Heike Mayer is professor of economic geography at the University of Bern in Switzerland and an adjunct professor in urban affairs and planing at Virginia Tech in the United States. Additionally, she is a member of the Center for Regional Economic Development (CRED) at the University of Bern.

She studied at the University of Konstanz (Germany) and received a master’s degree and Ph.D. in Urban Studies from Portland State University (USA).

Her research interests focus on the factors shaping the economic competitiveness of cities and regions.

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Growth and Change

There is a general understanding that university plays a crucial role in regional development under the current age of knowledge economy. At the same time, we have observed a fair number of counter-evidentiary studies, demonstrating several regions that do not thrive despite strong research universities or other patterns of development in the absence of research universities. However, they are based on case studies of individual universities or regions, and the findings currently cannot be generalized. Another set of studies that have challenged the effect of universities at the nationwide scale and demonstrated its disproportionately small impact of universities, but their scope is limited to spin-offs, patents, and license activities.

capital dilemma

Anchoring a Federal Agency in a Washington, D.C. Community: The Department of Homeland Security and St. Elizabeths

In: Capital Dilemma: Growth and Inequality in Washington, D.C.

The full citation reads as follows: Cowell, MargaretMayer, Heike (2016). Anchoring a Federal Agency in a Washington, D.C. Community: The Department of Homeland Security and St. Elizabeths. In: Hyra, DerekPrince, Sabiyha (eds.) Capital Dilemma: Growth and Inequality in Washington, D.C. (pp. 207-224). New York: Routledge

To have a look at the book, click here.

PublicationEntrepreneurial ecosystems (EE) consist of interacting components, which foster new firm formation and associated regional entrepreneurial activities. Current work on EE however focuses on documenting the presence of system components, which means there is little understanding of interdependencies between EE components and their evolutionary dynamics. To address these issues, the objective of the present study is to develop an evolutionary framework of EE development that integrates important components from prior work and describes how critical elements of an entrepreneurial system interact and evolve over time.

Geographies of EntrepreneurshipThe aim of this chapter is to conceptually discuss differences in entrepreneurial dynamics in peripheral regions from a relational perspective. We argue that successful entrepreneurship in peripheral regions depends on two different types of relations, namely economic relations in a strict sense, consisting of relations firms form to acquire relevant business knowledge (heritage approach), and economic relations in a wider sense, consisting of relations entrepreneurs form to shape regional contexts (embeddedness approach). We assume that the competencies necessary to engage in such networks are the same for both types of relations. This aspect may explain differences between peripheral economies and their economic development.


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Second tier high-tech regions are taking a different path than their well-known counterparts such as Silicon Valley or Route 128 around Boston. They may lack many prerequisites of growth such as a world-class research university or high levels of venture capital funding. Often, however, they can successfully leverage anchor firms and entrepreneurial spinoffs. My new book explores the evolution of these regions in the United States.


I recently published a paper with the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program. The paper shows how three metropolitan areas--Portland (OR), Kansas City, and Boise--became centers of high technology industry without the presence of a major university. The evidence on high-tech development in the three metropolitan areas offers important information for policymakers and practitioners interested in technology-based economic development outside of large, well-established high tech centers.

To download the Brookings report, click here.

Smalltowns_000.jpgPaul Knox and Heike Mayer have published Small Town Sustainability: Economic, Social, and Environmental Innovation with the publisher Birkhäuser in Basel, Switzerland.

The book is also published in German with the title Kleinstädte und Nachhaltigkeit: Konzepte für Wirtschaft, Umwelt und soziales Leben.  The full citation reads as follows: Knox, P. & Mayer, H. (2009). Small Town Sustainability: Economic, Social, and Environmental Innovation. Birkhäuser, Basel, Switzerland.

For a link to the publisher's site, click here.