Research interests

(Updated in March 2014)

Creative cities and innovation districts

When I started my PhD, one of my main interests was to understand why some cities are more creative and innovative than others. The fact that I am from Barcelona, and that I was living in Montreal offered me a good base to tackle such a research question, as both cities are considered as being highly creative. My initial research consisted in studying Barcelona’s innovation district (22@Barcelona) to identify the “best practices” that would contribute to the planning of the future innovation district in Montreal (the “Quartier de l’innovation”) [1]. Co-organizing an international summit on innovative districts also helped me to do a comparison of different innovative districts around the world and to deepen in the analysis of the factors that favors the development of creativity and innovation in a city [2].

Knowledge dynamics in localized spaces of collaborative innovation

The next step in my research was to collaborate with professors from ÉTS, McGill University and HEC Montréal to conceptualize the future Montreal Creativity Hub that will be build in the former Planetarium Dow [3]. This represents one of the first big projects that will spearhead the progressive implementation of the “Quartier de l’innovation”. I did an extensive research on similar “hubs” and “labs” around the world, including a qualitative study based on interviews to managers and users of collaborative spaces in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Boston, and Barcelona [4].
The research results highlighted that innovative communities are mainly emergent and are difficult to design and manage. The research also confirmed that communities play a major role in the knowledge flows in a city. Communities structure the innovation processes and serve as intermediary cognitive platforms to connect formal organizations with creative individuals of their local urban environment. Furthermore, as my colleagues at Mosaic and I have argued in a recent article (currently in R&R in a top journal), communities that mainly focus on knowledge creation (epistemic communities) are at the origin of emergent global movements (whether technical, industrial, scientific or artistic) [10].
Research on innovation in the fields of management and economic geography has traditionally focused on innovation in organizations or in clusters, largely ignoring creative processes that take place at a local level but outside organizations. The concepts of “creative city” and “creative class” bring some interesting insights on the issue, but deal mainly about policy makers or talented individuals. My research on innovative communities in urban environments aim to fill this gap.
I am interested in the innovation processes that take place in urban environments, outside organizations. I am particularly interested in autonomous knowledge-sharing communities like the ones that emerge in localized spaces like coworking spaces, Fab Labs, makerspaces,  hackerspaces, Living Labs, etc. Communities where knowledge is collectively created and shared have extensively studied in management,  often referred as “communities of practice”. However little research has studied communities outside organizations and specially focusing on the knowledge dynamics that take place between such communities and their environment.
My initial research focused on defining a typology of the different localized spaces of collaborative innovation [6]. Some communities focus on accomplishing a common goal through collaboration and, in others, the community members cooperate in order to attain their personal goals.
I am interested in the knowledge flows at the local and global level between the different actors that participate in the innovation processes in a city or region, especially on the role played by these kinds of knowledge communities. Members of communities integrated in global trends (like the maker movement or the coworking movement) are able to transfer knowledge at a distance (particularly tacit) by sharing practices and being in cognitive proximity. This fact offers a new perspective on the dynamics of knowledge creation through the interaction in the local “buzz” and the creation of global “pipelines” [7] [8].
Concepts like “open innovation” and “user innovation” highlight the crucial importance of innovation generated outside organizations. Collaborative and competitive dynamics are often combined by sharing knowledge with the environment, like the knowledge spillovers observed in industrial agglomerations. My research on coworking spaces in Barcelona showed that these knowledge spillovers can also be identified at a smaller scale between the members of a coworking space [9].

Commons-based peer production communities

Knowledge communities in collaborative spaces can also be identified as commons-based peer production structures. Peer production has so far mainly been studied in digital environments (like the cases of Wikipedia or Linux) but rarely in face-to-face interaction. Collaborating with the P2P Foundation in the P2Pvalue project (funded by the European Commission’s FP7) has brought me the chance to research on peer production communities. In this project, I am currently running a survey to members of peer-production communities to identify the kinds of value that they create (at the individual and collective level) and how the value is captured a different levels. The goal is to understand how different variables contribute to the value creation (in terms of governance, systems of decision-making and rewards, etc.).

Open business and open strategy

Related to the P2Pvalue project, I have started a qualitative research on an extreme case, Sensorica, an Open Value Network that competes with technological firms with traditional structures in the field of high-tech sensors for medical and scientific use. My research aims to understand Sensorica’s radical open business model (no patents or proprietary IP, no hierarchies, no employees,…) to contribute to the literature on strategy and innovation. I am very interested in the new business models based on peer collaboration that are emerging, challenging the traditional theories of the firm.

Research agenda

My research agenda involves further exploration of knowledge communities and how they contribute to the innovation processes beyond the firms’ boundaries or beyond the classic theories of the firm. This section outlines some future directions I plan to explore:
Knowledge flows between local knowledge communities:
Using my existing primary data on communities in Barcelona, I plan to further research the interaction and knowledge transfer between communities in a same city and analyze the implications for policy making. I also plan to further develop my current working papers to submit them to top Economic Geography journals.
Value creation in peer-production communities:
The results of the survey that I am doing a the P2P Foundation for the P2Pvalue project will allow me to investigate how communities and their members create and capture value. I plan to submit the resulting paper to the special issue of Information Systems Research on “Collaboration and Value Creation in Online Communities”.
Open strategy and open business models:
The resulting paper of my research on Sensorica will be submitted to the Long Range Planning’s special issue on Open Strategy.
Creativity and innovation management in organizations:
Together with my colleagues at Mosaic, we will continue to collaborate to research on the management of individual and collective creativity in organizational contexts. We plan to submit our work based on our data on cases of creative industries in Montreal (like Cirque du Soleil and Ubisoft) to the Management Decision’s Special Issue entitled “Creative Industry Management: Oxymoron or Opportunity?”.
Although I study collaboration in communities, I also practice it. I have collaborated with a large group of co-authors in different universities and I intend to continue doing so. During the evolution of my research, I have created fruitful collaborative links with academics from Montreal and several European universities. My participation to international academic conferences on management (e.g. EGOS 2013 and 2014) allows me to further integrate the international academic community.
In sum, my research uses mainly a qualitative methodology to contribute to two broad fields of literature. On the one hand, my research aims to contribute to the literature on innovation in economic geography. On the other hand, I hope to offer a new perspective to the innovation management literature by studying open business strategies and innovation processes that take place outside firms.


[1] Capdevila et al., 2011. « 22@Barcelona: leçons pour le Quartier de l’Innovation de Montréal ». Final report 2011 of the Summer School on Management of Creativity in an Innovation Society Montreal-Barcelona (co-author). Available at:
[2] Capdevila,, 2012. Final report of the Montreal Summit on Innovation 2nd Ed. on Innovative Districts (ÉTS & McGill University) (only author). Available at: (in English) and (in French)
[3] Capdevila et al., 2012. « Conceptualisation d’un Hub de Créativité au Planétarium Dow ». Final report 2012 of the Summer School on Management of Creativity in an Innovation Society Montreal-Barcelona (co-author, coordinator and editor). Available at:
[4] Capdevila et al., 2013. Research project report « Recommandations pour un Hub de créativité au sein du Quartier de l’innovation: Un catalyseur de créativité pour Montréal » (main author, coordinator and editor). Available at:
[5] Capdevila, I. et al., 2013. La capacité créative et innovante des villes. Économie et management, 148 (juin 2013), pp.29–35.
[6] Capdevila, I., Typologies of Localized Spaces of Collaborative Innovation (June 25, 2013). Working paper available at SSRN:
[7] Capdevila, I., 2014. Les ancrages locaux et les dynamiques globales des communautés de connaissance. In J.P. Dupuis, ed. Ancrages culturels et dynamiques du management. Paris: ATLAS-Association Francophone de Management International / Gualino éditeur (in press)
[8] Capdevila, I., Knowing Communities and the Innovative Capacity of Cities (December 9, 2013). Working paper available at SSRN:
[9] Capdevila, I., Knowledge Dynamics in Localized Communities: Coworking Spaces as Microclusters (December 9, 2013). Working paper available at SSRN:
[10] Cohendet, P., Simon, L., Grandadam, D. & Capdevila, I., 2014. Epistemic communities, localisation, and the dynamics of knowledge creation. Journal of Economic Geography (Cat. 1 in the CNRS ranking)