Profile

I am a researcher at Tilburg University (School of Social and Behavioural Sciences), a senior consultant at ERAC (European Regional Affairs Consultants) and a visiting professor at the Newcastle Business School (Northumbria University).

My main field of expertise is the geography of innovation and knowledge creation. I address question such as, why are some regions/places better at innovation and knowledge creation than others? And why is geographical proximity still relevant for innovation and knowledge creation in today’s global economy? Furthermore, I study the organization of innovation and knowledge creation. What are organizational characteristics that encourage innovation and knowledge creation and how do they do so? An important part of my work focusses on the development of QCA (Qualitative Comparative Analysis). QCA, as a comparative case-study method, fundamentally challenges the variable-based narrative of causality that dominates mainstream social science and offers a compelling alternative. My work on QCA focuses on explaining how QCA (and case-based methods generally) understand causality and how this empirical research using QCA. My work for ERAC aims to strengthen the research skills of this informs firm, allowing it to play a leading role in evidence-based consultancy for regional economic development. I also do actual consultancy, particularly concerning regional innovation policy.

My research (methodologically, conceptually, empirically and in the context of application) is strongly influence by critical realist philosophy of science and the notion of complex causality. I reject the idea that one can learn something about social reality by decomposing it into variables. Instead, I look at social entities (e.g. firms, regions, networks) holistically as social institutions; i.e. as assemblages of individuals, social structures, social institutions, resources, technologies, norms, values, practices, etc. This as a whole gives social entities causal power to do some things rather than others. Looking at social entities and causality in this way allows me to go beyond seeing causality in a stylized was as an independent variable ‘doing something’ do a dependent variable. Instead, this approach allows me to develop actual causal mechanisms.

Applied research and consultancy

I have been involved in consultancy regularly, mostly in relation to regional innovation policy. Among others, I have worked on:

The evaluation of the ‘cluster policy’ of the Dutch Eindhoven region. The cluster policy aimed to encourage collaboration between manufacturing SMEs on new product development.

The evaluation of the ‘SME Design Brabant’ project. This project aimed to encourage regional innovation by connecting manufacturing SMEs to design companies.

The evaluation of the network of the Central Brabant Public Library. This study evidences that the library strongly contributes to social objectives concerning literacy in a broad sense because of its dense and fine-grained network in the Central Brabant region.

Most of my work in this area is now focused on strengthening the research skills of ERAC (European Regional Affairs Consultants), through workshops for its consultants and by participating in projects. The ambition is to give ERAC a stronger market position on evidence-based consultancy.

QCA tutorials

I have given several QCA tutorials for graduate students, PhD students and researchers. I will talk you through the basics of QCA in about two hours, or give you a full introduction to the method in a day. My recent QCA tutorials include:

05.12.2017: University of Heidelberg, Institute of Geography
02.11.2018: Tilburg University, Department of Organization Studies
01.02.2019: Leibniz University Hannover, Institute of Economic and Cultural Geography
07.06.2019: Berlin, Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space

QCA tutorials can be booked based on my availability. Terms can be negotiated.

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