Institute of Economic and Cultural Geography Research Research projects
Regional technological paths and relatedness of knowledge in Germany

Regional technological paths and relatedness of knowledge in Germany

Led by:  Juniorprofessor Dr. Tom Brökel
Team:  Dr. Lars Mewes
Year:  2019
Funding:  The Lower Saxon Ministry of Science and Culture
Duration:  2016 - 2019
Is Finished:  yes

Never before in human history has so much new knowledge been created as nowadays.  According to the Web of Science, more than two million academic papers were published only in the year 2015. In 1995, the number of publications was slightly above one million publications. Publications are only one indicator of knowledge creation and only represent the world of academic research, but the trend is similar by considering the number of patent applications. This rapid scientific progress drives technological changes which affect various areas of life in manifold ways and challenge regions every day. Thus, it is important to know more about how new knowledge emerges at the regional level and how declining industries can be compensated by the development of new sectors.

Research in economic geography investigates – among others - how, where and under which circumstances new knowledge emerges on the landscape. Key concepts such as routines, path dependency and relatedness are drawn from evolutionary economics in order to help to understand the process of knowledge creation in more depth.  Especially the concept of knowledge relatedness can be studied from a network perspective to empirically analyze and visualize relatedness of different spheres of knowledge. Analyzing knowledge networks allows to identify critical parts of the knowledge space such as structural holes or general purpose, emerging and declining domains.  In this context, recent studies have shown that knowledge relatedness plays a crucial role when it comes to technological diversification at the national and regional level. More precisely, new technologies are more likely to emerge in a given region when they are related to existing capabilities of this region. These results indicate the existence of technological paths shaping future diversification opportunities.

This research project takes these recent studies as a starting to point to extend the existing knowledge about emerging technologies. For this purpose, knowledge relatedness in four phases of the innovation process is estimated. These four phases are represented by academic basic research, public funded research and development (R&D), applied R&D and knowledge incorporated within the labor market. This allows to compare these four phases in order to identify possible interdependencies. For example, it is assumed that trends in academic research can be used to predict developments in applied R&D. Another objective is to measure the effect of policy on the emergence of new technologies to answer the question whether policy can shape technology landscapes. To shed light on this question, data from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research about funded innovation projects is used. The data set allows a comprehensive analyses of knowledge creation over a long period of time.

Furthermore, the research project also investigates knowledge creation in Lower-Saxony. By using the above mentioned data and methods, we are able to analyze regions in Lower-Saxony in more depth in order to identify important creators and diffusers of knowledge which are fundamental for the region.


  • Mewes, L; Broekel, T. (2020): Technological complexity and economic growth of regions, In: Research Policy. DOI:
  • Mewes, L.; Broekel, T. (2020): Subsidized to change? The impact of R&D policy on regional technological diversification. The Annals of Regional Science. DOI: 10.1007/s00168-020-00981-9
  • Mewes, L. (2019): Scaling of Atypical Knowledge Combinations in American Metropolitan Areas from 1836 to 2010. Economic Geography. DOI: 10.1080/00130095.2019.1567261.
  • Mewes, L.; Broekel, T. (2017): Unrelated und Related Variety im Kontext öffentlicher F&E: empirische Evidenz aus deutschen Arbeitsmarktregionen. Zeitschrift für Wirtschaftsgeographie, 61(1): 23-37. DOI: 10.1515/zfw-2015-0584.

Presentations to Scientific Audiences

  • Mewes, L.: Subsidized to change? The impact of R&D subsidies on regional technological diversification. 5th Geography of Innovation Conference. Stavanger, Norway, 29.01.2020.
  • Mewes, L.: Regional Openness and High-Impact Inventions. IIDEOS Kolloquium Kassel, 19.02.2019.
  • Mewes, L.: Scaling of Atypical and Typical Knowledge Combinations in American Metropolitan Areas from 1836 to 2010. 32. Jahrestreffen Arbeitskreis Industriegeographie. Naurod-Niedernhausen, Germany, 19.10.2017.
  • Mewes, L.: The Speed of Adoption in American Cities 1836-2010. YEGN Workshop. Goslar, Germany, 20.07.17.
  • Mewes, L.: Knowledge Combinations in American Metropolitan Areas from 1836 to 2010. Transition Studies Seminar. Utrecht, The Netherlands, 14.06.2017.
  • Mewes, L.: The relation between city size and technological diversification. International PhD Workshop on Economic Geography. Utrecht, The Netherlands, 12.09.2016.
  • Mewes, L.: The complexity of technological knowledge. YEGN Workshop. Bern, Switzerland, 19.08.2016.
  • Mewes, L.: R&D policy and the technological diversification of regions. AAG Annual Meeting, Economic Geography Specialty Group: "Evolutionary Pathways: Make or Break". San Francisco, USA, 29.03.2016.
  • Mewes, L.: Regional related diversification. 30. Jahrestreffen Arbeitskreis Industriegeographie. Naurod-Niedernhausen, 12.11.2015.
  • Mewes, L.: Regional branching and the role of policy - an empirical approach. ARL Summer School "Winners and losers: Why are the effects of regional policy so different?". Prague, Czech-Republic, 25.08.2015.