Historical roots of regional entrepreneurship: the role of knowledge and creativity

  • Alfredo Del Monte
  • Luca PennacchioEmail author


This paper analyzes the historical factors that shape current levels and regional differences in new firm formation in innovative industries. Drawing on the knowledge spillover theory of entrepreneurship, we propose and test the idea that regional knowledge and creativity affect entrepreneurial activity in the long term. We investigate this in Italy using data at the NUTS-3 geographical level, which goes back as far as 1100 on some items. Our results show that the historical knowledge base, measured as the presence of public universities, is strongly related to the current level of innovative start-ups. There is also a positive relationship between past creativity, measured by the presence of scientists and inventors in the area, and current intensity of new firm formation. Lastly, these long-term effects are complementary, because provinces with both a stronger knowledge base and higher levels of creativity have more current innovative start-ups. These findings suggest that a regional entrepreneurship culture and a social environment conducive to new firm formation can explain the path-dependency of regional entrepreneurship.


Entrepreneurship Innovative start-ups Regional disparities Knowledge Knowledge spillovers Creativity 

JEL classification

L26 L60 L80 O18 O40 R11 R12 R30 



We are grateful to participants at the SIEPI (Rome, Italy) and ICEED (Bari, Italy) conferences for their invaluable comments.

Funding information

Luca Pennacchio acknowledges financial support from Parthenope University through the research grants “Bando di sostegno alla ricerca individuale per il triennio 2015–2017” (years 2016 and 2017).


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Economics and StatisticsUniversity of Naples Federico IINaplesItaly
  2. 2.Department of Business and EconomicsParthenope UniversityNaplesItaly

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