Recent academic and policy discourses on regional development in Europe promote the expansion of 'knowledge-based' economies and learning regions. The assumptions underpinning the new regional policy are cast into sharp focus by the experiences of old industrial regions. The paper engages with these issues through empirical research into the recent fortunes of old industrial regions in Western Europe, drawing upon material from the Eurostat database. The findings highlight diverse experiences among these old industrial regions. This raise questions about the role of different national varieties of capitalism in shaping regional trajectories and the different mechanisms of regional adaptation promoted in the different countries.