This thesis focuses on regional strategic networks (RSNs). RSNs are used as a tool for regional development with a view to strengthening regional relationship-development and networking by forming regional groups of actors. The thesis aims to clarify the nature of RSNs and the value of geographical proximity in both theoretical and practical terms. Theories regarding effects of geographical proximity, regional agglomerations and networks are presented, and their possible application to RSNs is analyzed. Furthermore, findings from two case studies are reported.
In the RSN study, the generally most highly valued outcome was the development of new relationships among the participants. Such relationships allowed for mutual learning and information exchange and also meant that for several participants the firms’ horizons were extended and their positions changed. Furthermore, internal marketing of training opportunities, in combination with financial subsidies, attracted several participants who attended training programmes on subjects that they would not otherwise have spent so much time on. However, few firms could state concrete results in terms of new business exchange or cooperative projects. The impact of structural factors on RSN outcomes is therefore discussed, in particular the impact of the membership composition of an RSN. Furthermore, important RSN-evaluation challenges are highlighted.
The second study demonstrated that most R&D done by firms is characterized either by incremental, gradual technology development and low importance of geographical proximity to customers, suppliers and academic research organizations or by fast, step-wise technology development and high importance of geographical proximity to customers, suppliers and academic research organizations.