Conceptual models of regional innovation systems have prompted major government initiatives in Europe and North America to assess and to promote local innovation and learning capabilities. In Australia, by contrast, local governments and other local organizations concerned with economic and social development are faltering. Lacking is (1) a conceptual understanding of local knowledge and innovation networks; (2) data on local innovation actors and activities; and (3) clarity on the most effective ways for municipal and regional government to ‘construct advantage’ in a federal system. The paper reviews the ‘macro’ (e.g. innovation surveys) and ‘micro’ (e.g. case studies) approach to assessing the capability of regional innovation systems. The paper then reports work in progress to develop a more ‘meso’ approach, first to further develop a classification of the local ‘assets’ and ‘actors’ involved in constructing local advantage. Second, we outline a proposal to apply classification for mapping and measuring the ‘supply chain’ for constructing advantage in a particular region – Wollongong, New South Wales.
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