Swedish insurance company grants more than a million euros for research on regional development

A research group consisting of researchers from Sweden, Finland and Norway will begin analysing factors that affect the development of Nordic regions in the long term.

The aim of the study is to identify why some regions clearly develop better than others while some regions are worse off despite having relatively similar structures. In addition, the aim is to provide information on how different regional needs can be taken into account better in development activities.

“We will combine structural elements, on the one hand, and explanatory models that emphasise agency on the other and test the explanatory power of our theory in Sweden, Norway and Finland,” says Professor Markku Sotarauta from the University of Tampere.

“We are addressing the fundamental question about the relationship between structures and agency and it will be interesting to see where the study will lead us. We will also ask which factors are directing development strategies and who is leading them, if anyone,” Sotarauta says. He will direct research on institutions and leadership in the project.

There is an obvious social demand for such research even though it arises from a gap in the theoretical foundation of the field. The spatial structure is rapidly centralising making differences between regions that are strongly involved in the knowledge-intensive network economy and other regions rapidly grow globally.

Stockholm, Oslo and Helsinki are strong, but smaller urban areas and rural areas are finding it increasingly difficult to find their place in today’s economic developments.

“The problem is that the debate on regional development is easily politicised and the analysis on regional development dynamics too often remains overlaid with easy generalisations and simplifying regional rankings,” Sotarauta explains.

The Swedish Länsförsäkringar forskningsfond -foundation has granted the research project titled “Regional Growth against all the Odds: The Driving Forces of Long-term Growth in Nordic Regions (ReGrow)” over a million euros. The research consortium comprises researchers from Lund University, the University of Tampere, the University of Stavanger and BI Norwegian Business School from Bergen.

“In recent years, research funders’ main focus has been on topical themes and issues that underlie economic and regional development have largely been ignored. On the one hand, the emphasis has been on the rapid utilisation of research results in companies and, on the other, attention has for quite understandable reasons been paid to such weighty current issues as refugees,” Sotarauta points out.

“Fortunately, there are many sources of funding in the world. The Swedish funding will enable long-term concentration on our own research agenda instead of meeting immediate needs or following fashionable trends, which Finnish financiers now seem to emphasise. Together with the funding for the GONST –project from the Nordic Green Growth Research and Innovation Programme of NordForsk, ReGrow will form an excellent undertaking. We will next try to expand our consortium with funding from the EU and the Australian Research Council,” Sotarauta continues.

Regional Growth against all the Odds: The Driving Forces of Long-term Growth in Nordic Regions

Where Does the Green Economy Grow? The Geography of Nordic Sustainability Transition (GONST)