Table of Contents:
Innovation networks in science became very popular during the last 15 years. One reason is that innovations are seen as a main trigger for economic development today. Another reason is that in a densely connected world networks of relationships have a key role in innovation processes. But how people build up relationships, exchange information and create something new are fascinating but also incredible complex processes. Both, the fascination and the complexity, lead to the tremendous amount of innovation studies we see today in science. Additionally, politicians in Germany and Europe were also caught by the concept of innovation networks – and even more by the economic effects a successful initiation of those networks can have. For instance, due to the political programs of the ‘Bund’, today we have more than 200 funded innovation networks in Germany and more are still being set up. Thus, political funding became a very important trigger and shaper of innovation networks in Germany.
But, the networks political programs create are very different to the scientific understanding of innovation networks. Whereas in science they are nodes and ties uncovered by the scientist, for politicians they are rather a group of co-operating people, visible and conscious to their envi-ronment. But how to study such a group-like network with the relationship-orientated tools we currently have in science? This is the first basic question this thesis will apply to. For this purpose, firstly group-like innovation networks are theoretically characterised in order to design secondly a new approach that can study their development. To develop this approach – which basically analyses six features standing for a group’s ability to work and innovate – social psychological literature is included and for the first time linked to the literature on innovation net-works and economic geography. So the two main questions of this thesis are (1) how influential is space on network (group) processes and characteristics and (2) how important is the network’s development as a social and work entity for a later innovation’s success? Hence, geographical as well as social psychological questions are posed to the development of innovation networks in this thesis.
But talking about network development indicates that this approach is one of the few analysing innovation networks over time. Therefore, distinct stages of network formation are developed theoretically and conceptually. In order to compare different stages of development, the network information is gained in a highly standardised way from documents and interviews with network managers of 49 public funded innovation networks in the Neue Länder (eastern Part of Germany). This standardisation opened up the chance to use statistical analysis tech-niques. This way, social processes and relations lying beyond an individual awareness can be discovered mathematically. This is the key to actually realise the developed approach: measur-ing characteristics and processes of innovation networks on the level of groups.
Finally, going back to the policy, this thesis aims to analyse the impact of public funding on the development of innovation networks. All of the 49 analysed networks were funded by ‘Innovationsforen’ – a program made by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). With the distinct conceptualisation of the funding stage and programmatic items, this study is one of the very view that can shed light on the ‘when’, ‘how’ and ‘how long’ of funding effects in the network formation. In summary, this thesis is a careful first step in the field of a social psychological network analysis in a longitudinal way.