Exploring the regional patterns of complex knowledge production: the case of renewable energy technologies in the European Union
Vazquez Villegas, O.M.
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European regions are currently implementing smart specialisation strategies trough the capitalisation of their knowledge assets to drive innovation in promising sectors, fields or technologies . However, there is a lack of understanding behind the knowledge development process of smart specialisation strategies targeting renewable energy technologies. Especially so in the creation of complex knowledge, which is more difficult to replicate and it therefore provides a greater competitive advantage. This research aims to fill that gap by exploring the patterns of complex knowledge production in six renewable energy technologies. By making use of quantitative methods and building upon the theoretical foundations of Evolutionary Economic Geography and the Smart Specialisation literature, this research attempts to test the relationship between the ability of a region to create complex knowledge and four mechanisms of path and place dependency linked to the knowledge creation process. Scientific publications cited in patents are used as an indicator for regional knowledge production to capture the role that scientific knowledge plays in technological development. A set of quantitative analysis revealed that scientific relatedness is the most important driver for the creation of complex knowledge. That is the extent to which a region’s scientific profile is related to the knowledge base of a given technology. Contrary to what was expected, the results showed that the infrastructural and technological carbon lock-in of fossil fuel technologies either constraint or encourage the creation of complex knowledge. Moreover, it was found that the ability of a region to create complex knowledge does not depend on its ability to accumulate scientific knowledge, being solar PV technology the exception, possibly due to the high level of analyticity of its knowledge base. Unexpectedly, the access to complementary knowledge trough interregional linkages does not have a strong impact in the creation of complex knowledge. Instead, it is possible that complex knowledge is more likely to be geographically bounded. This is supported by the spatial distribution of complexity scores, in which high-score regions tend to cluster next to each other. To conclude, the findings of this research suggest that European regions implementing smart specialisation strategies targeting renewable energy technologies are more likely to be successful when they diversify into scientific or technological fields that are related to their scientific profile, regardless of their capacity to contribute to the knowledge stock or the knowledge and specialised skills accumulated in fossil fuel technologies.