Sub-theme 23: Boundary Crossing Innovation in Cities and Regions

Patrick Cohendet
HEC Montréal, Canada
Marleen Huysman
VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Maura Soekijad
VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Call for Papers

Cities and regions, or 'clusters', are increasingly seen as creative hotspots thriving on diversity. However, more research on micro-processes of knowledge sharing among organizational actors is required to understand how this diversity and creativity interrelate and contribute to the innovation potential of clusters. In fact, diversity can simultaneously stimulate creativity and cause misunderstandings and barriers for knowledge sharing and creation activities when boundaries are not crossed between diverse players. This sub-theme aims to develop insights about horizontal boundary crossing where multi-disciplinary players meet, for example combining life sciences and gaming industry, and vertical boundary crossing, where different levels of creativity are connected, e.g. small-time creative entrepreneurs and formal organizations. We welcome scholars to contribute empirical, methodological and conceptual work of high quality addressing creative processes in boundary crossing innovation in clusters.

Although it is well known that creative clusters can be viewed as bundles of heterogeneity and novelty, it is yet unknown how this innovative potential can be fully leveraged when explicitly taking into account the difficulties of crossing boundaries within and between diverse actors and communities (Amin & Cohendet, 2004; Saxenian, 2006). Innovative organizations, such as those active in gaming and/or new media industry, are found to thrive on processes of knowledge exchange (Bahlmann, 2011) based on diversity and cross-collaboration (Flew, 2007). In fact, when addressing the micro-processes of knowledge sharing among organizational actors, most often the focus is on bridging 'horizontal boundaries' in order to support innovation. Horizontal boundaries are often conceptualized as cross-sectoral or multi-disciplinary boundaries that limit the cognitive proximity among organizational actors (Boschma, 2005; Cohen & Levinthal, 1990). Although to a certain extent, cognitive proximity serves the purpose of establishing a higher degree of knowledge heterogeneity among actors (Nooteboom, 2000), cognitive distance makes it difficult to understand each other and share and create knowledge necessary for innovation (Carlile, 2004).

While most of the cluster research is focused on bridging horizontal boundaries, much research is needed to understand the process and consequences of bridging vertical boundaries as well. In particular, as various researchers have pointed out (Saxenian, 2006; Cohendet et al., 2010) communities might enable both vertical and horizontal boundary crossing. More research is needed to understand how indeed communities contribute to the innovation potential of clusters.

Relevant research topics for this sub-theme could include (but are not limited to):

  • What enables and limits cross-sectoral or cross-level innovation processes in clusters?
  • What is the role of communities in innovation within regions?
  • What is the contribution of conflict and competition in development of cross-sectoral and cross-level innovation?
  • How are heterogeneity and creativity related?
  • How to study micro-processes of innovation in cities and regions?
  • What is the role of proximity, and what types can be distinguished, in creative clusters? 



Amin, Ash & Patrick Cohendet (2004): Architectures of Knowledge. Firms, Capabilities and Communities. New York: New York University Press.
Bahlmann, Marc (2011): Buzzing across Boundaries: An Inquiry into the Amsterdam IT and New Media-cluster from a Knowledge-based Perspective. VU University Amsterdam.
Boschma, Ron A. (2005): 'Proximity and innovation: a critical assessment.' Regional Studies, 39 (1), 61–74.
Carlile, Paul (2004): 'Transferring, translating and transforming: an integrative framework for managing knowledge across boundaries.' Organization Science, 15 (5), 555–568.
Cohen Wesley M. & Daniel A. Levinthal (1990): 'Absorptive capacity: a new perspective on learning and innovation.' Administrative Science Quarterly, 35, 128–152.
Cohendet, Patrick, David Grandadam & Laurent Simon (2010): 'The anatomy of the creative city.' Industry and Innovation, 17 (1), 91–111.
Flew, Terry (2005): New Media. An Introduction. Singapore: Oxford University Press.
Kloosterman, Robert (2008): 'Walls and bridges: knowledge spillover between "superdutch" architectural firms.' Journal of Economic Geography, 8 (4), 545–563.
Nooteboom, Bart (2000): Learning and Innovation in Organizations and Economies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Saxenian, AnnaLee (2006): The New Argonauts. Regional Advantage in a Global Economy. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.


Patrick Cohendet is Professor of Economics at HEC Montréal Business School in Canada (formerly at the University of Strasbourg, France). His research interests include economics of innovation and creativity, technology and knowledge management. A series of economic studies on innovation and economics of knowledge were carried out by his research laboratory BETA of the University of Strasbourg, and MOSAIC at HEC Montréal for different European and North-American organizations such as EC/EU, OECD, Council of Europe, and the Canadian Space Agency.
Marleen Huysman is Professor of Knowledge and Organization at the VU University Amsterdam in the Netherlands, Director of the Knowledge, Information and Networks research group and Head of the Department of Information, Logistics and Innovation. Her research interests include practice-based studies on knowledge management, organizational learning, communities, online behavior and the use of technology in co-located and distributed work processes.
Maura Soekijad is Associate Professor at the Knowledge, Information and Networks research group at the VU University Amsterdam. She studied knowledge sharing professionals in co-opetitive multi-party alliances and is involved in research on innovation networks. Other research concerns identity and power, knowledge management for development, and managing networks of practice.