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Aspatial peripherality, innovation and the rural economy

Aspatial peripherality (AsP) is a term describing a range of processes, which increasingly compound or distort the effects of physical remoteness. Distance constraints on regional, economic and social development are diminishing, yet the benefits may be either enhanced or masked by a range of essentially non-geographic processes. These include the utilisation of information society technology, and the density and efficiency of networks linking local business, development agencies and global sources of information or markets. Aspects of social capital and the character of regional governance also play a role in determining the degree of effective isolation from the 'motor regions' at the heart of Europe. This project will systematically explore the economic and social processes that cause AsP, develop methodologies for measuring it, and create effective tools whereby policy makers and the business community may seek to minimise its impact.

The main objectives of this project are to establish the concept of AsP, to provide a robust methodology for measuring/mapping it through regional indicators, and to generate best practice/policy evaluation guidelines.
These broad aims will be achieved by pursuing the following, more specific and interrelated research objectives:
1) a review objective to analyse existing peripherality indicators and their theoretical basis
2) a conceptual objective to undertake thematic studies to identify a series of hypotheses relating to the nature of aspatial peripherality (AsP) processes, and their impact on innovation and economic vitality
3) a validation objective, concerned with the development of operational methodologies to test the above hypotheses in the context of a set of representative case study regions
4) a policy objective, which would assess the impacts of current and past policy approaches to AsP
5) a measurement objective, which would develop new indicators of AsP and an efficient standard methodology to allow regional agencies to generate comparable assessments of AsP for their regions
6) a best practice objective, which would establish guidelines for effective intervention to ameliorate the effects of AsP.

The projects will seek to enhance understanding of the issues relating to AsP through a set of thematic studies, focussing on:
a) the role and effectiveness of Information Society Technology (IST) in rural and peripheral regions
b) the nature and role of business networks and innovation among SMEs
c) the effect of different forms of governance, and 'institutional thickness'
d) the functionality of social capital in overcoming geographical disadvantages
e) the character and role of the tourism industry in peripheral regions.
Additional work packages deal with peripherality indicators, policy analysis and best practice in terms of ameliorating the impact of peripherality.

Progress to Date
An integrated set of survey instruments have been designed and implemented, which reflect the issues highlighted by the thematic reviews, and are intended to be used within the context of two study areas in each participating member state. These regions were selected to allow both within and between country comparisons, each pair consisting of a peripheral but relatively dynamic region, and a more accessible region characterised by a poorer economic performance than might have been expected.

In parallel with the thematic and case study work, continued progress has been made in identifying specific examples of best practice relating to strategies to overcome peripheral disadvantage. It is hoped that this will develop into a valuable tool for assessing the perceived effectiveness of a range of types of public intervention in ameliorating the impacts of peripherality.

Considerable progress has also been made in identifying a set of operational indicators of aspatial peripherality, and in setting up a corresponding statistical database for the entire European Union at an appropriate level of regional detail.

Information Society Technology
The main differentiation in the use of ICTs by firms was between countries, and not, as expected, between more or less peripheral regions, with Greece having exceptionally low levels of internet connections. Firms involved in trading beyond their local region were more innovative users of the technology, but most used marketing and online services, rather than e-commerce.

Business Networks
The percentage of firms accessing various networks types has a non-monotonic (non-linear) relationship with accessibility and linear relationships with economic development proxied by per capita GDP in 1999. At firm level, the sector of economic activity is the most influential factor, reconfirming previous findings that certain sectors follow their own 'industrial' norms in the formulation of business networks. Furthermore, the firm's age and management status also exercise an effect on the decision to join and participate in various types of business networks.

It is very important to note that the major pathway of innovation instigation was related to innovations introduced from within the firm followed by innovations introduced with the assistance (or suggestion) of business partners.

The tourism work-package of AsPIRE draws upon both primary and secondary data. Initial findings suggest that the product characteristics in A (more peripheral) regions and B (more accessible) regions are similar, drawing upon landscape features and natural attractions, outdoor recreation and heritage. However visitors to peripheral study regions tend to place greater emphasis on the evaluative attributes of the product, for example character, solitude, and safety.

There are no significant differences in the network access of tourism businesses in A and B regions, although tourism businesses in the peripheral regions are performing significantly better.

The resulting outcome of the governance study supports the more inventive context in construing regional economics and regional economic development policy. The organisational networks of both regions were rather extensive but A. wished for a clearer division of labour and B. wanting the networking to be more effective.

Neither region differed in the ratings given to specific items suggested as deficits in social capital that could hinder regional economic development. This may be because these deficits are not so significant when weighed up alongside two factors which achieved a high rating as obstacles in both regions: the quality of the physical infrastructure and geographical location.


Scientist responsible for the project

Maitland Building, Craibstone Estate
AB21 9YA Aberdeen
United Kingdom (The) - GB Region NUTS UKM11

Phone: +44 1224 711246
Fax: +44 1224 711270


Project ID QLRT-1999-30783
Organisation Scottish Agricultural College
Area 5.5
Start date 01 February 2001
Duration (months) 35
Total cost 1 883 466 €
Total EC contribution   1 407 436 €
Status Completed
Web address of the project   http:\\\AsPIRE

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