22 Apr 2014

New research just published by David Bailey at the Aston Business School and Nigel Berkeley at Coventry University suggests that regions and regional institutions can have a key role building economic resilience. The research is published in open-access form in the Association's flagship journal Regional Studies and can be found here

Our work examined the role of Regional Taskforces – particularly that in the West Midlands - in responding to the last recession. We examine the Taskforce’s work in relation to four dimensions of resilience:

In terms of ‘resistance’, it should be noted that the West Midlands region took one of the biggest ‘hits’ of any UK region, being especially exposed to both the manufacturing and trade downturn. In this sense, given both the scale of the downturn and limited resources available, the Taskforce could do little to cushion a region exposed to a major downturn.

However our work highlights that the Taskforce did, via the Regional Minister, provide significant input into the development of national level policy, hence could be seen as playing a useful, supporting role within a (limited) multi-level governance framework.

On the dimension of ‘recovery’, the region has witnessed a more rapid ‘bounce back’ in terms of forward looking confidence measures such as the Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), GDP growth and a fall in unemployment. While wider factors have been at work - notably the depreciation of sterling which has assisted the region’s manufacturers in terms of exports – certain Taskforce interventions could be seen as critical, for example in enabling key suppliers in the auto and other industries to survive and be able to respond more quickly when the upswing came, in a form of localised industrial policy that aimed to keep ‘strategic’ supply chain capacity in place.

On the renewal and reorientation dimension of resilience, Taskforce interventions assisted strategic firms – especially in the auto industry - reorientate towards higher value activities and to diversify into related markets such as aerospace.

This meant that firms attempted to move into markets where the region was better placed to compete (high value, niche and low carbon automotive being examples). The latter has assisted with ‘renewal’ in that this has enabled something of a shift to a new growth path for some industries focused on low carbon and higher value activities.

The research found that the Taskforce attempted to build on the earlier efforts of the Rover Taskforces and Regional Economic Strategy to attempt to promote greater adaptability where the regional response was part of broader effort to break free of a long-standing ‘path dependency’ or ‘lock in.’

There is a parallel with city and regional responses across OECD countries, where local leaders used the crisis to think differently, accelerate new ways of working, and escape from old paths. Such responses should be seen as part of a broader context where ‘resilient regions’ can be viewed as those which try to develop ‘transformative strategies’ that anticipate and prepare for the effects of adverse changes.

However, we caution that such ‘lessons’ for developing regional capacity to anticipate and respond to crises need to be set in the context of a rapidly changing and evolving policy landscape. They argue that the formation of a coalition government in 2010 marked an abrupt change in English regional development policy.

The key feature of this policy shift they argue was the decision to abolish English Regional Development Agencies (with the exception of that in London). In their place ‘Local Enterprise Partnerships’ (LEPs) have emerged operating at the sub-regional scale. In the West Midlands, for example, the RDA has been replaced with six LEPs.

Despite this language of ‘localism’, many of the powers held by English RDAs, for example, on industrial policy, inward investment, business support and other policy areas have been recentralised to London. Moreover, unlike RDAs, LEPs have had to operate without significant dedicated budgets.

Another issue is how better cooperation between smaller LEPs will actually be enforced, and how stronger LEPs will be incentivised to cooperate with weaker LEPs. The need for joint LEP working can also be evidenced in the regional data and intelligence legacy of the Taskforce.

Overall, Regional Development Agencies were often better positioned to make judgements about how best to offer support and to which clusters (and/or sectors) as they had a superior information base than central governments, as has been highlighted in the case of the West Midlands Regional Taskforce.

A key lesson of the Taskforce response, therefore, is that despite the retrenchment of national-level industrial policy and the shift to the national scale, there remains a role for regional level coordination of local (LEP) economic and cluster strategies, most obviously via some sort of intermediate tier infrastructure.

The research has particular salience in the context of debates over the role of LEPs and devolution to English cities. Labour, for example is calling for the return of regional ministers. That’s a good idea in terms of ensuring better communication between the regions and Westminster in what is otherwise a highly centralised system in England.

Professor David Bailey works at the Aston Business School. He has written extensively on economic restructuring and industrial and regional policy, especially in relation to manufacturing and the auto industry. He has been a regular columnist and blogger for The Birmingham Post and Coventry Telegraph newspapers, as well as Reuters. He was Chair of the Regional Studies Association over 2006-12 and is now an Honorary Vice-Chair, and an Editor of the Association’s flagship journal Regional Studies. Tweet him @dgbailey

15 Apr 2014

We are happy to announce that a specially organised Students & Early Careers Knowledge Exchange Session will be held along with RSA’s forthcoming Global Conference in Brazil between 27th and 30th April.

This Special Session, scheduled on the 28th April, is organised as one of a series of Students & Early Careers Social Events that are kindly sponsored by the RSA. The ultimate aims of the year-round Social Event Series are to provide a platform for students and early career members to share ideas with each other and with senior scholars; socialize with peer members; develop and disseminate their fascinating research; and learn practical skills from established academics.

This time, the Brazil Special Session will focus on knowledge exchange among students and early careers. The format of this special session will be a round-table discussion. Specifically, the round table will include:

1) A 5 minutes presentation of each of the attendees ‘Big Research Ideas’ or ‘Research Inspirations’;
2) A 5-10 minutes open discussions from our specially invited, well-established academics as commentators, as well as other students/early careers;
3) 10 minutes final summaries from the commentators and the chair of the session;
4) Travel insights of Brazil & local pubs suggestions for following up discussions, offered by our local students/early career participants
5) Feedback session for our Students & Early Career Social Events.

The event aims to provide an informed and relaxed environment for students and early careers to exchange ideas as well as receiving feedback from established scholars. Detail of some the students & early careers’ ‘Big Ideas’ are to follow. 

7 Apr 2014

This article is a guest post by Paul Braidford. He continues the discussion opened by his fellow editors at RSRS – Early Careers Papers Section, regarding the format and content of Early Career papers from the article length perspective.

In the last RSRS Early Career blog, Sabrina Lai set out what the editors are looking for from a proposal: meeting the instructions in our call, making sure that you have a regional focus, and aiming for excellence in your proposal and your paper.  I’m going to add an extra little wrinkle, prompted by an aspect of the Early Career Section that many of our authors have found challenging: the length of our articles.

Innovation, concision, communication

Or, to be more precise, the shortness of our articles. Say you’ve just written your own version of War and Peace in the shape of your PhD.  What we don’t want is the Reader’s Digest version of that. Nor a summary of the main findings of your research.  In the RSRS Early Career Section, you only have 3,000 words to get your message across. That’s less than half the length of a ‘typical’ journal article, if such a thing even exists.  So, the basis of an ideal paper is a good, fresh idea (and we do usually mean idea, not ideas).  One that lends itself to a short, punchy explanation which gets the main points across clearly but with an economy of expression.  We want something new, that gets the readership talking and gets your ideas noticed in the wider academic world. The article needs to show them that you can communicate the kernel of this idea, locate it within the relevant academic debates and tell us why the research matters for policy and practice, and contributes to taking our discipline forward.  And does all that without waffle, without needless digressions, without a ten-page literature review.

Focus, focus, focus!

That’s not too much to ask, is it?  Well, yes, it very easily can be.  Concision of expression is a skill which needs to be honed – and learning the techniques will serve you well in your future career.  One of the common comments to authors is that the proposal makes it look like the paper is trying to do too much.  There are three or four ideas vying for valuable space, and it is impossible to do them all justice, leading to an unsatisfying and shallow treatment of the research.  Or the author gets lost in a tangle trying to identify the real heart of the research, and ends up cramming in as much detail as possible in their allotted word count – which again leads to shallowness, and confusion.  The key to a good RSRS Early Career paper is to think hard about that core research idea right from the start, and cut away everything other than the most relevant details, and the most relevant debates in the literature.  Of course, there’s more to it than that – the editorial team still looks for scientific excellence, logical reasoning and everything else that journal articles require.  We just need all that in 3,000 words.

Paul Braidford (@chigley2) is a Senior Research Fellow at Durham University and Editor for the Early Career Papers Section of Regional Studies, Regional Science. 

3 Apr 2014

On Monday 24 March 2014  the Regional Studies Association’s Research Network on EU Cohesion Policy, organised a highly successful workshop on the new cycle of EU cohesion policy 2014-2020 hosted jointly by the Institute for European Studies and Cosmopolis at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

The programme put a strong emphasis on urban issues, with both keynote speeches and half of the sessions focused on the urban dimension of cohesion policy. The speakers included, among others, Jan Olbrycht, Member of the European Parliament and one of the most vocal proponents of development of an EU urban policy; Prof. Rob Atkinson from the University of the West of England, who was advising the European Commission on its new breed of instruments supporting urban initiatives; and Peter Berkowitz from DG REGIO, one of the key architects of the recent reform of EU cohesion policy.

The workshop gathered well over 50 participants and included a host of contributions from academics and practitioners on issues such as urban segregation; the nexus between urban scale, social innovation and urban space; multi-level governance; EU cohesion policy reform; and the implications of  the unprecedented decrease in public and private investment for the European regions and cities resulting from the on-going economic crisis. A video with the talk by Jan Olbrycht can be seen below.

18 Mar 2014

Regional Studies, Regional ScienceIssue 4(2) of Regional Insights marked the end of a 4-year long successful history of publication of short articles from Early Career scholars. As in the myth of the Phoenix, that was actually not an end, but rather the beginning of a new ambitious project, since the magazine is now being substituted for a dedicated section in the RSA’s new Open Access journal Regional Studies, Regional Science.

One of the consequences of the transition is that paper proposals accepted for the magazine are now in the pipeline of papers progressing towards publication in the journal, albeit at different stages in the constructive reviewing process which was at the core of Regional Insights and remains unaltered in RSRS. Therefore, the Early Career section of RSRS has inherited a pipeline consisting of 17 papers, out of which 14 come from European scholars (from Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, The Netherlands, UK ) and only three from the rest of the world (Canada, Korea, New Zealand).

Under the first RSRS call for paper proposals, which closed on February 15, 28 proposals were submitted: 20 from European scholars (from Denmark, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Republic of Kosovo, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, UK ) and 8 from non-Europeans (from Colombia, Ecuador, China, Nigeria, USA). If this first RSRS call is anything to go by, then we hope that many more Early Career scholars in the Americas, in Africa, in Asia or in Australia will grasp the terrific opportunity that RSRS offers, that to have their article published in an online journal freely available to the wider scientific community, and to have a deeper understanding of the craft of writing thanks to the constructive review, and therefore we do look forward to an increasing number of submissions from these countries in the next calls for paper proposals.

In order to be accepted, a paper proposal must compete with the others, and we are delighted to remark that the scientific level of proposals has risen in parallel to the number of submissions, so the competition for acceptance is even harder than it was in the past. For this reason, I would like to close this post with some tips on what we, as editors, look forward to seeing in a paper proposal.

First, proposals should follow the instructions - this means that authors are strongly invited to read carefully the call: if, for instance, you send an abstract or a full paper, you’re definitely bound to rejection. Second, make sure that your proposal has a clear regional dimension and geographical focus - after all, you’re submitting to a journal titled “Regional Studies, Regional Science”, aren’t you? Third, clearly state your fresh idea and make a case for the reason the paper would be of interest to the readers, for instance novelty in terms of topic or place. Fourth, show signs of excellence in your proposal: good and recent references, sound methodologies, robust reasoning are always sought for and very much appreciated!

Sabrina Lai, Cagliari, 14th March 2014.

Sabrina Lai is a Research Fellow at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Architecture of the University of Cagliari, Italy, and one of the editors of the Early Career Section of RSRS.

11 Mar 2014

As part of our new communications strategy and objective of involving more RSA members in the Association's actions, we are currently looking for RSA members with expertise in assessing the challenges and opportunities in the achievement of United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Between 3 February and 16 March 2014, UN DESA and UNDP are moderating an e-discussion aimed at Addressing ongoing and emerging challenges for meeting the Millennium Development Goals in 2015 and for sustaining development gains in the future". The RSA wishes to respond focusing mainly on the role and importance of institutions. The full description and context of the e-discussion can be consulted here.

As an Association we want to respond to this e-discussion, and give feedback based on the accumulated knowledge of our members. All contributions will be credited to the authors, but the response will be made on the behalf of the RSA.

If your expertise covers this field and you wish to participate in this discussion please contact Daniela Carl for more details.

3 Mar 2014

As we all know this year is the start of the new programming period inside the EU, more precisely the 2014-2020 period. This programming period is dominated by the Europe 2020 Strategy, which sets out and promotes a more Smart, Sustainable and Inclusive Growth across the EU and its partners, and was adopted as the main strategy for future development. It is no wonder than that the European Structural & Investment Funds (ESIF) will be regulated for the 2014-2020 period based on this strategy and its principles.

Europe 2020

Europe 2020 is a 10 year strategy, that could be said to have come as a response of the EU to the economic and social difficulties that risen to the surface between 2000 and 2010. But at the same time it is perceived as a new model for addressing and creating a new type of growth, a smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. You can read more on the Europe 2020 Strategy, its principles, targets and flagship initiatives here, on the European Commission's website.

2014-2020 European Structural & Investment Funds

After long and difficult negotiations the European Parliament and the Council agreed upon the Regulations on December 17th, 2013. The full texts of these regulations can be consulted on EUR-Lex. The Regulations were published in the Official Journal L 347, on 20th December 2013.

The Regulations include:

·         Common provisions regulation (CPR): Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013
·         ERDF Regulation: Regulation (EU) No 1301/2013
·         ESF Regulation: Regulation (EU) No 1304/2013
·         ETC Regulation: Regulation (EU) No 1299/2013
·         EGTC Regulation: Regulation (EU) No 1302/2013
·         Cohesion Fund Regulation: Council Regulation (EU) No 1300/2013
·         EAFRD Regulation: Regulation (EU) No 1305/2013

Full descriptions with links, as well as links to additional documents can be found on DG Regio's page dedicated to the Cohesion Policy 2014-2020 legislation.

In an overall perspective these regulations cover the listing of the thematic objectives set out in line with the Europe 2020 Strategy, the guidelines and content guides for the Agreement Partnerships, the operational programmes, and the specificities of each fund and priorities.

Changes of the Cohesion Policy 2014-2020 

The European Commission promoted the 2014-2020 policy as an innovation. Multiple changes were promoted and adopted, and their listing would be difficult and tedious. For purposes of presentation the EC put together an infographic that emphasizes the main changes and the new direction the Policy has taken for this programming period.

The full presentation of these changes would be a difficult task in the context of this blog post. However, there are four main aspects that deserve mentioning.

3 (new) types of regions

The regions have been redefined and their statute in terms of eligibility and allocation has been thus simplified. We now have 3 types of regions:

·         less developed regions,  GDP/head < 75 % of EU-27 average
·         transition regions, GDP/head between 75 % & 90 % of EU-27 average
·         more developed regions, GDP/head >= 90 % of EU-27 average

Focus through thematic objectives

All national programming documents are to choose their objectives and develop priorities based on a limited list of thematic objectives, which come in support of the Europe 2020 Strategy's objectives and targets:

  1. strengthening research, technological development and innovation;
  2. enhancing access to, and use and quality of, ICT;
  3. enhancing the competitiveness of SMEs, of the agricultural sector (for the EAFRD) and of the fishery and aquaculture sector (for the EMFF);
  4. supporting the shift towards a low-carbon economy in all sectors;
  5. promoting climate change adaptation, risk prevention and management;
  6. preserving and protecting the environment and promoting resource efficiency;
  7. promoting sustainable transport and removing bottlenecks in key network infrastructures;
  8. promoting sustainable and quality employment and supporting labour mobility;
  9. promoting social inclusion, combating poverty and any discrimination;
  10. investing in education, training and vocational training for skills and lifelong learning;
  11. enhancing institutional capacity of public authorities and stakeholders and efficient public administration.


The new Cohesion Policy prides itself to be simplified in order to better address the needs through efficient implementation and targeting.

Emphasizing the role of local communities & territorial cooperation

Cooperation has always been an important part of Cohesion Policy, but new approaches towards multi-level governance and its territorial implications pushed the further development of old and new instruments (i.e. Integrated Territorial Investments – ITI, Community-led Local Development – CLLD) aimed at local communities and administrations, emphasizing their role in the implementation of ESIF projects and Europe 2020 Strategy.

Eligibility & Allocation

The regulations mentioned above also cover the eligibility and allocations aspects of the ESIF, according to the new categorization of the NUTS2 regions. For more details you can consult the maps below, and the table regarding the funding allocation per country, made available on the DG Regio's page regarding eligibility and allocation under the 2014-2020 Cohesion Policy.

2014-2020 Structural Funds (ERDF and ESF) eligibility
Source: EC / DG Regio,  http://bit.ly/1fBOUoT
2014-2020 Cohesion Fund eligibility
Source: EC / DG Regio,  http://bit.ly/1fBOUoT

27 Feb 2014

This is a blog post by Paul Benneworth, covering the latest article in Regional Studies, Regional Science and the opportunities given by this new Open Access Journal. 

New title in Regional Studies, Regional Science by Bazak Ozkul

The regional studies paper I have been most interested in this week is Bazak Ozkul’s recently published paper “Changing home to work travel in England and Wales”. It is published in the RSA’s new Open Access journal Regional Studies, Regional Science, and can be viewed free-of-charge by all here.

Basak’s piece draws in part on research that was presented at the RSA’s 2012 European Conference last year in Delft, and which won the award for best Early Career Paper in conference. But what really excited me about the piece was that it demonstrated the value of the Early Career Article section of the journal, in which I have been involved.

Some background information on the Regional Insights initiative

In 2010, the RSA launched the Early Career magazine Regional Insights, which sought to make student members’ and early career members’ research more visible and accessible to the wider community. Although we included comment, book review and career development tips, the heart of Regional Insights was always the feature articles, which settled down to a format of 3 pages.

To give our authors the best chance of making an impact, we had deliberately adopted a formative publishing approach, where papers were not simply accepted or rejected, but authors were supported in making improvements. Each paper began life as a 1,000 word proposal, and then those selected proceeded to produce a full 3,000 word paper.

A corresponding editor from the editorial team would work with the author to suggest improvements until the paper was almost ready. As a last quality check, a second editor would review its readiness for publication, and once approved it would be published in the next available issue.

Although we always had faith that we would be a success for our authors, we were always impressed by the high quality of material we were able to publish. Speaking to members at conferences and meetings, we also realised that the whole membership saw the value in early career publications that were published during – not at the end of – the research process.

Regional Studies, Regional Science - a new perspective on (open-access) online publishing

But we were still delighted when in Autumn last year, we were delighted to be invited to participate in the new Open Access journal. It had always chafed a bit that Regional Insights papers were not more visible – they seemed to languish in the magazine without collecting the citations and making the impact that we felt they deserved.

So the Open Access platform seemed ideal for helping with this, and maximising our authors’ visibility and impact in our scholarly community. The papers are available free at the point of use and in perpetuity to everyone, everywhere.

RSRS is a journal, and we have further added to our quality processes in the spirit of constructive review: there is a final review by all the editors, both of the early career section, but also the journal’s Editors-in-Chief.

And we didn’t start from scratch – we have spent the last six months transitioning from operating as a print magazine to an Open Access journal, and our launch authors, including Basak, have met these new quality requirements admirably. We have several papers now in the pipeline, and anticipate publishing around 10-15 new early career articles this year.

The big stumbling block for Open Access is who pays, and that is still an open question. To prevent it becoming an issue for Early Career authors, the Association has generously provided us with an interim bursary fund; we are able to help authors who cannot secure their own institutional support to publish with us.

So we hope that more of our members will take advantage of the tremendous opportunities that this platform offers. We have three calls for abstracts per year, and aim that from abstract acceptance to publication will be one year.

We accept proposals from any student or early career members, and more details on how to apply are available here. The next deadline is 15th June 2014, and we hope that many more of you will consider publishing in this exciting new opportunity!

Paul Benneworth, Enschede, 27th February 2014.

Paul Benneworth is a Senior Research Associate at the Center for Higher Education Policy Studies (CHEPS) at the University of Twente, the Netherlands.