The Contribution of Regional Networks to Innovation and Challenges for Regional Policy


In this article regional networking is defined as the set of interactions between companies and a diversity of regional partners by which the company acquires vital external resources. Previous research illustrates the positive effect of regional networking on innovation in the agribusiness sector. Furthermore, the embedded nature of networks and external resources opens opportunities for regional policymakers to enhance innovation and hence regional economic performance. Building further upon this vast literature and by interviewing food companies in a Belgian subregion, this article explores two research questions: first, the contribution of regional networking to different innovation types; second, whether, as regional policymakers aim at reinforcing these regional networks, differences in attitude towards public network support exist between the innovation classes. The discussion relates our findings to contemporary insights into the learning economy. We advocate a more targeted approach towards particular subgroups with respect to their behaviour in networking and their innovation capacity. In particular, the group of ‘followers’ is identified as a target group requiring appropriate support.