9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN27 Regional Network on Southern European Societies

2009-09-03 13:30:00 2009-09-03 15:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 13:30 - 15:00 Regional Innovation Systems in Southern Europe and Sustainability Building II, Auditório C1.03

Medium-sized Knowledge Cities as a promoter of regional innovation system: focusing on Coimbra

In this paper we aim at exploring the opportunities and importance of knowledge medium-sized cities for the emergence of regional innovation systems (RIS). The concepts of knowledge city and regional innovation system are often associated to large urban agglomerations, excluding from this debate, fundamental areas in the European urban system, the medium-sized cities (Bell & Jayne, 2006; Haque, 2001). We believe, however, that these cities have a decisive role in the diffusion of technologies and knowledge and, consequently, in the promotion of innovation and a RIS: as they may adopt innovations emanating from the primary knowledge centres or even produce them, spreading them to their surrounding environment (Florida, 2008; Carta, 2007)
The purpose of the paper is also to provide a critical review of these concepts, based on the analysis of the Portuguese medium-sized city of Coimbra. We attempt to explore the potential of the city as a promoter of territorial development and of a regional innovation system, in the context of what we understand to be a knowledge city - a city that aims at knowledge-based development, by encouraging the continuous creation and renewal of knowledge and has both knowledge infrastructure and human capital.
Although presenting some gaps in coordination and organization, Coimbra enjoys a wide range of resources, both material and human: in 2008, the city had 19 higher education establishments and held 12% of the total of R&D institutions of the country (GPEARI, 2009); and about 22% of the active population were qualified professionals (INE, 2001). At the same time, Coimbra?s productive structure is developing through the emergence of new activities intensive on knowledge and IT. The development of relations between university and enterprises has greatly contributed to this, namely through Instituto Pedro Nunes.
The presence of Universities, R&D and services, with a strong capability for innovation and creativity enhance the opportunities of the surrounding environment. Between 2002 and 2006, the number of enterprises in some of the surrounding smaller cities almost duplicated and the population also grown considerably (INE, 2003, 2007). Therefore, we sustain, Coimbra may trigger a regional innovation system in the near future.