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Global emergence of new technologies: a dynamic analysis of territorial knowledge...


The emergence of a new technology is a process that takes place within an existing technological, economic and social context, benefitting from established structures and also contributing to their transformation. Although much research has been conducted on technology emergence, the territorial dynamics behind this process are still underexplored.

The paper investigates the structure and dynamics of the territorial knowledge communities that engage, over time, in the development of a new technology, with a view to understanding how their behaviour shapes the processes of technology emergence. More specifically, the paper addresses the following questions: How changes in the territorial knowledge communities in terms of geographical reach, actor composition and relational dynamics co-evolve with the emergence of a new technology? Which specific spatial and actor configurations contribute the development of new interdependences between existing industries and the emerging technology, promoting its structuration?

The empirical research focuses on wave energy, a technology field that experiences a prolonged emergence process and is still far from commercialisation. It analyses all the wave energy research, development and demonstration projects supported by the European Union (from 1992 to 2018), enabling an assessment of 25 years of technology evolution, including its very early stages. Social network analysis methods support the identification, along different time periods, of the knowledge communities with highest relational proximity, which are territorially localised with the support of GIS tools and further characterised in terms of composition and relational behaviour.

The results show a non-linear process of evolution, but also reveal an increased complexity in the behaviour of territorial knowledge communities, expressed in growing intra and inter-community variety and diversity, both at relational level and in terms of the constellations of actors, with impacts on the pace and directions of technology development.



  • Knowledge communities in wave energy both transnationally connected and territorially embedded.

  • Slow and non-linear evolution, but spatial diversification and growing complexity of communities’ composition and relational behaviour

  • Territorially anchored activities and strategy definition at global level shaped direction of technology development, counteracting periods of decline


​(Fontes, M., Sá-Marques, T., Santos, H., Sousa, C., Nuno, B., 2019) “Global emergence of new technologies: a dynamic analysis of territorial knowledge communities and relational proximity in wave energy” – Regional Studies Association Annual Conference 2019 – 05-07/June – Santiago de Compostela, Spain – oral presentation


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