DP1974 | Agglomeration and the Location of Innovative Activity


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Only a few years ago the conventional wisdom predicted that globalization would render the demise of the region as a meaningful unit of economic analysis. Yet the obsession of policy-makers around the globe to 'create the next Silicon Valley' reveals the increased importance of geographic proximity and regional agglomerations. The purpose of this article is to explain why and how geography matters for innovative activity and ultimately for the international comparative advantage. The comparative advantage of the high-cost countries of North America and Western Europe is increasingly based on knowledge-driven innovative activity. The spillover of knowledge from the firm or university creating that knowledge to a third-party firm is essential to innovative activity. Such knowledge spillovers tend to be spatially restricted. Thus, an irony of globalization is that even as the relevant geographic market for most goods and services becomes increasingly global, the increased importance of innovative activity in the leading developed countries has triggered a resurgence in the importance of local regions as a key source of comparative advantage.