The last decade has seen a revival of regional industrial policy in the Western world. New policies have been built on recent insights into the drivers of competitive advantage and are characterised by a focus on local production systems, networking and partnerships, and more strategic forms of policy intervention. In addition, policy formulation and implementation has generally become part of an interactive process of consultation and consensus building. To a large extent, it involves the co-ordination and reshaping of existing instruments rather than the development of entirely new ones. This paper discusses the emergence of new forms of industrial policy targeting regional competitiveness using case studies undertaken in Germany, the UK and Spain. The aim of the paper is to understand how the concept and understanding of competitiveness by local policymakers and other actors have influenced the shaping of local industrial policy. Since all the case studies involve laggard regions, one of the key issues of the debate is how policymakers perceive the balance between more ingenious, innovation-oriented approaches and other approaches targeting foreign investment. The paper points out some of the remarkable changes that concepts have made in the evolution from theoretical and conceptual thinking to policy implementation, and discusses the implications for academic research and policy-making.