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 innovative cooperation partners is considered to be a key competitive advantage for firms. Accordingly, regional policies and economic development in much of the world tend to support centralization of innovation activities in agglomerations.

However, in Germany there are numerous firms that are world leaders in terms of a technology area or in a specific product segment, which are located outside of agglomerations. This project examines the global networks of these companies and the ways in which they produce transnational spaces. It concentrates on innovative processes that seem to be only partly territorially organized and, moreover, involve various ways of overcoming distances and producing linkages between places.

The project applies a mixed-method-design, combining a standardized survey with qualitative methods (Hollstein 2010). Qualitative interviews with the heads of the companies shall be conducted as a supplement to a standardized survey with the aim to examine concrete practices and effects of trans-local knowledge dynamics for innovation. Furthermore the research design allow us to understand the constitution conditions, dynamics and temporal changes of the established connections by firms at focus.

The project contributes to the debate on the development of peripheral regions and the research on translocal knowledge dynamics. In the frame of the SFB 1199 it helps to improve the understanding of constituting and designing spatial formats that are part of contemporary entrepreneurial actions.


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)

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


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