Institute of Economic and Cultural Geography Research Research projects
Technology Spaces - Evolution, Potential, and Policy Implications

Technology Spaces - Evolution, Potential, and Policy Implications

Led by:  Prof. Dr. Tom Broekel
Team:  Louis Knuepling
Year:  2020
Funding:  Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF)
Duration:  2018 – 2020
Is Finished:  yes

The results of innovative activities and public research funding are frequently measured with quantitative indicators like patents or new products. This does not sufficiently capture the actual degree of novelty (defined as a new combination of knowledge or technologies). A large part of patenting activity occurs between strongly related technologies. Development along such limited technological paths is mostly incremental and does not unleash long-term economic potential.

Innovation at intersections between technologies or topics, however, combines knowledge of different subjects. This kind of progress is necessary to get and maintain a strong regional and national competitive position. Therefore, the project especially focuses on how to measure the degree of radicality of innovative outputs. A new set of indicators will be developed to capture both the “(un)predictability” of a technological development and its relevance for following technological developments. Besides the technological fields of radical innovation, actors and regions that boost radical change will be identified, as well. The analysis of intra- und interregional networks of actors and their bi- and multilateral constellation (different dimensions of proximity, e.g. cognitive or geographical) will be a critical part of this work to identify the conditions enabling cooperation that yields radical innovation.

In addition to the identification of general drivers and processes of development, the role of research funding is an important part of the project. The central questions raised are: Which technological developments (and technological convergences) are funded by technology policy, where and how? Which role do path dependent processes play in this context? The main question related to radical innovation is:  How do the geographical setting (e.g. the position in a regional knowledge space) and social networks (embeddedness in knowledge networks) influence the chances of radical innovation to occur?

For some years now, the EU pursues the “Smart-Specialization-Strategy” (RIS3) which is based on the idea of a path-dependent regional technological development. Analyzing the technology space, some basic (enabling) technologies will be identified in the last part. These are of crucial importance for following technological developments. Thereby, their developmental state, their relatedness to other technologies and their structural importance for regional technology spaces will be revealed. Moreover, the analysis of the drivers of evolution in the technology spaces will be exemplified with some case studies to gain insights about regional specifics. Thus, the technological implications will be supplemented by regional policy implications. Altogether, the results of the project will be useful to refine the strategy for the German innovation system as a whole.


  • Broekel, T.; Knuepling, L. & Stenke, G. (2020): Zukunftsfähigkeit des Technologieprofils Deutschlands – Im Spiegel staatlicher Fördermaßnahmen. Policy Paper 04; Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft e.V.

Presentations to Scientific Audiences

  • Knuepling, L.: Complementarity, similarity, and locational relatedness in regional technological diversification. 6th Geography of Innovation Conference. Mailand (Italien), 05.07.2022.
  • Knuepling, L.: The role of external knowledge and collaboration for regional technological change. 6th Global Conference in Economic Geography (GCEG). Dublin (Irland), 07.06.2022.
  • Knuepling, L.: The contribution of university research to regional and global technological change. IIDEOS-Kolloquium. Digital 17.02.2022.
  • Knuepling, L.:Complementarity, Knowledge Similarity, and Locational Relatedness in Regional Technological Diversification. SEG Winter Workshop in the Geography of Innovation. Online 27.01.2022.
  • Knuepling, L.: Identifying Radical Innovations with a New Measure of Technological Change. Workshop: Advancing Indicators of Regional Structural Change. Jena 17.03.2021.
  • Knüpling, L.: Knowledge Spaces and the Measurement of Technological Relationship. 5th Geography of Innovation Conference, Stavanger, 30.01.2020.
  • Knüpling, L.: Knowledge Spaces and the Measurement of Technological Relationship. IIDEOS Colloquium, Hannover, 24.01.2020.