This is the view from the room where the course was held

This is the view from the room where the course was held

Today finished the PhD Course on Economic Geography, in the Utrecht University. It was from September 9 to today, September 12, 2008. Actually this is only the first part, in early November we will gather for the second week. Between the weeks, we have to write a paper which is supposed to be inspired by the literature of the course. The local organizer is Ron Boschma and the guest lecturers are Bjørn Asheim (Lund University), Stefano Breschi (Bocconi University), Koen Frenken (Utrecht University), Meric Gertler (Toronto University), Elisa Giuliani (Pisa University), Gernot Grabher (Bonn University), Udo Staber (Canterbury University), Mario Maggioni (Catholic University Milano), Anders Malmberg (Uppsala University), Ron Martin (Cambridge University), Allen Scott (UCLA) and Phil Cooke (Cardiff University and Aalborg University), which is my beloved secondary supervisor.

It’s an outstanding group of researchers, it’s really nice from them to be willing to teach us. The course had 25 available slots for PhD students. Out of them, only 5 were from the home University, the rest were students from all over Europe, and even one from Chile and another from China (from a British and a German University respectively). There was a very good atmosphere, and so far the course has been very constructive. I really enjoyed the format of the organization. Ron Boschma has done a remarkable job being able to bring such recognized professors, and the participation of the students.

Listening to these senior researchers it’s very good. I have to admit that in some cases I read their papers several times and I only got some ideas, but then listening to them, it’s another world. This not only makes you better understand the issues, but it spurs your creativity. Besides the participation of the professors, every PhD student (some in September and others in November), has the opportunity to present a paper (usually close related to his main PhD thesis), and have the feedback of another of the PhD students (junior discussant) and one of the senior discussants. Then there is time for everyone to comment on his/her work.

All of us, we’re happy to present our project, but I think were a little bit afraid to get a hard critic, especially from the senior discussant. I was the youngest PhD student (for the PhD starting date), therefore my project is the early phases, and it’s normal to get all kind of “constructive criticism”. I might rather have all these suggestions and critics in the beginning than let’s say for someone who started its PhD in 2003. Imagine something like “well, someone has already published about this issue, and contradicts your research” (after several years of study in about to do your PhD defence)… Not a pleasant situation! J

The main problem I have with my projects is the common misunderstanding between academics/scientists and policy makers. It’s like the yin-yan. My project is financed by policy makers of local level, and my team project is basically formed by government officials at local and regional level. My project needs to work for them in all senses. For example, they are interested in the “experience economy”, a catchy concept in Scandinavia. But, I would also like to publish my work in an academic journal, a term like “experience economy”, which government officials like, does not go well for the majority of the scholars. They rather have me talk about the analytical, synthetic and symbolic knowledge bases (P Cooke, L Leydesdorff – The Journal of Technology Transfer, 2006; B Asheim, L Coenen, J Moodysson, J Vang – International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management, 2007), which I think it would be a great idea, but I also believe that my project team could be somewhat confused or bored, if I start talking about deep academic subjects. So my challenge is to keep my project interesting for both policy makers and academics… and of course… me..!   

Anyways, I am very grateful for all the course and I’m looking forward for the November week. I already have some ideas for the upcoming paper. Let’s see if it works.