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A Critical Assessment of Regional Innovation Policy in Pharmaceutical Biotechnology

Rosiello, A   Orsenigo, L

European Planning Studies   16 (3) 337-357

January 2008

This paper adopts a system-evolutionary perspective to describe the dynamics of the life science sector and reflect on regional innovation policy. It begins with a brief outline of the evolution of life sciences and of the biotechnology industry. A crucial feature of such evolution is the strong tendency towards geographical concentration of research and related economic activities. The formation and growth of bio-clusters have sometimes appeared to be spontaneous, in that governments have not been in the driving seat. However, many regional and national governments have now developed policy frameworks to support the development of bio-clusters. Regional and evolutionary economics contribute to explain cluster emergence and growth, but little is known about pre-emergence conditions.

As a result, although policy measures aimed at supporting emergence and growth are grounded on direct evidence and observable transformations, starting clusters from scratch often involves replicating the pathways followed by successful regions. We examine the rational behind regional innovation policy in life sciences and the reasons why some policies have either succeeded or failed. Special emphasis is placed on Scotland, where the local development agency has pioneered the implementation of cluster thinking to support the development of the life sciences sector.