Urban and Regional Research Centre Utrecht (URU)
Section of Economic Geography

Pierre-Alexandre Balland

Assistant Professor in Economic Geography
Deputy-Head of the URU programme in Evolutionary Economic Geography

Research associate at the Centre for Innovation, Research and Competence in the Learning Economy (CIRCLE), (Lund University)

Visiting professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - UU Fellowship 2014-2015 & 2015-2016

Visiting address: Heidelberglaan 2 - 3584 CS Utrecht (The Netherlands) - room 623 (route description)
Postal address: P.O. Box 80.115 - 3508 TC Utrecht (The Netherlands)
Phone +31 (0) 30 253 2407
Fax + 31 (0) 30 253 2037
Email: p.balland@uu.nl

Listed in Econpapers and Google Scholar


Research Interests
My research
Supervision of PhD Students
Journal Articles
Book Chapters
PhD Thesis
Working Papers
Curriculum Vitae
R codes

Click here for the Working Paper Series

"Papers in Evolutionary Economic Geography"


Early Career Grant from the Regional Studies Association

I have recently been awarded the Early Career Grant of the Regional Studies Association (RSA). The grant is meant to support a discrete and original piece of regional studies and/or regional science research for a period of 18 months. From January 2016 to June 2017 I will work on the project "Relatedness, knowledge complexity and technological opportunities of regions: A framework for smart specialisation". You can find more information on my project here.

The geography of innovation in the (French) news - La Tribune (Toulouse)

The geography of innovation conference took place in Toulouse in January 2016 - here is my take on what the geography of innovation means, our findings, and implications for innovation policy in French).

The resilience of cities - United States American Politics and Policy blog

With David Rigby (UCLA) and Ron Boschma (Lund) we have just published a new article on the resilience of cities in the United States American Politics and Policy blog (hosted by the London School of Economics). The article is entitled: 'Socio-economic and technological flexibility is key to the resilience of American cities in times of crisis' and is based on our paper, 'The technological resilience of US cities', published a few months ago in the Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society.

TED talk

I love TED talks. TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) could be described a set of conferences and a global community devoted to ideas worth spreading. I have been inspired by many TED speakers, ranging from Sir Kenneth Robinson and Hans Rosling to Jill Bolte Taylor. Recently, I was lucky enough (and the organizers crazy enough) to be invited to give a TED talk at the first TEDx of the University of Bordeaux. The organizers have done an amazing job to bring together academics, artists or entrepreneurs that had ideas worth spreading around the topic of the "Lumieres 2.0" (in the sense of physical lights, stars and constellations, or enlightenment). This event generated beautiful exchanges, and I learned a lot. You can find the talks of the other speakers on the website of the TEDx universite de Bordeaux. As for myself, I talked about how we create knowledge in the digital age, and why, paradoxically, new information and communication technologies reinforce rather than replace the need for human interactions. The title of this TED talk is "Knowledge and the city: the digital age paradox".


Research interests

  • Economic geography
  • Innovation studies
  • Geography of networks
  • Structural and dynamic network analysis
  • Science and innovation policy

My research

In the age of information technology, it has never been easier to virtually connect with others at a distance. Yet, the world is not flat. Innovation continues to disproportionally concentrates in a few pockets. Ironically, the most famous example of this spatial concentration of innovative firms and individuals is Silicon Valley, home of the IT industry ! So what's the premium of proximity? What forms of proximity are we really talking about when looking at geographical concentration?

To tackle this question, I analyze what drives the transfer of knowledge between organizations. So my research mainly focuses on the structural and dynamic analysis of knowledge networks in a geographical context. I combine theories from economic geography with models and concepts from network science, which hopefully contributes to fill the gap between the lack of formalization of the network concept in economic geography and the lack of geography in network theory.

I have analyzed the structure and dynamics of knowledge networks in different industries and spatial settings such as the European R&D collaboration networks in the navigation by satellite industry, to the worldwide interfirm network in the video game industry, or the informal business and technical networks in a Spanish toy cluster.

Supervision of PhD students

Sergio Petralia, Teresa Fernandes, Mathieu Steijn and Matthias Brachert.


Journal Articles

Balland, P.A. and Rigby, D. (2016) The geography of complex knowledge, Economic Geography, forthcoming (abstract ; pdf)

Petralia, S., Balland, P.A., and Rigby, D. (2016) Unveiling the geography of historical patents in the United States from 1836 to 1975, Scientific Data, forthcoming (abstract ; pdf)

Heimeriks, G. and Balland, P.A. (2016) How Smart is Specialisation? An Analysis of Specialisation Patterns in Knowledge Production, Science and Public Policy, forthcoming (abstract ; pdf)

Balland P.A., Belso-Martinez J.A., and Morrison A. (2016) The Dynamics of Technical and Business Knowledge Networks in Industrial Clusters: Embeddedness, status or proximity?, Economic Geography, 92 (1): 35-60 (abstract ; pdf)

Balland P.A., Rigby, D., and Boschma, R. (2015) The Technological Resilience of U.S. Cities, Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 8 (2): 167-184 (abstract ; pdf)

Balland, P.A., Boschma, R. and Frenken, K. (2015) Proximity and Innovation: From Statics to Dynamics, Regional Studies, 49 (6): 907-920 (abstract ; pdf)

Boschma, R., Balland, P.A. and Kogler, D. (2015) Relatedness and Technological Change in Cities: The rise and fall of technological knowledge in U.S. metropolitan areas from 1981 to 2010, Industrial and Corporate Change , 24 (1): 223-250 (abstract ; pdf)

Broekel, T., Balland P.A., Burger, M. and van Oort, F. (2014) Modeling Knowledge Networks in Economic Geography: A Discussion of Four Empirical Strategies, The Annals of Regional Science, 53 (2): 423-452 (abstract ; pdf)

Boschma, R., Heimeriks, G. and Balland, P.A. (2014) Scientific Knowledge Dynamics and Relatedness in Bio-Tech Cities, Research Policy , 43 (1): 107-114 (abstract ; pdf)

Balland, P.A., de Vaan, M. and Boschma, R. (2013) The Dynamics of Interfirm Networks along the Industry Life Cycle: The Case of the Global Video Games Industry 1987-2007, Journal of Economic Geography , 13 (5): 741-765 (abstract ; pdf)

Balland, P.A., Suire, R. and Vicente, J. (2013) Structural and Geographical Patterns of Knowledge Networks in Emerging Technological Standards: Evidence from the European GNSS Industry, Economics of Innovation and New Technology, 22 (1): 47-72 (abstract ; pdf)

Balland, P.A. (2012) Proximity and the Evolution of Collaboration Networks: Evidence from Research and Development Projects within the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) Industry, Regional Studies, 46 (6): 741-756 (abstract ; pdf)

Vicente, J., Balland, P.A. and Brossard, O. (2011) Getting into Networks and Clusters: Evidence from the Midi-Pyrenean Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) Collaboration Network, Regional Studies, 45 (8): 1059-1078 (abstract ; pdf)


Book Chapters

Balland, P.A. (2016) Relatedness and the Geography of Innovation, in: R. Shearmur, C. Carrincazeaux and D. Doloreux (eds) Handbook on the Geography of Innovation

Crespo, P.A.., R. Boschma and P.A. Balland (2016) Resilience, networks and competitiveness: a conceptual framework, in: R. Huggins and P.Thompson (eds.) Handbook of Regions and Competitiveness. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, forthcoming.

Boschma, R., P.A. Balland and D. Kogler (2014) The geography of interfirm knowledge spillovers in bio-tech, in: F. Crespi and F. Quatraro (eds) Demand and economic policy from a systemic perspective. London/New York: Routledge, chapter 7.

Boschma, R., Balland, P.A. and de Vaan, M. (2014) The Formation of Economic Networks: A Proximity Approach, in A. Torre and F. Wallet (eds.) Regional Development and Proximity Relations, forthcoming. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar.

Vicente, J., Balland, P.A. and Suire, R. (2013) The structure and geography of collaboration networks in the European GNSS industry: a 1-mode and 2-mode network analysis, in T. Scherngell (ed.) The geography of networks and R&D collaborations, forthcoming. New York, NY: Advances in Spatial Science Springer Series.

Balland, P.A., Boschma, R. and Frenken, K. (2013) Proximity and Innovation Networks: An Evolutionary Approach, in: P. Cooke (ed.) Re-framing Regional Development: Evolution, Innovation and Transition (pp. 186-200). New York, NY: Routledge (book)


PhD Thesis

Balland, P.A. (2010) Proximity and the Structure of Knowledge Networks: Evidence from the GNSS industry. PhD Thesis, Department of Economics, University of Toulouse (pdf).


Working Papers

Petralia, S., Balland, P.A., and Morrison, A. (2016) Climbing the Ladder of Technological Development (pdf)

Giuliani, E., Balland, P.A., and Matta, A. (2016) Die-hard industrial clusters: Resilience and knowledge network dynamics in Argentina.

Balland, P.A., Rigby, D., Petralia, S. and Steijn, M.(2016) The geography of innovation in the United States: 1836-2006

Balland, P.A. (2016) Promoting knowledge transfer and the economic resilience of regions.



"Network dynamics and economic geography" at the International PhD course on Economic Geography at Utrecht University (pdf). Local organizer: Pr. Ron Boschma.


Economic Geography in the Research Master in Human Geography and Planning, Utrecht University, Faculty of Geosciences


Organizational Networks (GEO3-3805) in the Bachelor programme, Utrecht School of Economics

Economic Geography III - Economic evolution of cities and regions (GEO3-3206) in the Bachelor programme, Human Geography and Planning, Utrecht University, Faculty of Geosciences



Curriculum vitae

Born in 1983

2002-2005: Studies in Economics at the University of Toulouse, France

2007: M.Sc in Industrial Economics, University of Toulouse

2007-2010: Research Fellow (PhD student) and teaching assistant at the University of Toulouse, Department of Economics

Since 2010: Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Economic Geography, Utrecht University Utrecht University

Feb-April 2013: Visiting scholar at the Department of Geography of the University of California, Los Angeles

An extended version of my curriculum vitae is available here (pdf version, July 2016)

R codes

I sometimes receive requests concerning the codes I use to compute some network metrics or variables. Here I share some of the codes I often use in my research, and that can easily be adapted for your own needs. Most of the times, these codes use matrix algebra instead of loops, which I personally find very elegant. I have just started to create this section, but it will be updated periodically. Please send me an email if you have questions, find mistakes or have any suggestions to improve the codes.

R is a free software environment for statistical computing and graphics. The .r files can be opened as .txt files with a regular text editor such as notepad

How to compute a location quotient

How to compute relatedness among economic units (technologies, sectors...)

How to compute the density of related technologies

Not that related to my research

My research is about cities, the research of my dad is about villages and rural life. He is also a great story teller. In his blog (in French) he tells stories of a little village in the South-West of France: Deyme (near Toulouse). Read and you'll smell the hay, see the horses and enter the atmosphere and traditions of the French countryside.

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Last update: July 2016