SABRINA FLORKOWSKI, PHD-STUDENT
Entrepreneurship as One Element in Regional Innovation Systems
A student of regional development can identify two general types of explanations for why some regions develop as they do. The first explanation relates to the emergence of innovative activities carried out by pioneering entrepreneurs that may transform the society and economy. In literature, this is referred to as impressive stories of renewal and change, where regions have changed from old and heavily industrialized regions to modern high tech poles, examples being Teesside in Northeast of England and the Öresund Region in Denmark and Sweden.
The other type of explanation is related to path dependency, where present developments build on past decisions and activities. In apparent contrast to the first explanation, path dependency is often seen as negative constraints for future development where some regions continue to develop along established regional trajectories and ultimately result in lock-ins. In this perspective, regions may be caught in destructive path dependency processes and only by breaking free from their constraining past they can change their declining path. This type of regional development process is thus practically entrepreneurless.
My study challenges the general way of dichotomizing between entrepreneurship and path dependency as two opposing concepts. Rather, it can be posited that these concepts are related to each other and it can be argued that such a view can provide a better understanding of regional development processes. An important building block for the theoretical discussion is the idea that even such disruptive activities as revolutions are never really discontinuous as informal constraints are imbedded in societies. Thus, entrepreneurs can create new regional paths, but they are also to some extent related to existing patterns and behavior in the region. Against this background, the aim of this study is to build a conceptual framework with several propositions that discusses the relationship between path dependency and entrepreneurship in a regional context, focusing in particular on their complementary nature.