53rd Congress of the European Regional Science Association: "Regional Integration: Europe, the Mediterranean and the World Economy", 27-31 August 2013, Palermo, Italy
Proximity analyses have nowadays turned out to be a part of the toolbox of regional scientists and this notion recently became very popular in the position of politics, and private or public stakeholders. Proximity is an argument for selling food or financial products, as well as a good slogan for local networks or social devices or even for policymakers. In parallel, the notion of proximity spread in the academic literature and is now commonly used by scholars in regional science, geography or spatial economics. The use of the word proximity increased and grown in importance, in particular for authors interested in the question of milieus, districts, distance analyses, or in recent advances in economic geography or evolutionary geography. Interest is affecting now the works dedicated to innovation process, links between science and industry, relations between users and producers or sub-contractors, national systems of innovation, innovative milieus, about also local labour markets or urban policies. Indeed, the use of the concept of proximity, plural by nature by its spatial as well as non-spatial dimensions, is the key for overcoming the apparent opposition between the reaffirmation of the importance of the local and the death of distance and for escaping the sterile confinement in one or the other extreme positions. But despite the substantial literature on proximity processes and relations, only a few academic works have been devoted to studying the link between regional development and proximity relations. This paper intends to fill this gap and to pave the way for future research in this field. We consider that the integration of the notion of proximity into the framework of regional development analysis provides interesting input due to its plasticity and ability to draw connections between spatial, economic and social dimensions; but also suggests ways of possible changes for regional and territorial policies. The main outline is to try to assess the importance of proximity relations (or obstacles led by proximity relations) in regional development processes, and discuss approaches of different disciplines.