Sources to sustainable firm innovation in the Arctic: A multi-scalar approach

Authors: Trond Nilsen*, NORCE, Jukka Teräs, Nordregio
Topics: Polar Regions, Rural Geography, Geographic Theory
Keywords: Arctic, Sustainable development, firm strategies, innovation
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Diplomat Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper discusses the emergence of new economic activities and industries in Arctic regions. How new path development unfolds in space and over time is often explained by endogenous factors inside regions. We argue for a multi-scalar view by considering exogenous factors as multinational corporations, universities, non-local networks and knowledge in understanding new path development (Nilsen 2017; 2016; Hassink et al., 2018; MacKinnon 2012; Dawley 2014). By exploring the sources of restructuring of sectors in two Arctic countries towards a more sustainable production from 2014-2018, we analyse sources of innovative activity in leader-firms within maritime-, logistic- and waste management sector. We argue that key-firms with low access to new external partners and inflow of ideas, have low capability to change their industrial production to meet new external regulations. These firms are locked-in inside established paths and create obstacles for innovation for the firm. On the other hand, firms investing in new ideas, exchange knowledge with non-local actors and may even create path renewal or path creation. As a consequence of this argument, and inspired by Zukuskaite (et al 2017), we conclude that firms in thin innovation systems rely on the combination of exogenous networks, system support and entrepreneurial agency in order to create new avenues of path development within the region. Knowledge of drivers and obstacles for innovation towards more sustainable production within industrial sectors is perhaps the most important policy implication from this paper.

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