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New High-Tech Industries and Windows of Locational Opportunity: The Role OfLabour Markets and Knowledge Institutions During the Industrial Era

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This paper presents a theoretical concept (the so-called“Open Windows of Locational Opportunity” concept, or OWLO concept) which provides an explanation for why it is rather uncertain and unpredictable where new high-technology industries will emerge in space. This is due to three tightly linked features of new high-tech industries. Firstly, new high-tech industries reflect a high rate of discontinuity because they place new demandson their local production environment. Secondly, due to this mismatch, new high-tech industries depend on their creative ability to generate or attract their own favourable production environment. This creative capacity compensates for the lack of specific local stimuli, as associated with their discontinuous nature. Thirdly, the OWLO concept claims that chance events may have a considerable impact on the place where new industries emerge. This is because it remains unpredictable at which place potentially favourable resources of a generic nature set in motion a creative process which brings increasing returns (that is, “localization economies”) into the local production environment. As a consequence, many regions are considered to be in a more or less equal position to develop new high-tech industries during their initialstage of growth, despite their different techno-industrial histories.

We have further illustrated this OWLO concept by linking it to the problem of whether regional labour markets and knowledge institutions may facilitate the ability of regions to generate new high-tech industries, despite the fact that these require new knowledge and skills. We made an attempt to specify in broad terms the extent to which local supplies of labour and institutionalized knowledge may have influenced the place where so-called new clusters of innovative industries emerged in Great Britain and Belgium during the industrial epoch. We presented some evi-dence that the three key notions of the OWLO concept described above have indeed been features of the spatial emergence of many new clusters in both countries during their initial stage of development.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of International Economics and Economic Geography, Faculty of Spatial Sciences, University of Utrecht, The Netherlands, 2: Department of Applied Economics, Faculty of Economics, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Publication date: 01 August 1999

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