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Chair: Prof. Tom Brökel, University of Stavanger, Norway,

Recently, much attention has been drawn to the complexity of economic and technological activities as explanatory dimensions of nations’ and regions’ development. In particular, the work of (Hidalgo & Hausmann, 2009) has stimulated researchers’ interest in quantifying the variance of industries, occupations, and technologies in terms of complexity. Driven by the idea that engaging in activities with higher levels of complexity will open new and economically promising paths of future developments, researchers provide policy recommendations by identifying activities that fit to existing (regional and national) competences and that push current levels of economic and technological complexity (Crespo, Balland, Boschma, & Rigby, 2017).

However, there are still substantial gaps in our understanding and application of economic and technological complexity. For instance, complexity in general and economic as well as technological complexity are conceptualized, understood, and empirically applied in various ways (see, e.g., Broekel, 2019). In addition, little is known about the emergence, evolution and inherent properties of economic and technological complexity, let alone their precise role in socio-economic development.

This special session invites scholars from different disciplines to exchange their perspectives on the concept of economic and technological complexity with respect to the outlined issues. The session particularly welcomes theoretical and empirical papers relating to the following questions:

  • How can economic and technological complexity be measured and applied in empirical studies?
  • How does economic and technological complexity evolve?
  • What does the geography of these complexities look like and how does it change over time?
  • Why do regions differ in their capability to produce complex knowledge?
  • How does economic and technological complexity relate to competitiveness and regional development?
  • What type of policy implications can be derived on the basis of economic and technological complexity?


Broekel, T. (2019). Using structural diversity to measure the complexity of technologies. PLoS ONE, 14(5), 1–27.

Crespo, J., Balland, P.-A., Boschma, R. A., & Rigby, D. (2017). Regional Diversification Opportunities and Smart Specialization Strategies. EU-Directorate-General for Research and Innovation.

Hidalgo, A., & Hausmann, R. (2009). The building blocks of economic complexity. PNAS, 106(26), 10570–10575.


Updated by Rebecca Olsson