This paper provides a critical review of the international literature on Territorial Innovation Models (Industrial Districts, Milieux Innovateurs, New Industrial Spaces, Local Production Systems, etc.). The review is organized in two steps. First, the main features of each of these models and their view of innovation are compared. Second, their theoretical building blocks are reconstructed and evaluated from the point of view of conceptual clarity and analytical coherence.
It is found that despite some semantic unity among the concepts used (economies of agglomeration, endogenous development, systems of innovation, evolution and learning, network organization and governance), Territorial Innovation Models (TIMs) suffer from conceptual ambiguity. The latter is partly a consequence of the differences in the specific national and regional contexts where TIMs are observed and/or theorized institutional, as well as social and economic. But it is also, to a very large extent, influenced by a growing political bias, namely the tendency to view territorial innovation in terms of a technology driven innovation and of a business culture that is mainly instrumental to the capitalist market logic. This pressing ideological priority pushes the ‘conceptual flexibility’ of TIMs across the border of coherent theory building.