Mobilizing human capital and embedding innovation strategies in intermediate cities: Perspectives from the French experience

The European goal in order to shift towards a “knowledge-based society” encouraged cities’ stakeholders to increase their efforts and incentives to embed innovation on territories. Meanwhile, for fifteen years, the New Economic Geography has maintained that the process of innovation and creativity is optimized in large cities.

Consequently, I question in what extent French intermediate cities, on an intermediate position considering size, demographic and functional aspects, and at the periphery of more creative and attractive cities, succeed to implement strategies for territorial specialization and mobilization of human capital. I analyze the role of geographical and relational proximities in the different initiatives dedicated to the territorialization of innovation and territorial performance, at different scales, from the city centers to urban systems.

Studying these proximities addresses the question of the local authorities’ ability to integrate human capital to new development paths. Since human capital is perceived as increasingly complex and mobile, it seems necessary to reconsider the role of local public policies to support the attractiveness and performance of these very specific territories.

Angers and Reims areas, two French “intermediate cities” provide a fertile ground to consider these issues.

Contact: Sophie Deraëve –