Beer, A., Ayres, S., Clower, T., Faller, F., Sancino, A. & Sotarauta, M. 2019. Place leadership and regional economic development: a framework for cross-regional analysis. Regional Studies, 53:2, 171-182.
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 (ReGrow) [2017-2020]
Today’s economy is driven by knowledge-intensive activities such as ICT and biotechnology, or knowledge-intensive business services such as finance and consulting. These activities are concentrated in the main urban areas like Stockholm, Oslo and Helsinki. Other regions in the (semi-)periphery or such that are specialised in traditional industries struggle in finding their place in the modern economy.
This struggle is accompanied with a gloomy perspective for the job market. This concerns the quality and variety as well as the quantity of jobs that can be offered, and consequently implies that skilled labour increasingly moves to the main urban centres. These disparities between the centre and more peripheral regions challenge social and political structures.
The main urban areas, thus, offer the best structural preconditions for further growth in the modern economy. However, after taking the structural preconditions into account, a large share of regional growth differences remains unexplained: ‘Stubbornly high – and often growing – residuals in growth regressions have encouraged many scholars to look for additional factors that impinge on economic development and growth’ (Rodríguez-Pose 2013: 1036). This triggers the fundamental and overarching research question of this project: Why do some regions grow more (or less) than others with similar structural preconditions? We know surprisingly little about this essential question
The specific objectives of the project are: (a) To identify regions that in certain periods of time show exceptional high or low regional growth after considering structural preconditions; (b) To explain exceptional high or low growth in certain regions and time periods by focusing on the role of actors, networks, and institutions at multiple spatial scales (regional, national, global); and (c) To develop a context-sensitive model of regional economic growth that accounts explicitly for the regional heterogeneity and time dynamics
- Funding: Länförsäkningar, Sweden
- Partners: Lund University, Sweden; University of Tampere, Finland; University of Stavanger and BI Norwegian Business School, Norway