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Project information

Project team

Thilo Lang, Lukas Vonnahme


University of Heidelberg, University of Jena, Berlin School of Economics and Law / Database German World Market Leaders

Duration of project


Funded by

German Research Foundation (SFB 1199)

Further information

Dr. Thilo Lang    
Tel.: + 49 341 600 55-159

Lukas Vonnahme      
Tel.: +49 341 600 55-169

SFB 1199

Peripheral but global: World market leaders outside of agglomerations

Project A2 – Collaborative Research Centre "Processes of Spatialization under the Global Condition" (SFB 1199)

In debates on knowledge-based regional development, geographical proximity to cooperation partners is considered to be a key competitive advantage for innovative firms. In Germany, however, there are numerous companies outside agglomerations which, despite the supposed lack of geographical proximity to partners, are world market leaders in a specific technology area or product segment.

In the course of the project, the spatial practices of these highly innovative and internationally operating companies were analysed in a comparative perspective. Specifically, spatialization processes in the context of innovation activities of these companies were researched and it was asked how companies identify sources of knowledge and how they make these sources available.

It could be shown that companies act according to similar principles regardless of their spatial location and use identical spatial formats for knowledge generation. A comparison of world market leaders located inside and outside of agglomerations shows no significant differences with regard to their collaborations. Both groups are comparable with regard to information sources used, the spatial location of their partners as well as the innovation projects they carry out. Furthermore, no particular relevance of regional forms of cooperation could be proven, which is surprising especially against the background of the debates on territorial innovation models. 

The results feed into current debates in economic geography, which highlight both options of intra-firm innovation activities, which are less based on interaction, as well as different types and formats of knowledge transfer over distance as being important for innovative enterprises. In light of the project results, the relevance of the link between innovation and agglomeration - at least for the German context - must be regarded and questioned as predominantly discursively charged.

During the second funding period of the collaborative research centre (SFB 1199), a follow-up project investigates innovative technology enterprises at unusual locations in Central Asia and Africa.


Graffenberger, Martin, Lukas Vonnahme (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. Full text

Graffenberger, Martin / Vonnahme, Lukas / Brachert, Matthias / Lang, Thilo (2019): Broadening perspectives: innovation outside of agglomerations. In: Innovation-based regional change in Europe: chances, risks and policy implications. Stuttgart: Fraunhofer Verlag, S. 47–68. Full text

Vonnahme, Lukas / Lang, Thilo (2019): Peripher global: Ergebnisse der standardisierten Befragung zu Innovationsaktivitäten von Weltmarktführern in Deutschland. (Working paper series des SFB 1199 an der Universität Leipzig, Nr. 18). Full text

Vonnahme, Lukas / Graffenberger, Martin / Görmar, Franziska / Lang, Thilo (2018): Kaum beachtet, gemeinsam stark – Versteckte Potenziale von Kleinstädten mit Hidden Champions. In: Informationen zur Raumentwicklung 6/2018, S. 38–49. Full text

Vonnahme, Lukas / Lang, Thilo (2017): Re-thinking territorial innovation: World market leaders outside of agglomerations. (Working paper series des SFB 1199 an der Universität Leipzig, Nr. 6). Full text

Ermann, Ulrich / Lang, Thilo / Megerle, Marcel (2012): Weltmarktführer abseits der Agglomerationsräume. In: Nationalatlas aktuell 6 (10.2012) 11 (18.10.2012)