The Bartlett School of Planning


Stefania Fiorentino

Research subject

Thesis title: Contemporary urban entrepreneurial ecosystems and the new geography of innovation.

Primary supervisor: Professor Nick Phelps
Secondary supervisor: Professor John Tomaney
Sponsor: SPF Studio Progetti Finanziari srl, in partnership with CNA of Rome (Confederazione Nazionale della piccola e media impresa e dell’Artigianato)
Start date: January 2015

This study posits the emergence of a new urban economy made by innovative small businesses in Rome and largely deriving from the spread of a new form of cognitive cultural capitalism (Scott, 2014). The resulting geography of innovation stands as an update to the historical tri-partition of Italy proposed by Bagnasco (1977). Under the effects of globalization forces and the new communication technologies, a number of changes in the labour market have occurred. Ultimately causing the decline of the ‘Third Italy’ and its industrial district model with the revival instead of cities as attractors of innovative businesses. The entrepreneurial ecosystem of the city of Rome here analysed, intends to provide an overview of these major changes defining the new actors and intermediaries of such new geographical model e.g. Makers, co-working spaces and start-ups. The entrepreneurial character of this new urban economy recalls the starting point of a new Schumpeterian business cycle shaping the development of a new economic sector characterized by cultural and knowledge contents blended with soft digital technologies for which the cognitive cultural capitalism offers a foundational theoretical framework. The objective of the study is to provide empirical evidence to it, while proposing an incremental contribution to the agglomeration theory. A case study design with a qualitative data collection has been used to identify, map and describe the key actors, firms and features of this new entrepreneurial ecosystem as well as the role played by institutions in its genesis. Finally, a comparison is run between old (industrial districts) and new locations for innovation (urban centres). Findings suggest that this urban revival is restricted to small businesses in their start-up phase, for which trust relations and local embeddedness are still crucial to their establishment. Though the excessive institutional involvement ultimately disguises a lagging socio-economic context. Knowledge of the new geographical model described by this study will guide future policy making as well as further researches on the new frontiers of local and regional development.


Stefania is an architectural engineer trained between the University of Rome “Tor Vergata” and the ENSA Paris “La Villette”.

Before joining the Bartlett, she has worked as a practitioner in Paris, Milan and Rome on architecture, urban regeneration and real estate related issues.

Since 2015 she plays an active role at UCL working as a researcher and a teaching assistant for many undergraduate and postgraduate modules on the subject of real estate, planning and economic geography. In 2018 she was granted a UCL Education Award - Provost's Teaching Awards.

Her research interests passionately cover several aspects of the economic development of cities and their region, spanning from agglomeration dynamics to real estate economics and management. In Italy she is a chartered real estate surveyor and she still carries out consultancy in the same field.