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Diverse diversities—Open innovation in small towns and rural areas

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Meili Rahel, Shearmur Richard,
Project Urban prosperity beyond the metropolis: Analyzing small and medium-sized towns in Switzerland
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Growth and Change
Volume (Issue) 50(2)
Page(s) 492 - 514
Title of proceedings Growth and Change
DOI 10.1111/grow.2019.50.issue-2


It is generally accepted that cities and other forms of geographic agglomerations are conducive to innovation because their density and variety of firms, sectors and individuals create a diverse environment. However, a growing body of work shows that innovation also occurs in peripheral regions and small towns. Furthermore, work on rural social networks shows that diversity is multidimensional, and that along certain dimensions networks developed in rural areas are more diverse than those observed in cities. In this paper, we develop these arguments, then report our observations of seven successful firms in Swiss small towns. These firms benefit from at least three types of diversity: internal diversity; multiplexed interactions between workers at different hierarchical levels; and external diversity as firms reach beyond the region. We conclude that diversity conducive to firm‐level innovation is not a specifically urban attribute: at least some of its dimensions are present in small towns and more peripheral areas.