How do dimensions of proximity relate to the outcomes of collaboration? A survey of knowledge intensive networks in the Dutch water sector

P. Heringa, E. Horlings, M. van der Zouwen, P.A.A. van den Besselaar, W. van Vierssen

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


There is a growing body of literature on the importance of proximity for innovation and other knowledge-related outcomes. We examine the impact of geographical, social, organisational, and cognitive proximity for a heterogeneous population, including people from academia, knowledge institutes, industry, and government. We analyse data on 1020 ego–alter relationships, derived from a survey among water professionals in the Netherlands. The use of survey data allows for more refined indicators of proximity and more diverse collaboration outcomes than those common in the literature. Social and cognitive proximity have a positive effect for all outcomes examined. Geographical and organisational proximity have a negative effect on hard (tangible) outcomes yet a weak positive (if any) effect on soft (intangible) outcomes. We do not find evidence for the suggestions in the conceptual literature that proximity follows an inverted U-curve where most outcomes are achieved in relations with some but not too much proximity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)689-716
Number of pages28
JournalEconomics of Innovation and New Technology
Issue number7
Early online date30 Mar 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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