Category Archives: PhD defence

Dr. Zheng, Dr. Lavesson and Dr. Fredin Congratulations!

In this summer post we are pleased to summarise the first half of this year by congratulating our three new doctors Yannu Zheng, Niclas Lavesson and Sabrina Fredin for successfully defending their PhD dissertations.

This is a great accomplishment which requires an incredible amount of hard work, all leading up to that very special moment! Your perseverance and dedication over the years have taken you there. This was a proud moment and we wish you all the best in the next exciting chapter in your life.

Yannu: How immigrants invent: evidence from Sweden



For thesis details contact Dr. Zheng at: or

Niclas: “Rural-urban interdependencies: The role of cities in rural growth



For thesis details contact Dr. Lavesson at: or

Sabrina: History and geography matter: The cultural dimension of entrepreneurship


For thesis details contact Dr. Fredin at:


Enjoy your summer!


PhD defence by Niclas Lavesson on Rural-urban interdependencies: The role of cities in rural growth

Niclas Lavesson, PhD candidate at CIRCLE and the Department of HumaLavessonn geography, Lund University, will defend his thesis with the title Rural-urban interdependencies: The role of cities in rural growth

Date/Time: 8th of June 2017, 10:15 am
Place: Världen, Geocentrum I, Sölvegatan 10, Lund

Opponent: Olof Stjernström, Umeå universitet

Supervisors: Martin Andersson and Thomas Niedomysl

Abstract: A massive population growth in cities is currently being witnessed in most countries around the world. As urban populations grow, cities eventually expand geographically into what was considered countryside and nowadays distinguishing between what is city and what is countryside is getting increasingly difficult. In many Western countries, it is being observed that areas near cities seem to capitalize from urban proximity by experiencing strong growth in population and employment.Screen Shot 2017-06-01 at 13.43.34.pngBy contrast, remotely located areas appear to be in fast decline, observed not least in the ongoing trend of rural depopulation. In the European context, and more specifically in Sweden, research is relatively scarce on these issues. The aim of this thesis is to examine rural–urban interdependencies and the role of cities in rural growth.

Over the last decades, having spatial linkages with cities appears to have increased in importance for rural areas. Much can be learned from studying how interdependencies with nearby cities influence rural growth. Increased knowledge on the topic may be useful, not least in formulating policies aiming at, for example, increasing rural employment and counteracting rural depopulation.

The findings in the thesis strongly suggest that interdependencies with nearby urban centers are not necessarily positive. In fact, it is shown that proximity to urban centers of any size is detrimental to local employment growth and entrepreneurship in rural Sweden. Rewards from urban proximity are only visible from interdependencies with the largest urban centers. This suggests that there is a threshold of urban (population) size that needs to be reached for positive agglomeration spillovers to outweigh adverse effects following from urban proximity, for example from urban competition for local jobs, consumers and rural resources in general. Importantly, though, there is a significant heterogeneity in relationships across space. Implicitly, this means that a change that would be positive in one place may be very negative in another.

A strong positive association is also observed between rural-to-urban commuting and rural employment growth. Therefore, it is concluded that increasing rural-to-urban commuting could be a way to achieve growth in the countryside. Also, stimulating urban employment growth could be a way for rural areas to maintain and perhaps even grow their local population. This follows from the observation that rural residents increasingly are engaging in rural-to-urban commuting and that the common pathway into this type of commuting is from rural residents changing to urban places of work. These are also individuals who are younger and better educated than their rural neighbours and contribute more than average rural workers to the local economy, by enhancing tax incomes or strengthening local purchasing power.

Welcome to Niclas’s PhD defence!

PhD defence by Yannu Zheng on how immigrants invent: evidence from Sweden

Yannu Zheng, PhD candidate at CIRCLE and the Department of Economic History, Lund University, will defend her thesis with the title How immigrants invent: evidence from Sweden.


Yannu Zheng

OpponentGiuseppe Scellato, Politecnico di Torino and the Bureau of Research in Innovation, Complexity and Knowledge at Collegio Carlo Alberto, Turin

Date/Time: 12th of April 2017, 10:15 am

Place: Holger Crafoords Ekonomicentrum, room EC3:210. Tycho Brahes väg 1, Lund

Abstract: This thesis investigates the inventive performance of immigrants in Sweden based on a special database which links inventors to the general population of the country from 1985 to 2007. It shows that the inventive performance of immigrants is influenced by immigrants’ age at migration, region of origin, educational level, match between education and occupation and migration policy. In general, first-generation immigrants are less likely to patent than native Swedes. The exception is the group working in the high-tech knowledge-intensive Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 16.50.32service (KIS) sector, where first generation immigrants are more likely to patent than natives. This is mainly because in this sector, first-generation immigrants are educated to a higher level than their native peers; furthermore, their high and similar representation in high-skill occupations as natives enable them to have as high patenting rate as natives when other variables are held constant. In most sectors, however, the main barriers to first-generation immigrants’ probability of patenting are their overrepresentation in low-skill occupations and their lower education-occupation match compared with natives. When the analysis is limited to inventors, first-generation immigrant inventors perform as well as their native counterparts. Second-generation immigrants with a non-Nordic European background perform better than native Swedes, which appears to be because they have more highly educated parents than their native counterparts. Their performance may also be positively affected from having non-native parents who originated from regions with close geographic proximity to Sweden. The findings also suggest that, the liberalization of migration after the inception of the European Economic Area (EEA) in 1994 had a negative effect on educational profile of new EU-15 immigrants to Sweden in the short run when compared with new immigrants from ‘Other developed regions’, but there is no such effect in the long run; moreover, the liberalization of migration also has no systemic effect on the EU-15 immigrants’ probability of becoming an inventor both in the short and long run.

Welcome to Yannu’s PhD defence!

PhD defence by Hanna Martin on Innovation and Grand Challenges


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Hanna Martin, PhD candidate at CIRCLE and the Department of Human Geography, Lund University, will defend her thesis with the title “Innovation for Tackling Grand Challenges: Cleantech Industry Dynamics and Regional Context”.

Opponent: Prof. Kevin Morgan (Cardiff University)

Date: 2016-11-24, 13:00
Place: Room 111 (Världen), Geocentrum I, Sölvegatan 10, Lund

Abstract: Grand challenges such as climate change put focus away from innovations and innovation policy as engines of economic growth towards fulfilling societal goals and sighting sustainable development. The literature on the geography of innovation has provided valuable insight on innovation activities of firms and industries and how they are positively influenced by co-location. In particular, short geographical distances have been found to facilitate trust, knowledge exchange and interactive learning processes that favour innovation. Innovation activities that address grand challenges have however gained surprisingly little attention in the discipline. This PhD thesis addresses this shortcoming and studies how and why change processes of industries towards more environmentally friendly modes in regions occur – or not. In other words, it engages in the question how such industry dynamics are enabled and/or constrained by regional context conditions. Consequently, it also puts central focus on the role respectively possibilities and limitations of regional innovation policy to support desirable transformation processes.
The development of a bio-economy which draws on renewable resources from biomass possesses a key role in addressing grand challenges. Particularly, as biomass currently constitutes the only renewable resource for the production of liquid fuels and for materials such as plastics and chemicals. The dissertation engages in the possibilities and limitations of regions and their industries to realize shifts towards a bio-economy. Its theoretical objective is to contribute to a more coherent conceptual framework in the literature on economic geography regarding how to address grand challenges. The dissertation takes a regional innovation system perspective which considers economic and social interactions of actors from industry, academia and government as crucial for innovation to occur. This view is complemented by insights from the literature on socio-technical transitions which provides a co-evolutionary perspective on technologies and institutions. The findings suggest that in order to address grand challenges, regional innovation systems should be understood as being embedded into broader socio-technical systems. In other words, overall societal and economic developments impact activities of actors and actor groups in a regional innovation system. They can, on the one hand, reinforce ongoing (path-dependent) activities, while they, on the other hand, also can constitute triggers/origins for (radical) innovations. RIS can provide favourable settings for transformative, niche innovations to come about – for their further establishment however, the creation of so-called socio-technical alignments is crucial. These imply overall altered production and consumption patterns and co-evolving changes in technologies, infrastructures, regulatory frameworks and other societal dimensions, for example lifestyles. These insights lead to a new perspective on regional innovation policy and its role to create such alignments, both within and across regional boundaries and spatial scales.
The research design is informed by a critical realist perspective, providing the ontological and epistemological basis for the conceptual advancement. The dissertation largely draws on qualitative research methods and studies industries in three different Swedish regions and their undertaking to increasingly, respectively more efficiently use biomass as raw material. In particular, the empirical focus is on the paper and pulp industry in the region around Örnsköldsvik, the biogas industry in Scania and the chemicals industry in the Stenungsund-Gothenburg region.
This dissertation spans four articles that are published in or that are submitted to different, peer-reviewed journals. The articles are preceded by an introductory chapter which provides the overall theoretical background and framing, the research design and central findings of the dissertation.

Final PhD seminar with Hanna Martin on “Cleantech industry dynamics, innovation and regional context: Biomass based industries in Sweden”

Hanna Martin

Hanna Martin, PhD candidate at CIRCLE and the Department of Human Geography (KEG), will present her PhD project with the working title “Cleantech industry dynamics, innovation and regional context – biomass based industries in Sweden”. The final seminar is the last seminar before the actual PhD defence. Hanna will provide a 10-minute presentation which will be followed by the actual discussion.

Discussant: Prof. Bernhard Truffer from EAWAG, Switzerland and Utrecht University, the Netherlands.

Date: Tuesday June 7th 13.15-15
Place: Geocentrum, Sölvegatan 10, 4th floor, room ‘Malmö’

Abstract: Economic geography, innovation studies and related disciplines have during the past decade experienced an increasing interest in regional economic evolution and the question how and why regional industries emerge and grow, respectively decline, over time. The literature as it now stands however provides only limited insights regarding how a broad range of actors commonly contributes to new regional industrial path development – and especially how institutions matter, what institutions matter and at what spatial scale they matter. By addressing this gap, the dissertation aims at contributing to a more coherent conceptual framework on regional economic evolution. In particular, the regional innovation system (RIS) approach is identified as framework with potential to bring forward insights: Its strength lies in addressing innovation-based regional development by considering a broad range of innovation actors and institutions and policy; and moreover, RIS allow conceptualising regions as open, nationally and internationally connected systems. Yet as RIS possess some limitations with regard to bringing about an evolutionary perspective, the insights are complemented by the literature on socio-technical transitions. This research field targets the closely interdependent, co-evolutionary relationship between technologies and their overall economic, societal, and institutional context. Its strength lies in explaining and conceptualizing the emergence and formation of new so-called socio-technical configurations, yet with a strong notion on ecological sustainability. The dissertation empirically focusses on the endeavour of different Swedish regions to transform established, respectively build-up new, industry structures towards more environmentally friendly modes. In particular, it focusses on attempts of regional industries to increasingly replace fossil by renewable bio-based resources. The dissertation therefore also makes a contribution to better understanding the roles, possiblities and limitations of regions in the transformation towards a ’bio-economy’.

Final PhD seminar by Sabrina Fredin on “History matters: the social dimension of entrepreneurship”

Sabrina Fredin

Sabrina Fredin

Sabrina Fredin, PhD candidate at CIRCLE and at the School of Management at Blekinge Institute of Technology, will give a final seminar to present her PhD project. The title of the thesis is “History matters: the social dimension of entrepreneurship”.

Discussant: Professor Erik Stam (Utrecht University)

Date: April 6th, 10.00-12.00
Place: CIRCLE seminar room

Abstract: This dissertation is based on the assumption that entrepreneurship is a social phenomenon. This assumption requires an analytical shift from few grand entrepreneurial events to everyday entrepreneurial activities. Instead of focusing on a few individuals, the focus shifts to embeddedness and context where one entrepreneurial activity creates the context for others. Up to date, we know little about how the social dimension of entrepreneurship influence the context for entrepreneurial activities. The aim of this dissertation is to uncover the role of the social dimension of entrepreneurship by studying how culture influences behaviour. This is most adequately studied on the regional and local level and the empirical part of this dissertation is concentrated on two Swedish cities: Norrköping and Linköping. Both are closely situated within the same region and are of comparable size, but they provide a rather different context for entrepreneurial activities. Linköping’s economic development is driven by a combination of small and large high-tech companies and is often referred to as an entrepreneurial success story in Sweden. Norrköping’s economic development on the other hand, was based on the longstanding dominance of a few manufacturing companies in the textile and paper industry. These two apparently polar cases within the same region are two good examples for theorizing general conclusions on the importance of the social dimension for entrepreneurial activities. The argument is made that the past economic development not only influences which entrepreneurial opportunities might be created or discovered due to sectoral inertia, but that the industrial legacy also influences the social dimension of the context which stimulates or hinders entrepreneurial behaviour.

PhD defence by Elena Zukauskaite on “Institutions and the Geography of Innovation: A Regional Perspective”

Download PhD thesis

Download PhD thesis

Elena Zukauskaite, PhD candidate at CIRCLE and the Department of Human Geography, Lund University, will defend her thesis with the title Institutions and the Geography of Innovation: A Regional Perspective”.

Opponent: Prof. Meric Gertler (University of Toronto)

Date: 2013-10-04, 13:00
Place: Room 111 (Världen), Geocentrum I, Sölvegatan 10, Lund

Abstract: Economic geographers have long been intrigued by the role of institutions in innovation processes. It has been argued that differences in institutions are among the factors explaining the uneven innovative capacity across and within countries.
The regional innovation system approach highlights the interrelationships of firms, universities, governmental authorities and other organizations, as well as how those relations are influenced by the institutional setting in a region. There is a general perception in this stream of literature that institutions do matter. They constitute a legal framework for actions, define communication patterns and influence learning possibilities. However, these studies have been criticized for their lack of discussion of the interaction between institutions at different geographical levels, the relation between individuals and institutions and the impact of changes in the institutional framework on innovation activities.
This thesis takes the regional innovation system approach as a point of departure and aims to advance knowledge about the role of institutions (i.e. hinderers vs enablers) in innovation processes within regional innovation systems. It especially focuses on the interaction of different types of institutions at different geographical levels, on how institutional influence changes as an innovation process develops, and on the role of regional authorities in changing institutional conditions for the actors. The theoretical framework relates the insights of regional innovation systems studies to theories of new institutionalism in organizational studies, new and old institutional economics and historical institutionalism. Relating regional innovation systems studies to institutional theories enables conceptualization of institutional diversity within the system. The reference is to different types (e.g. regulative, normative, cognitive) and different geographical levels (e.g. regional, national, global) of institutions which form a complex framework for innovation activities. Organizational diversity is considered by using the knowledge base (i.e. analytical, synthetic, symbolic) approach, which can be applied at industry, firm, and activity levels.
The empirical focus of this thesis is on Scania, which is a region in Southern Sweden. Previous studies have analyzed various sub-sets of Scania’s innovation system and highlighted on-going innovation activities in the region. The region is also characterized by organizational diversity including various actors when it comes to a critical knowledge base for innovation activities. Therefore, Scania is a suitable case for the analysis.
The findings of this thesis reveal that institutional diversity with boundedly rational diverse actors leads to multiple paths of development within a region.
Since institutions have different incentives and functions, they can complement, reinforce or contradict each other while influencing innovation processes.
Organizational (i.e. critical knowledge base) and individual (i.e. position in the organization, personal qualities) characteristics lead to different responses of actors to institutional incentives. For example, increasing consumer interest in health issues (changing norm) creates an incentive for firms in the food sector to develop healthy products. When the combination of analytic and synthetic knowledge bases is critical to the innovation activities of firms, they respond to this incentive by developing value added products with health benefits, while firms dominated by the synthetic knowledge base from one field of expertise introduce products which are ‘healthy in a natural way’ – i.e. sugar-free (or reduced sugar) alternatives of juice, cereals, or ketchup. Furthermore, some institutions are more relevant at different stages of innovation processes than others. For example, during the initiation and establishment phases of organizational innovation (i.e. novel organizational form of a research unit) the institutions that hinder a change process are most prominent, since all the decisions related to the formalities of the unit then have to be made. The institutions that are related to benefiting from the results of a change process start playing an important role in a later phase.
Policy makers should take institutional and organizational diversity into account when designing regional support programs. Knowledge base characteristics can serve as guidelines for the design of the programs at sectoral level and facilitate fine-tuned implementation at firm level. Awareness of institutional diversity enables the identification of supporting and contradicting institutions, and is necessary to achieve the goals of the programs.
This thesis consists of four articles that have been published or submitted to peer-review journals, and an introductory part which presents a theoretical overview and discusses the methodological approach and main conclusions.

Download the full thesis here: