Questioning the ‘Periphery Label’ in Economic Geography

Entrepreneurial Action and Innovation in South Estonia


  • Martin Graffenberger Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography
  • Lukas Vonnahme Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography


innovation, relational thinking, Estonia, economic geography, periphery


Firm innovation is widely considered an effective means to facilitate and strengthen regional economic development, especially for cities and dynamic agglomerations. In turn, reduced innovation activities are regarded a critical element of missing economic dynamics in peripheral regions. Against this background, the paper offers a critical reading on how peripheral regions and their actors are typically portrayed in established accounts on the interconnections between innovation and space. Thereby, recent propositions to adopt more nuanced understandings that expand the prevailing ‘core region thinking’ are taken into account. The article provides two in-depth cases which explore innovation projects of firms located in peripheral Estonian regions. The analysis focuses on practices and strategies, which these firms mobilize as part of their innovation activities. Findings reveal that firms actively involve diverse partners from multiple spatial scales, respond to structural constrains of local contexts and in several aspects even benefit from their location. Firms actively shape their own, distinct environments relevant for innovation, thereby mediating potential structural constraints arising from peripheral contexts. In line with these findings, it is argued to adopt conceptual and methodological insights from relational thinking in economic geography more rigorously.



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How to Cite

Graffenberger, M., & Vonnahme, L. (2019). Questioning the ‘Periphery Label’ in Economic Geography: Entrepreneurial Action and Innovation in South Estonia. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 18(2), 529–550. Retrieved from



Themed Section - Acting Peripheries