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‘Proximity’ and the redistribution of knowledge resources

Authors: Kirsten Martinus*, The University of Western Australia
Topics: Economic Geography, Urban and Regional Planning, Regional Geography
Keywords: proximity, innovation, regional development, economic geography, spatial inequality
Session Type: Paper
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Proximity is regarded as a regional development tool being ‘a resource that can be exploited to create knowledge and innovations’. Whilst spatial proximity was initially most important, non-spatial forms are now seen as equally critical for long-term benefits. But, ‘proximity’ is relatively static as it does not account for how knowledge is mined in some areas and benefits accrued in others. This oversight has occurred as proximity studies largely focus on discrete case studies or the network core. There has been little exploration on the movement of knowledge as a commodity between places, and the implications of this to ‘proximity’. This paper examines this in a case study of the 12-nation consortium mega-science project of the Square Kilometre Array in Murchison Region of remote Western Australia. It is arguably the largest Astrophysics project in the world to date, but its construction depends upon agreements with local councils and State government. These were in part garnered through the promise of ‘proximity’ benefiting surrounding communities. Through a series of interviews with various local, State and Federal governments as well as other project stakeholders, this paper explores the degree to which the knowledge mined in remote places benefits local communities as well as more spatially distant capital cities and research centres. Its findings suggest ‘proximity’ should account for where and how knowledge is marketed, mined, redistributed and accumulated. This is critical to the formation of policy better able to address spatial imbalances and inequality between the urban core and ‘resource’ peripheries.

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