Economic Geography


Ongoing Projects


Analysis of transformative enterprises in the wood-processing industry

This research project is co-financed by the Wyss Academy for Nature, Hub Berne.

Considering grand challenges like biodiversity loss and climate change, a profound change toward economic activities within planetary boundaries may become necessary. As so-called “transformative enterprises” small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can become important change agents in this process. This research project examines transformative enterprises using the example of the wood-processing industry in the Canton of Berne (CH) and the Vorarlberg region (AUT).

Doctoral student: Miriam Hug

Publications: Hug, M., Mayer, H., & Seidl, I. (2022). Transformative enterprises: Characteristics and a definition. Geography Compass.

Short video on the project (in Swiss German)

Entrepreneurial Ecosystems

Karte Basel

Mapping and Visualizing Entrepreneurial Ecosystems

We are engaged in mapping and visualizing regional entrepreneurial ecosystems. We utilize novel web applications and design solutions to illustrate how startups and spinoffs evolve in regional economies. For an example, see the visual we helped create about Basel's Life Sciences Cluster




We have developed visualizations for cities in the United States. They can be downloaded here:

Portland, Oregon: Silicon Forest Universe (2003) (PDF, 891KB) Portland, Oregon: Silicon Forest Universe (2008) (PDF, 649KB) Portland, Oregon: Athletic & Outdoor Industry (2010) (PDF, 288KB) Kansas City: High Tech and Life Sciences (2012) (PDF, 17.4 MB) Boise, Idaho: High Tech Industry (2007) (PDF, 707KB) Seattle, Washington: Puget Sound Tech Industry (2008) (PDF, 3.6 MB)

Completed Projects

 Entrepreneurship in Peripheral Regions: Understanding the Role of Entrepreneurial Heritage and Embeddedness in Swiss Non-Metropolitan Areas
Timeline  January 2014 – December 2017
 Funding  Schweizerischer National Fond (SNF)
 Description Entrepreneurship and innovation are important dynamics for the development of peripheral regions. The research examines entrepreneurial dynamics in Swiss non-metropolitan areas from an evolutionary economic geography perspective. The study compares three peripheral areas and collect longitudinal data on entrepreneurial heritage and embeddedness. We employ a multiple embedded case study methodology and combine qualitative and historical data analysis with quantitative methods for identifying factors responsible for economic development of peripheral areas.
Involved researchers
  • Heike Mayer, University of Bern
  • Ron Boschma, Lund University (Sweden) & Utrecht University (Netherlands)
  • Sandra Bürcher, University of Bern
  • Antoine Habersetzer, University of Bern
Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Second Tier High Tech Regions in The United States
 Funding Various foundations such as the Smith Richardson Foundation, Kauffman Foundation, The Brookings Institution etc.
 Description Second tier high-tech regions such as Portland (Oregon), Boise (Idaho), Kansas City (Kansas/Missouri), etc. have developed in the shadow of Silicon Valley or Boston`s Route 128. These regions typically lack a world-class research university and large amounts of venture capital. This research examines entrepreneurial ecosystems in second tier regions and we visualize the genealogy of entrepreneurial firms.
 Involved Researchers
  • Heike Mayer, University of Bern
  • Elizabeth Mack, Michigan State University
  • Joseph Cortright, Impresa Inc.
 Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Portland`s Athletic and Outdoor Gear Industry
Timeline  2009-2010
 Funding  Portland Development Commission
 Description  The athletic and outdoor industry cluster in Portland is especially appropriate for a study about the role of consumption, culture and community in cluster emergence. The cluster consists of a group of innovative, world-class firms that design, market and distribute footwear, apparel and related gear for sports, recreation and active lifestyles. It has diversified  through entrepreneurial spinoff processes and firms moving to the region. We examined these dynamics through expert interviews, focus groups and through a visualization of spinoff dynamics.
Involved researchers
  • Heike Mayer, University of Bern
  • Joseph Cortright, Impresa Inc.
 Link Visualization
 Women and Minority Entrepreneurship
Timeline  2007-2008
 Funding  Diverse sources such as the U.S. Small Business Administration, Kauffman Foundation, etc.
 Description  Entrepreneurship plays an important role in stimulating urban and regional development. When we think of the “typical entrepreneur” we tend to imagine a white male operating a high-tech business in Silicon Valley. However, women and minority constitute a new and diverse group of entrepreneurs. We examine the geographic context in which women and minorities are entrepreneurially active.
Involved researchers
  • Heike Mayer, University of Bern
  • Darrene Hackler, George Mason University
  • Ellen Harpel, Smart Incentives
  • Christiana McFarland, National League of Cities
 High-Tech and Biotech Industry Specialization in Metropolitan Areas in the United States
Timeline  2001-2002
 Funding  The Brookings Institution
 Description  We examined the growth and specialization dynamics of high-tech and biotech industries in metropolitan areas in the United States. The papers were published by the Brookings Institution`s Metropolitan Policy Program.
Involved researchers
  • Heike Mayer, University of Bern
  • Joseph Cortright, Impresa Inc.