviewer and the editors of this book, for helpful suggestions in finalising the paper.


  1. Asheim, B., & Coenen, L. (2005). Knowledge bases and regional innovation systems: Comparing Nordic clusters. Research Policy, 34(8), 1173–1190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Asheim, B., & Coenen, L. (2006). Contextualising regional innovation systems in a globalising learning economy: On knowledge bases and institutional frameworks. Journal of Technology Transfer, 31(1), 163–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Asheim, B., & Gertler, M. (2005). The geography of innovation: Regional innovation systems. In J. Fagerberg, D. Mowery, & R. Nelson (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of innovation (pp. 291–317). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Asheim, B., & Grillitsch, M. (2015). Smart specialisation: Sources for new path development in a peripheral manufacturing region. CIRCLE: Papers in Innovation Studies, 2015/11.Google Scholar
  5. Asheim, B., & Hansen, H. K. (2009). Knowledge bases, talents, and contexts: On the usefulness of the creative class approach in Sweden. Economic Geography, 85(4), 425–442.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Asheim, B., & Mariussen, Å. (2003). Innovations, regions and projects: Studies in new forms of knowledge governance. Stockholm, Nordregio, report 3/2003.Google Scholar
  7. Asheim, B., Coenen, L., & Vang, J. (2007). Face-to-face, buzz, and knowledge bases: Sociospatial implication for learning, innovation, and innovation policy. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 25(5), 655–670.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Asheim, B., Boschma, R., & Cooke, P. (2011). Constructing regional advantage: Platform policies based on related variety and differentiated knowledge bases. Regional Studies, 45(7), 893–904.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Asheim, B., Grillitsch, M., & Trippl, M. (2016). Smart specialization as an innovation-driven strategy for economic diversification: Examples from Scandinavian regions. CIRCLE: Papers in Innovation Studies, 2016/23.Google Scholar
  10. Aslesen, H., & Freel, M. (2012). Industrial knowledge bases as drivers of open innovation? Industry and Innovation, 19(7), 563–584.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bergsgard, N., & Vassenden, A. (2011). The legacy of stavanger as capital of culture in Europe 2008: Watershed or puff of wind? International Journal of Cultural Policy, 17(3), 301–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Boschma, R. (2005). Proximity and innovation: A critical assessment. Regional Studies, 39(1), 61–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Boschma, R. (2015). Towards an evolutionary perspective on regional resilience. Regional Studies, 49(5), 733–751.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Boschma, R., & Frenken, K. (2011). The emerging empirics of evolutionary economic geography. Journal of Economic Geography, 11, 295–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Boschma, R., & Iammarino, S. (2009). Related variety, trade linkages and regional growth in Italy. Economic Geography, 85(3), 289–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Boschma, R., Minondo, A., & Navarro, M. (2013). The emergence of new industries at the regional level in Spain: A proximity approach based on product relatedness. Economic Geography, 89(1), 29–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Castaldi, C., Frenken, K., & Los, B. (2015). Related variety, unrelated variety and technological breakthroughs: An analysis of US state-level patenting. Regional Studies, 49(5), 767–781.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Diodato, D., & Weterings, A. (2014). The resilience of regional labour markets to economic shocks: Exploring the role of interactions among firms and workers. Journal of Economic Geography, 15(4), 723–742.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Essletzbichler, J. (2015). Relatedness, industrial branching and technological cohesion in US metropolitan areas. Regional Studies, 49(5), 752–766.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fitjar, R. D., & Jøsendal, K. (2016). Hooked up to the international artistic community: External linkages, absorptive capacity and exporting by small creative firms. Creative Industries Journal, 9(1), 29–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fitjar, R. D., & Timmermans, B. (2016). Regional skill relatedness: Towards a new measure of regional related diversification. European Planning Studies, 25, 516–538. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Florida, R. (2002). The rise of the creative class. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  23. Frenken, K., & Boschma, R. (2007). A theoretical framework for evolutionary economic geography: Industrial dynamics and urban growth as branching processes. Journal of Economic Geography, 7, 635–649.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Frenken, K., van Oort, F., & Verburg, T. (2007). Related variety, unrelated variety and regional economic growth. Regional Studies, 41(5), 685–697.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Grillitsch, M., & Asheim, B. (2015). Cluster policy: Renewal through the integration of institutional variety. CIRCLE: Papers in Innovation Studies, 2015/21.Google Scholar
  26. Grillitsch, M., Martin, R., & Srholec, M. (2016). Knowledge base combinations and innovation performance in Swedish regions. Economic Geography, 1–22.
  27. Gundersen, F., & Juvkam, D. (2013). Inndelinger I senterstruktur, sentralitet og BA-regioner. NIBR-rapport 2013-1.Google Scholar
  28. Herstad, S., Aslesen, H., & Ebersberger, B. (2014). On industrial knowledge bases, commercial opportunities and global innovation network linkages. Research Policy, 43(3), 495–504.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Isaksen, A. (2015). Industrial development in thin regions: Trapped in path extension? Journal of Economic Geography, 15, 585–600.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Isaksen, A., & Trippl, M. (2016). Exogenously led and policy-supported new path development in peripheral regions: Analytical and synthetic routes. Economic Geography, 1–22.
  31. Laestadius, S. (1998). Technology level, knowledge formation and industrial competence in paper manufacturing. In G. Elisasson et al. (Eds.), Microfoundations of economic growth (pp. 212–226). Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  32. Liu, J., Chaminade, C., & Asheim, B. (2013). The geography and structure of global innovation networks: A knowledge base perspective. European Planning Studies, 21(9), 1456–1473.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Manniche, J. (2012). Combinatorial knowledge dynamics: On the usefulness of the differentiated knowledge bases model. European Planning Studies, 20(11), 1823–1841.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Manniche, J., Moodysson, J., & Testa, S. (2016). Combinatorial knowledge bases: An integrative and dynamic approach to innovation studies. Economic Geography, 1–20.
  35. Martin, R. (2012). Measuring knowledge bases in Swedish regions. European Planning Studies, 20(9), 1569–1582.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Martin, R., & Moodysson, J. (2011). Innovation in symbolic industries: The geography and organization of knowledge sourcing. European Planning Studies, 19(7), 1183–1203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Martin, R., & Moodysson, J. (2013). Comparing knowledge bases: On the geography and organization of knowledge sourcing in the regional innovation system of Scania, Sweden. European Urban and Regional Studies, 20(2), 170–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Martin, R., & Trippl, M. (2014). System failures, knowledge bases and regional innovation policies. disP–The Planning Review, 50(1), 24–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Moodysson, J., Coenen, L., & Asheim, B. (2008). Explaining spatial patterns of innovation: Analytical and synthetic modes of knowledge creation in the Medicon Valley life-science cluster. Environment and Planning A, 40(5), 1040–1056.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Neffke, F., & Henning, M. (2013). Skill relatedness and firm diversification. Strategic Management Journal, 34(3), 297–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Neffke, F., Henning, M., & Boschma, R. (2011). How do regions diversify over time? Industry relatedness and the development of new growth paths in regions. Economic Geography, 87(3), 237–265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Neffke, F., Henning, M., & Boschma, R. (2012). The impact of aging and technological relatedness on agglomeration externalities: A survival analysis. Journal of Economic Geography, 12(2), 485–517.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Neffke, F., Otto, A., & Weyh, A. (2017). Skill-relatedness matrices for Germany: Data method and access (No. 201704_en). Nürnberg: Institut für Arbeitsmarkt-und Berufsforschung.Google Scholar
  44. Nooteboom, B. (2000). Learning and innovation in organizations and economies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Rekers, J. (2016). What triggers innovation diffusion? Intermediary organizations and geography in cultural and science-based industries. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 34(6), 1058–1075.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sedita, S., De Noni, I., & Pilotti, L. (2017). Out of the crisis: An empirical investigation of place-specific determinants of economic resilience. European Planning Studies, 25(2), 155–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Statistics Norway. (2000). Classification of economic regions. Oslo and Kongsvinger: Statistics Norway, C616.Google Scholar
  48. Storper, M., & Venables, A. (2004). Buzz: Face-to-face contact and the urban economy. Journal of Economic Geography, 4, 351–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Tavassoli, S., & Carbonara, N. (2014). The role of knowledge variety and intensity for regional innovation. Small Business Economics, 43(2), 493–509.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Timmermans, B., & Boschma, R. (2014). The effect of intra- and inter-regional labour mobility on plant performance in Denmark: The significance of related labour inflows. Journal of Economic Geography, 14(2), 289–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Tödtling, F., & Grillitsch, M. (2015). Does combinatorial knowledge lead to a better innovation performance of firms? European Planning Studies, 23(9), 1741–1758.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Trippl, M., Grillitsch, M., & Isaksen, A. (2017). Exogenous sources of regional industrial change: Attraction and absorption of non-local knowledge for new path development. Progress in Human Geography.
  53. van den Berge, M., & Weterings, A. (2014). Relatedness in eco-technological development in European regions. Utrecht University: Papers in Evolutionary Economic Geography, 14.13.Google Scholar
  54. van Oort, F., de Geus, S., & Dogaru, T. (2015). Related variety and regional economic growth in a cross-section of European urban regions. European Planning Studies, 23(6), 1110–1127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of StavangerStavangerNorway
  2. 2.Norwegian School of EconomicsBergenNorway

Personalised recommendations