Resilience, Innovation, and Knowledge Transfer: Conceptual Considerations and Future Research Directions

Resilience, Innovation, and Knowledge Transfer: Conceptual Considerations and Future Research Directions

Hugo Pinto (University of Coimbra, Portugal & University of Algarve, Portugal) and André Guerreiro (University of Algarve, Portugal)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5849-1.ch014


Resilience is obtaining a considerable attention in social sciences. It has particular interest by regional studies as a bouncing forward characteristic of territories that are able to create new paths, based in their explicit and latent capabilities, to cope with shocks and disruptions. Inspired by the evolutionary perspective of resilience, this chapter debates the notion of resilience and presents its relevance to the understanding of innovation and knowledge transfer. Innovation is presented as a crucial collective process to create new possibilities to transform regional economies. Knowledge transfer, from public research organizations to firms, assumes a crucial function by structuring important networks, generating social capital and opening innovation to catalyze the social valorization of research results.
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Resilience has become a rather popular word. Whether in scientific contexts or in the common sense, it has gained a considerable degree of attention (Bahadur, Ibrahim & Tanner, 2013). Resilience was even one of the most searched entries on a popular Portuguese online dictionary in 2016, something that seldom happens with scientific concepts. If anything, this fact alone tells us that resilience has transcended science and been adopted in political debates and in everyday conversations – even becoming what some authors call a buzzword (Martin & Sunley, 2015). Being an apparent simple and malleable concept to apply to scientific studies, policy and political discourses, it is not difficult to understand how it entices so many (Sensier, Bristow & Healy, 2016), especially those who often emphasize quick and simple answers, pushing beyond what science can justify or support (Pinto & Pereira, 2018).

Much could and indeed should be said about this trend. The careless and often irresponsible political use of scientific concepts damages the scientific project and leads to misrepresentations and ideological appropriations of meanings, as it happened with such terms as globalization or global warming (Grundmann, & Krishnamurthy, 2010; Therborn, & Khondker, 2006). These appropriations, rather than the scientific meaning of the terms, end up being reproduced by press and other types of groups, shared throughout social media, creating a public notion of the subject that no longer bears any resemblance to their original scientific foundations (Boykoff, 2008).

With these considerations in mind, we decided to dedicate this chapter to the clarification of the debate between the linkages of resilience, innovation and knowledge transfer, in order to give our contribution to the advancement of resilience. As a scientific concept we believe it can be useful to comprehend both innovation and knowledge transfer. Thus, the chapter will be organized as followed: the first section will conceptualize resilience and make a critical appreciation of its history and trends within economy. The second section introduces innovation and discusses its relation to resilience at a regional level. Finally, the last subchapter will address knowledge transfer networks within the scope of regional economies and its role in regional resilience.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Evolutionary Economic Geography: A branch of economic geography that uses concepts and ideas from evolutionary economics, and evolutionary thinking in general, to study the economic landscape change over time and underlining the importance of geographic dimensions in the structural composition and development trajectory of the economic system.

Knowledge Transfer: Refers to the process of transferring knowledge from a producer to a recipient. Usually it is understood as the mechanism of putting the new knowledge produced by public research available to firms. It is a crucial process to transform invention in innovation. Knowledge transfer is commonly associated with other more limited visions such as research commercialization or knowledge valorization, directly connected with formal mechanisms of licensing intellectual property, spinning-off, and research contracts with industry. Knowledge transfer is broader than these previous notions and encompasses other channels as training, students’ placement, science communication and informal contacts. It is crucial for open innovation.

Networks: Sets of relationships, ties or links between nodes. In network analysis in social studies nodes represent social actors such as people, firms, organizations. In the innovation process networks are crucial for effective knowledge transfers and diffusion. The relationships within a network vary, among other aspects, in strength, in degree of formalization, in duration, in direction, and in level. Networks can be centralized or decentralized and dense or fragmented. The structural characteristics of networks are crucial to understand its resilience.

Resilience: Coming from the Latin root resi-lire, the concept was first used by physical scientists to describe the stability of materials and their resistance to external shocks. In the 1960s, along with the rise of systems thinking, resilience entered the field of ecology where multiple meanings of the concept have emerged. The conventional understanding of resilience applied to socioeconomic studies regards the bouncing-back ability of a socioeconomic system to recover from a shock or disruption. Today resilience is being influenced by an evolutionary perspective, underlining it as the bouncing-forward ability of the system to undergo anticipatory or reactionary reorganization to minimize the impact of destabilizing shocks and create new growth trajectories.

Innovation: Implementation of a new or significantly improved product (good or service) or process. The minimum requirement for an innovation is that the product or process must be new or significantly improved to the firm. Nevertheless, it is common to consider differences between the degree of innovativeness: from incremental innovations, passing by new-to-market, to radical innovations that have disruptive potential to change the existing techno-economic paradigms. Today is common to also consider marketing innovations, the implementation of new marketing methods, and organizational innovations, the implementation of new organizational methods in the firm’s business practices. Another derived concept is social innovation, often understood as new ideas, products or processes that meet social needs and challenges in contemporary society.

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