Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Professor M.J. Webber


Interest in the processes of urban growth and innovation diffusion has not been restricted to geography, but has proliferated through related disciplines such as economics, sociology and regional science. However, it can be said that, both inside and outside geography, little in the way of detailed attention has been focussed upon the interface between the two processes; that is, the relations between innovation diffusion and urban growth. In this thesis, several aspects of these relations are examined.

The greater part of the analysis carried out in this utilises hypothetical data, although real data for one diffusion process (Planned Regional Shopping Centres in Canada) are used in an attempt to ascertain the general viability of the spatial diffusion model as an integral part of an innovation - based growth model. The use of hypothetical data in the greater part of the analysis not only simplifies the analysis but also allows a degree of experimentation that would not be possible given the constraints often imposed upon the researcher by (real) data availability.

A spatial diffusion model is developed. In contrast to other spatial diffusion models, this model follows the diffusion of what is termed the 'general innovation', and its results are not specific to the diffusion of one innovation or group of innovations. Consequently, the model is able, both conceptually and practically, to take into account the diffusion of many innovations, whose origin may not be the same, within the same system of cities over the same time period. Summary measures upon the general diffusion process are developed, and the diffusion process is simulated within hypothetical systems of cities with different parameters. Variation in the summary measures on the general diffusion process is shown to be an identifiable function of variation in the parameters of the system of cities in which diffusion occurs. This ability to comprehensively link the form of the diffusion process to that of the space in which diffusion occurs is an important contribution to existing knowledge of diffusion processes.

If the adoption of innovations by cities is equated with growth, or with growth at some rate above system norms, variation in the growth pattern for a system of cities can be intuitively linked to variation in the diffusion process within that system. To establish this relationship more precisely, a simple growth model using the results of the spatial diffusion model as input is developed, and the growth patterns produced in a hypothetical system of cities under different conditions observed. It is seen that several of these growth patterns resemble closely those identified for several real systems of cities over some time periods, which indicates that innovation may indeed provide a reasonable basis for modelling growth within a system of cities. The simple growth model is dynamic because diffusion influences urban growth and urban growth influences diffusion.

This research does not pretend to offer a solution to the urban growth problem. However, it does investigate some of the spatial properties of systems of cities, properties largely ignored in many other approaches to the urban growth problem, and the possible implications of these properties for urban growth.

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