Entrepreneurship and regional development

A genealogy approach to understanding the evolution of high-tech regions

Heike Mayer (Associate Professor, Urban Affairs and Planning, Virginia Tech)

CA113, J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics, NUI Galway 11:30 :: 30th April 2009

In recent years, studies of regional agglomeration economies have benefited from the application of theories and concepts developed in the field of evolutionary economics. The research highlights the role of firms as incubators for new startup companies and links entrepreneurial agency to the emergence of regional clusters. In other words, the emergence of a cluster is rooted in the formation of a critical mass of startup companies. It is generally recognized that other existing firms are the incubators or "parents" of startup firms. It is also recognized that firms in industrial districts are heterogeneous and diverse, which in turn influences the extent and degree of regional entrepreneurship. The relationship between firm diversity and entrepreneurial development, however, has received little attention. Rather, studies in evolutionary regional economic development gloss over differences stemming from organizational ecology. In contrast, entrepreneurship theories provide a rich understanding of the ways in which so-called "parent firms" shape entrepreneurial endeavors. In this presentation, I link firm diversity to entrepreneurial variation and regional economic development and examine the evolution of two emerging high-technology regions in the Unites States (Portland, Oregon and Boise, Idaho). The regions are unique because they have not followed the Silicon Valley model. Instead, several prominent parent firms influenced entrepreneurship, but they did so in various ways. Using a genealogy and visualization methodology, I will present a theory of the firm as entrepreneurial incubator and catalyst for regional development.

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