University of Tasmania
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Governing regional industry networks in the knowledge economy : place, policy, and institutions

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posted on 2023-05-28, 11:56 authored by Johnson, LC
In recent years, growing support has emerged for the idea that place-based development platforms supporting innovation or industrial agglomeration rely on the quality of regional intangible assets and institutions. This thesis examines the ways that embedded, collaborative industry networks function as repositories for this soft infrastructure of regional economic development and investigates how they can be more effectively leveraged by government. These critical roles include diffusing knowledge, pooling common resources, providing high-level representation or advocacy, negotiating or mediating policy and strategic issues for their members, and embedding norms or behavioural expectations, to name just a few. While they may be organised to varying levels of formality, and structured by different institutional factors, these networks provide vital fora for connecting businesspeople, civic actors, public servants, university or higher education representatives, and influential place leaders in the pursuit of shared aims for their industries and regions. Existing scholarship has highlighted the value of these networks and their activities, outlining their central role in place-based economic development platforms that leverage local knowledge bases and capitalise on endogenous advantage. Research has been less successful, however, at systematically explaining the emergence of regional industry networks, articulating policy strategies for promoting them, and describing the implications of different network types or configurations. Given the path dependent and highly context-specific nature of regional industry networks, these issues are an important gap in current approaches. This thesis explores the emergence and institutionalisation, configuration, and governance of three Tasmanian industry networks. The research presented has been conducted in partnership with the Tasmanian Department of Premier and Cabinet on case studies of direct importance to ongoing economic development policy efforts, helping to ensure its relevance and applicability. As well as exploring, in depth, the formation and institutionalisation of the three cases, the thesis adapts the concept of 'metagovernance' to explain the roles played by government as a key actor within them. As an aid to better understanding these roles, and the network contexts to which they are most appropriate, this thesis also proposes an original heuristic typology of regional industry networks. The findings thus provide a clear, empirically grounded repertoire of tools available to states responsible for managing and overseeing networked approaches to economic development, as well as conceptual tools with which to understand the strategies best suited to different network types or configurations.


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