In the early 19th century a French sociologist Frederic Le Play has suggested to consider the inter-dependence and relationship of geography and social development. His idea has given the basis to alienate the regions of the natural world, studied long ago as a separate dependent research subject of the geoscience, from the “physical regions”, established by communities of people, actively influencing its borders and structure. The regional studies are interdisciplinary a priori; hence the notion of a region is a topic of research in numerous fields of science: geography, economics, political science, sociology, cultural studies, history, etc. A number of prominent scholars, such as Niosi, Asheim and Isaksen, note that the region as an object of study should be one of the priorities in the regional studies. The contemporary socio-economic research suggests four main paradigms to consider the region: 1) region as a quasi-state, described as a subsystem of the state and national economy, having relative isolation in decision-making; 2) region as a quasi-corporation pointing at the regional and municipal property, which is engaged in economic relations with other market participants; 3) region as a society, considering the region through the lens of different social groups, their roles and interests in the context of the issues related to the reproduction of social life and the development of the socio-economic system; 4) region as a market, meaning either a common conditions for economic activity in certain territorial boundaries and the presence of the distinctive features of the resource markets in different regions, or the interest of regional authorities in the creation of a favorable business climate.
Giving credits to the classical approach of the regional studies, nowadays researchers consider additional factors in this scope. Strengthening hyper-competition, which sets the growing interest in innovation as a source of competitive advantage, increases the importance of cooperative intra-regional ties in innovation (the concept of open innovation H. Chesbrough). This fact has led to the development of a new approach to define a region – an independent and direct participant in the internationalization and cooperation processes in the economy.
Regions are increasingly eager to benefit from interactions with the outside world through the formation of networks (Stubbs Richard and Geoffrey Underhill), changing the balance in the “center – periphery” (Frank A.G.; Friedmann J.). In this case, the positioning of the region and its movement in the direction of openness or isolationism is dependent on various external and internal factors. As an alternative to the traditional hierarchy ‘from the center to the regions’, comes the network form of organization of social control. The network approach determines the region as a network itself and as an element of an even larger network (Cooke P., Dreger C., Erber G.). Analyzing the changes that occur with the region in a globalized world, the scientists note that the notion of region does not disappear, but it re-appears in a regional-network form.