Intangibles, starting with technological R&D, are playing an increasingly decisive role in the competitive position of countries, firms and also regions. Consequently it is important to try to measure the scientific and technological performance of regions, even if the indicators used are not wholly reliable. This is the task that the 'Institut d'aménagement et d'urbanisme de la région Île-de-France' (IAURIF) has set itself with regard to the main regions of the 'big three' (European Union, United States of America, Japan), using three key indicators: domestic R&D expenditures, quantity of scientific publications and of patents registered; to these are added an 'index of specialization'..
Vincent Gollain discusses the main conclusions of this study, which reveals that there is considerable variation in the scientific and technological potential of regions within each of the countries concerned, as well as among countries. He draws up a league table of the 24 leading regions of Europe, and stresses the dominant position, whatever the subject, of the regions around Paris, London and Tokyo. Similarly, in the countries with a federal system, certain regions stand well above the rest: California and Michigan in the United States, Baden-Wurttemberg and Bavaria in Germany.
In this way, Gollain seeks to highlight the performance and the degree of specialization of the top regions, and also the differing roles played in them by firms and public authorities.
Although he acknowledges the growing international importance of some new regions (e.g. Sophia Antipolis in southern France, Hsinchu, Montreal), he argues that the strength of regions is quite stable, and is highly dependent on long-term political aims, the synergy that may be built up between research institutions and social and cultural factors. From a comparison of the performance of the 24 leading regions in Europe with those of the top 12 in the United States and the most advanced regions of Japan, Gollain demonstrates the overwhelming role of a handful of regions and of a few cities of international importance: Paris, London, Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo.