Containers, facilitators, innovators? The role of cities and city employees in innovation activities

Teemu Makkonen (Corresponding Author), Maria Merisalo, Tommi Inkinen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Innovation has long been considered one of the key engines of economic growth, and patents as important incentives for research and development activity. Particularly in terms of intellectual property rights (IPR), however, little is known about how cities contribute to regional innovation: are they containers, facilitators or innovators? This is investigated here through empirical material derived from 27 interviews with top departmental management in three Finnish cities (Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa). The results show that local city governments (LCGs) consider cities as facilitators of innovation activities but also admit that there are limits (time constraints and lack of resources) to the influence of LCGs over the innovation environment. Still, many of the public sector innovations (especially social innovations) that do not necessarily have a clear market potential would not have been created without the active role of LCGs as innovators. City employees are innovative – the seeming lack of public sector innovation is actually a result of measurement issues that favour (patentable) technological innovations rather than those more common to LCGs, meaning service and organisational types. Therefore, LCGs can be seen as highly innovative organisations. There are, however, barriers to innovation in the public sector, such as the cost of innovation activity, the lack of incentives for it and a working culture that does not support it. Lastly, the results show that LCGs have not really fully considered the possibilities and potential of owning their own IPR; to be specific, potentially lucrative opportunities should be explored.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-118
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Urban and Regional Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Innovation
  • intellectual property rights
  • local government
  • patents
  • public sector


Dive into the research topics of 'Containers, facilitators, innovators? The role of cities and city employees in innovation activities'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this