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43rd Congress of the European Regional Science Association: "Peripheries, Centres, and Spatial Development in the New Europe", 27th - 30th August 2003, Jyväskylä, Finland
Regional development strategies should be based on sound assessment of regional business potentials and on possibilities to develop the defined potentials in order to gain competitive advantage on other regions. The assessment of the business potentials should include for example, an audit of regional industrial and institutional structures that form the basis for a regional innovation system. Each region has its own history, present potential and future possibilities, which makes it impossible to implement common strategies in individual regions. Two highly important things in building a regional innovation system are specialization and networking. Specialization in selected areas is important in order to use the scarce resources efficiently, and networked development activities are essential in exploring and exploiting the existing potential in a region. A reasonable combination of, on the one hand, a focused development environment and, on the other hand, a networked development environment is crucial in building sustainable regional competitiveness in today's world. In this study ?regional development platform? is used as a concept for assessing regional potentials on which sustainable competitive advantage could be built. A regional development platform is a concept understood as a platform that is often industry or expertise based and presents the business potential of the actors working for the platform. The actors of a regional development platform are firms, technology centres, expertise centres, research centres, educational organisations, etc. contributing to the defined development platform. A regional development platform must be separately defined each time it is utilised. The Regional Development Platform Method (RDPM) has been developed as a tool for designing and managing the regional innovation system. It consists of several phases, in which the underlying potential in the region is explored. The last phase of the method is the so-called core process sub-method that is designed to form and run future oriented innovation networks in order to exploit the existing regional potential of the defined development platforms. The point of departure in designing the Regional Development Platform Method has been in certain widely accepted issues in regional development: scarce development resources, regional path dependency, possibility for lock-ins, necessity for a certain degree of shared vision, networked development environment, etc. The method is presented here especially as a tool for developing regional innovative capability in the modern networked environment. The current article assesses the concept of regional development platform in comparison with other closely related concepts and develops the Regional Development Platform Method further. The article also ponders the validity of the Regional Development Platform Method as a tool for regional development. The article tackles the following problems: - Is the concept of regional development platform reasonable or merely confusing? - Is the Regional Development Platform Method a sound network leadership tool for regional development? The experiences gained from applying the Regional Development Platform Method in Lahti region, Finland, are also used as illustrative examples in the article.
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