Accepted paper:

The diversity of regional innovation cultures in the European Union: "conservative innovation" in Bavaria


Alexander Wentland (Technical University of Munich)
Sebastian Pfotenhauer (Technical University of Munich)
Luise Ruge (Technical University of Munich )

Paper short abstract:

Many regions in the EU are struggling to reconcile the harmonization of innovation with local socio-economic traditions, politics, and identities. We explore how regions navigate this tension and express unique innovation cultures, while being part of the larger technopolitical landscape of the EU.

Paper long abstract:

Innovation has become an imperative in the European Union, with many regions trying to establish themselves as innovation hubs according to European as well as global "best practices." Yet, many of these regions are struggling how to reconcile the harmonization and standardization of innovation, such as the explicit and implicit framings in the European Framework Programmes, with local socio-economic traditions, unique political cultures, and regional identities. In this presentation, we explore how regions navigate this tension and express unique innovation cultures, while being part of the larger economic and political landscape of the EU. Using the German state of Bavaria as an in-depth case study, we show how Bavaria enacts a particular imaginary of "conservative innovation" in keeping with existing sources of identity and social cohesion. This imaginary suggests preserving traditional socio-economic orders rather than disrupting them; to favor and safeguard political and economic incumbents rather than enable new entrants; and to act from a perceived position of strength or even saturation rather than decline or emergency. Moreover, Bavaria innovates ignoring or even rejecting integrative European technopolitics. Our research provides new support for a social-constructivist foundation of innovation theory, highlighting the unique local situatedness and inter-regional differences in the rationalization and practice of innovation policy. It provides a counterpoint to the persistent universalist tendencies in innovation theory around models, systems, and "best practices," which has come to dominate much of the EU's innovation policy strategy.

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Technopolitics of integration. Charting imaginaries of innovation in the European Union