16 Feb 2017

Michael Taster, University of Sheffield, UK
At a time when the Regional Studies Association and its members are coming to terms with the fallout from Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. Events, which have challenged the legitimacy of 'expert' academic knowledge and ushered in a supposed era of post-truth (raising the obvious question, was there ever an era of truth?). One might be forgiven for having overlooked a report innocuously entitled, 101 Innovations in Scholarly Communication. However, what this research project describes, are a number of trends that are beginning to influence not only how academic research is communicated, but the ways in which academics create, share and value knowledge. In short, it provides a glimpse of how academics might reposition themselves and their knowledge in a changing world.

Before considering these innovations, it is important to clarify what is actually meant by the term scholarly communication. Broadly speaking, since the publication of the first scholarly journals in the 17th century, the term has often been bound up with the idea of scholarly publication, or the physical manufacture of books and journal articles and the transfer of knowledge via the medium of print. The act of scholarly communication has therefore often been associated with technical intermediaries, such as the publishers who make these products. However, an alternate definition sees scholarly communication as a much broader arc of written and non-written practices, ranging from informal conversations between academics, to the post-publication assessment and integration of research into an established corpus of knowledge. The ongoing development and application of digital communication technologies for scholarly research, especially those associated with the user generated content of web 2.0 platforms, such as YouTube and Wordpress, have made this range of processes increasingly visible and has drawn new actors into what was previously a closed relationship between academics and scholarly publishers.[1] For this reason, whereas, for previous generations, scholarly communication could simply mean delegated print publication, it now means scholars can engage personally with a host of new communication channels.

This shift is outlined by this report, which documents the results of a large scale international survey of over 20,000 academics focused on their use of digital tools for scholarly communication. The report not only highlights the sheer variety of tools that are now available to academics,[2] but also shows that these tools are being created by different service providers; from traditional academic publishers, scholar and government led initiatives, to new commercial entrants. A significant feature of the report, is its ongoing analysis of how these digital tools are used in relation to each other. To achieve this, the authors consider how tools are designed to meet the needs of different aspects of an academic workflow. This workflow is constituted of six stages: discovery, analysis, writing, publication, outreach and assessment. Thus, tools contribute to different elements of the academic workflow and can be combined, in ways the authors suggest could make scholarly communication more efficient, open and good.

These developments can be seen as an extension and augmentation of existing scholarly practices, merely doing the same things, but in a streamlined digital environment. However, they also raise fundamental questions about how academic research is undertaken and communicated. As Nietzsche remarked after adopting an early version of the typewriter, "our writing instruments contribute to our thoughts." In this instance, the implications of a wide ranging change in communication media and formats on academic thought is only beginning to be understood.

The need to examine the concepts of efficiency, openness and goodness and the tools that hope to achieve these ends is therefore imperative. Taking the first of these benefits, efficiency. Digital tools that speed up and improve the ability to cycle through the academic workflow of discovery, analysis, writing, publication and outreach are to be welcomed. However, it immediately raises the question of value. For, if the value of research outputs was unknown, it would be impossible to improve the efficiency of their production. The valuation of academic research is commonly achieved through the use of metrics, historically, through the use of measures based on academic citations, but increasingly through the use of altmetrics, which measure the uptake and usage of different research outputs as well as journal articles and their use by non academic audiences. Significantly, these metrics are often generated by the selfsame tools that offer greater efficiencies. Thus, ResearchGate, an academic social network that can be used to share and discover the research of likeminded scholars, provides users with an RG score, which measures your "leverage and standing within the scientific community".[3] Metrics are neither good nor bad in and of themselves, but their application by scholars and their institutions can have profound effects. In particular, the potential for new tools to shape incentives has led to a critique of metrics that highlights their role in the acceleration of academic life and the creation of a research culture focused on producing short term instrumental outputs that are easily quantifiable. Furthermore, in cases where the calculations underlying these metrics remain hidden for commercial reasons, as in the case of Academia.edu, it raises ethical questions regarding the undue influence of corporate interests on academic behaviours.

The second point of openness poses further important questions. In a time of alternate facts and contested truths, openness is presented as a potential cure. This point derives from two conceptions of openness, openness of research processes and openness of research findings. Thus platforms such as, F1000 and Publons make peer review processes public, SocArXiv allows researchers to publically share preprints of papers and FigShare and GitHub make supplementary datasets and code available. These tools serve to reveal research processes that were effectively concealed by traditional print publishing. On the other side of the equation, open access publishing is making research outputs increasingly available to audiences previously excluded by journal subscriptions. It is proposed, that the kinds of continuous dialogical exchanges enabled by these tools, will bring research closer to practice and flatten the intellectual hierarchies that have resulted in academics being painted as aloof and out of touch with wider society. However, by opening up the black box of academic research practices, it is unclear whether academic authority in the social sciences will be enhanced, or simply absorbed into public debate. What this entails for a society such as the RSA, which seeks to be a leading and impactful community that contributes to the body of expert knowledge available to regional policy makers is unclear. Although, it does suggest that current paradigms focused on the role of regional scholars in evidenced based policy making may need to updated and expanded in the face of new forms of communication.

This leads to the final point of goodness, or quality. The authors of the paper define good research, as research that is transparent and reproducible. These kinds of definitions are more suited to research in the natural sciences than to social science and regional studies. Regional knowledge in some instances can be judged by the effectiveness of its application to policy problems, although the ability to measure these impacts is limited and the potential for reproducing their results are next to impossible. More often, regional knowledge is judged as a social relation, or on its ability persuade and influence others. As we have seen, metrics can serve as proxy indicators for these kinds of relationships, but quality judgements in reality emerge from a richer variety of reciprocal relationships that occur throughout the academic workflow. Thus, conference presentations, peer review processes and editorial lines, all produce circuits of feedback that serve to establish judgements of quality and what constitutes good research. Whereas, traditionally, these lines of feedback have been largely contained within journal based academic communities, innovations in scholarly communications suggest the potential for creating much larger disaggregated and digitally networked communities for determining the overall quality of scholarly knowledge. This poses the question, are the two systems mutually exclusive?

The short answer seems to be not yet. Predictions for a revolution in scholarly communications have been in existence since at least the 1990s and change has proved to be incremental. However, the current trends demonstrated in this report suggest that the hybridization of different forms of scholarly communication is becoming more common. On an individual level, some scholars have adopted elements of digital communication to great effect, for instance Alasdair Rae's use of social media to demonstrate data visualization techniques @undertheraedar. Scholarly societies are also beginning to incorporate such platforms, as with the RSA's collaboration with Kudos. As the authors of the paper suggest, it is important for scholars to at least sensitize themselves to these innovations, partly to reap the potential benefits offered by new forms of communication, but also to ensure that the development of these tools is determined by the needs of scholars, rather than the needs of scholars being determined by the technology and the business models of their tools.

[1] A good example of this being the report itself, which collates outputs from across a range of platforms onto a Wordpress account.
[2] For the full list of over 400 such tools see here
[3] ResearchGate, RG score FAQ: https://www.researchgate.net/RGScore/FAQ

Duncan Bowie, Chair of the RSA London and South East Branch

There is now a deep crisis in housing supply in many parts of England. The response unfortunately is far short of what’s needed. Policy proposals championed by Government and many commentators are either just tinkering with the problem, or will exacerbate the situation.
We have not learnt the lessons of the 2008 credit crunch and failed to understand the fundamental deficiencies of the current system. Indeed, we would have still faced a housing deficit whether the country had been in boom or bust. The only way ahead is by embracing radical policy change. It is time to throw off long held ideological assumptions as to ideal forms of tenure and the relationship of state to market. While there has been widespread opposition to the Government’s recent legislation both within parliament and from professional and campaigning groups, there is less certainty as to what the alternative is and how we would get there.
There is a systemic housing problem which cannot be corrected by short term measures. More radical solutions are necessary if the housing market is to be stabilised and the delivery of new homes increased. We also need to recognise that if we are to tackle inequity in wealth and opportunities, we need to tackle inequity in housing which is now the central component in inequity between households both within and between geographical areas. It is also central to the growth in inter-generational inequality.
The first priority must be to repeal the 2016 Housing and Planning Act, with the exception of the rogue landlord clauses. Gavin Barwell MP, the new housing and planning Minister has realised that this legislation will do nothing to increase housing supply. Indeed, if actually implemented, it would reduce both social housing supply and the security of new social housing tenants.
The second priority is to redirect current Government housing investment and increase the overall level. This means stopping all forms on subsidy, whether direct or indirect to owner occupied properties and new development for individual or corporate private ownership. Any financial assistance by Government to home ownership or private rented housing should be in the form of an equity stake by a public body, with the equity stake repayable to that public body (i.e. the public body receives its share in any value uplift on resale).
Discounted sale of council and housing association housing constitutes a subsidy to home ownership, by which the purchaser makes the capital gain, and should be terminated. The Starter Homes Initiative which also involves financial support for home purchasers who can then capitalise on market value on sale representing a 20% uplift on purchase price as well as any other gain in market value, should also be terminated.
The Government should reinstate a programme of capital grant to social rented provision through councils and housing associations on the basis of secure tenancies and controlled rents. The level of grant should be on the basis of covering the capital costs of development not covered by capitalised rent income over a 60-year period. This in effect would be a reintroduction of the mixed funding regime running on a system of cost indicators as operated by the former Housing Corporation. Borrowing by the council or housing association would then be entirely fundable from rent income, without recourse to the need to cross-subsidise from other sources, such as through agreements with developers, income from sale of market homes or shared ownership equity or from disposal of other assets. Government limits on local authority borrowing to support investment should be removed and replaced by a prudential borrowing regime where local authorities and other public sector bodies can borrow against the security of their assets and income.
The third priority should be a systematic reform of policy on planning and land. The Government should draw up a national spatial plan which identified general locations for residential and employment growth supported by planned transport, social and utilities infrastructure. The national spatial plan would need to ensure consistency between social, economic and environmental sustainability objectives and be an integrated housing, employment, infrastructure, transport and environmental plan. It would guide national decisions on infrastructure funding and set a framework for the development of regional, sub-regional and local plans.
Local Planning Authorities should be required to allocate housing sites to meet the full housing requirements in their area, or, where this is not possible, reach agreement with neighbouring authorities in their sub-regional or city regional planning area as to identification of residential development capacity. The government should determine these joint planning areas based on travel to work areas and a statutory requirement imposed on the authorities within each area to undertake a combined assessment of housing requirements, a combined assessment of development capacity and should agree on site allocations, based on consistent density and sustainable development criteria. Where agreement cannot be reached, central government should have the power to determine local planning authority residential development targets and site allocations. Local planning authorities should be required to prepare planning briefs for all housing sites, setting out the requirements by built form, density, dwelling size and type and tenure/ affordability based on the assessment of housing requirements in their area. Development proposals which are not in conformity with these briefs should be refused.
Local planning authorities should also have the power to compulsorily acquire any housing site allocated in an approved plan at Existing Use Value (EUV). This is essential if the cost of development in higher value areas is to be reduced significantly. Where a Local Planning Authority grants planning consent for a private development, they should have the power to take an equity stake in the development, so part of any subsequent value uplift is repayable to the authority. This could be used as an alternative to agreeing a planning obligation or requiring payment of Community Infrastructure Levy. There should be a mandatory new minimum standard for all new residential development, irrespective of tenure or location. This should include internal space standards, amenities standards and environmental standards. These should apply to residential units provided through conversion of non-residential premises
The fourth priority should be to reform the regime of land and property tax so it supports housing policy objectives rather than obstructs them. Stamp duty on purchase of residential property should be replaced by a tax on the capital gain on land and property on disposal. Inheritance tax should be revised to increase the tax on the transfer of land and residential property through inheritance. The option of reintroducing schedule A income tax based on the imputed rental value of owner-occupied dwellings should be considered. Valuation of property for the purposes of council tax should be up-rated to reflect current values. There is also a case for the level of council tax being related more explicitly to the size of the dwelling in terms of floor space.
Higher rates of taxes should be introduced for higher value property. Rates of tax on individual property should take into account the level of occupation of properties – properties which are under-occupied to be subject to a multiplier relating to the level of under occupation, with penal rates for vacant property. There should be no limits on the ability of local authorities to set rates of council tax. This would enhance local democracy and reduce the dependence of local authorities on grant from central government.
The core components of reform to the housing market and housing supply are land, ownership, money and power. These are fundamental issues, and any proposition, whether from Government, political parties, academics or practitioners, which fails to operate within these parameters will be inadequate. We must return to a housing policy based on effective use of residential accommodation rather than a policy based on individual asset appreciation.
Duncan Bowie is senior lecturer in spatial planning at the University of Westminster and the author of ‘Radical solutions to the housing supply crisis’.
This article was written for the Webb Memorial Trust and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Poverty as part of the 75th anniversary of the Beveridge Report and is part of a series of articles we will be running in the coming weeks.

15 Feb 2017

It’s great to be part of the RSA as I have the opportunity to visit some amazing places. In December last year, I went on RSA tour to Chile to visit our recently appointed ambassador Miguel Atienza. Miguel is working at the Facultad de Economía y Administración at the Universidad Católica del Norte in Antofagasta in northern Chile.

The department is one of only a few in Chile with a regional and urban focus. The research activity of the Department is done by the Institute of Applied Regional Economics (IDEAR), created in 1996 and, nowadays the main research centre on Regional Studies in Chile. IDEAR is composed by ten PhD researchers focused on the analysis of regional and urban inequality, development policies and research methodology and techniques in regional studies www.idearucn.com.

Miguel’s research centre focuses on the development of peripheral regions with a particular focus on mining activities and the role of multinational companies in this. Being located in Antofagasta, which is a hub for copper mining and non-metallic minerals such as nitrate and iodine, these topics are fascinating and very pertinent indeed.

If you want to find out more about Miguel’s work or the RSA activities in Chile, then please reach out to him via email at miatien@ucn.cl

Photo: Students and staff at the Facultad de Economía y Administración, Universidad Católica del Norte

 Antofagasta, where Miguel is based, is the capital of the Antofagasta Province and Region. When silver was discovered some 150 years ago, the city was founded as a service town for the mining industry. The mining industry still dominates the region, drives development and the future of the city, a tricky dependency strongly linked to the fluctuation of the copper price.

So, the search is on for Antofagasta for a sustainable alternative to the mining industry. Ideally to keep the youth in the city who currently leave as soon as they can to move to major hubs further south.  Similar problems are well known from other parts of the world where for example entrepreneurial hubs where set up to increase the attractiveness and job market of a region. If you are interested in the work done in Antofagasta regarding entrepreneurship and SMEs then reach out to Gianni Romani Chocce, Director Centre for Entrepreneurship and SME at the Universidad Católica del Norte via email at gachocce@ucn.cl.

Photo: Night sky Antofagasta

While in Antofagasta, we went on a trip to a former mining town in the Atacama Desert called Chacabuco. Founded in the 1920s, this former nitrate town was set up by the Anglo Nitrate Company to provide all its workers needed. It was noticeable at the time for its size, production capacity and the quality of housing. The town had its own currency and all facilities were run by the company, a clever way to keep the money ‘in house’. There was a hospital, library, hotel and even a theater offering distractions from the daily grind such as performances by international stars like Enrico Caruso.

Photo: Map of Chacabuco

When the nitrate boom came to a halt at the end of the 1930s, the town fell into ruin and was deserted in 1940. A destiny several other nitrate towns in Antofagasta’s hinterland shared.

In 1971 then the ghost town was declared a national monument. However, history had a twist up its sleeve for Chacabuco when between 1973-1974 Pinochet ‘recycled’ the town’s facilities as a concentration camp and housed over 2,000 political prisoners. Many of them were killed and the bullet holes from executions are still visible today. A fascinating place full of history and well worth a visit.

Photo: Chacabuco’s workers’ quarter

Regional Policy and related issues in Chile
While visiting, I learned that Chile as an emerging economy and powerhouse within Latin America faces particular issues of a growing population which go hand in hand with a rapid urbanisation. According to research by the OECD (2013), already 77% of its population live in urban areas.

The solution, according to the OECD (2013), are growth-oriented initiatives and policies that focus on urban areas of different sizes to spread the benefits.

In addition, a problem that is slowing down development at a regional level is the centrist approach to subnational policies where smallest improvements must be ordered from Santiago. Not surprising then that influential mining companies step in to solve infrastructural problems. Such local development initiatives which are in the interest of the mining companies are often without any long -term sustainable vision for the city, region, country.

In fact, when a mine becomes inefficient to run, it is common that the company and its entourage move on to the next site without cleaning up or transforming the old site back to its previous state. In addition, the money these mining companies make is rarely fed back into the regions. In essence, these companies take what they need and leave behind major environmental burdens for the country to deal with. I wonder how long this can go on.

The recommendations by the OECD in their 2013 report address the lack of a policy and call for an effective planning policy that finds a balance between national, regional and local interests as well as between public and private interests.

Other issues the country faces are the need for investment in the education sector and human capital. Basic state education is free but of low quality. Many who can afford it send their kids to private schools and universities. As a result, the gap in society widens and inequalities and poverty increase.

Being aware of such issues, of course, is the first step towards solutions. There is another silver lining ahead as the RSA aims to activate more researchers in Chile to become part of our community, to influence policy makers, to write in our journals and to make their voices heard.

So, watch this space and maybe see you soon in Chile!

Daniela Carl, Deputy CEO, Regional Studies Association

OECD (2013) OECD Urban Policy Reviews: Chile. Available online at www.oecd-ilibrary.org/urban-rural-and-regional-development/oecd-urban-policy-reviews_23069341

Vilches, F. (2011) From nitrate town to internment camp: the cultural biography of Chacabuco, northern Chile. Journal of Material Culture. Vol. 16, Issue 3. Available online at http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1359183511412879?etoc=&

31 Jan 2017

Professor Ivan Turok, Executive Director of the Economic Performance and Development Programme, Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa
Editor-in-Chief, Regional Studies

Email: iturok@hsrc.ac.za

A series of extraordinary challenges and risks are coming together and causing great uncertainty across the world. The anaemic and unbalanced recovery from the 2008 financial crisis has produced turbulent international markets. The instability coincides with a longer trend of rising social inequality, which is provoking discontent and disaffection in many regions and nations. There are multiple targets of this resentment, including international trade, refugees, business elites and the political establishment. The backlash is apparent in rising populism and nostalgic nationalism, resulting in protectionism, currency wars and resistance to immigration.

The Regional Studies journal was launched 50 years ago into a very different environment of relatively high and stable economic growth, when the benefits were shared more equally. This was an optimistic era of full employment, rising prosperity and diminishing regional inequalities. It was also a period of relative political stability and ignorance of global warming. Regional Studies was intended to stimulate research on how space, place and location mattered to economies and societies.

The 50th anniversary special issue of Regional Studies published this month reflects back on developments over this period and offers signposts for urban and regional research looking ahead. It outlines the changing international context for regional studies and identifies ways in which regional research is made more compelling by the threats and uncertainties confronting the world today, and the many anxieties facing localities and regions.

This is clearly a period of flux, in which circumstances are changing rapidly and unpredictably. Globalisation is under particular scrutiny, following decades during which regions and nations became intertwined through cross-border flows of trade, capital, labour, technology and information. The increasing openness of territorial boundaries and the integration of world markets rewarded highly-educated groups, well-positioned city-regions and selected emerging economies, shown by the rise of China. But freer trade and financial deregulation also caused volatility and instability. Deindustrialisation, privatisation and welfare reductions in many advanced economies enlarged social and spatial divisions and left working class communities worse off. People were told that governments can’t buck the market, and that there is no alternative.

Falling transport costs, human mobility and digital technologies prompted many economists to predict the death of distance and the demise of cities and regions. Geographers proposed more permeable concepts of the region, and focused more on the flows and relationships between regions. Intensified competition for trade, talent and investment amplified regional disparities by raising the stakes for winning, and leaving less-favoured places with lower wages and lost jobs, thereby fuelling the sense of injustice and anger. Regional research became a multi-disciplinary endeavour covering a range of disciplines beyond economic geography.

The impetus to hyper-globalisation has stalled since the Great Recession. Economic fragility, financial austerity and the rise of emerging economies in the East provoke fear and frustration in the West. People feel buffeted by forces beyond their control and increasingly question the benefits of interconnected world markets. Resentment towards new waves of immigration and international institutions is rising, epitomised by Brexit, despite the academic consensus that this is not in Britain’s interests.

Global trade and capital flows are being forced into reverse by rising protectionism and the dismantling of free-trade agreements, exemplified by the first steps of the Trump Presidency. At the very time when international cooperation is vital to mitigate the risks of climate change, illicit financial flows, escalating refugee crises and mounting threats to security and peace, popular opinion seems to favour going it alone. Enlightened thinking also risks being crowded out by uncompromising, partisan and chauvinistic reactions to unfolding events.

The implications for cities and regions of the fracturing of the international order are highly uncertain. Resurgent popular nationalism could inhibit foreign investment, access to external markets and scarce skills. It could force more reliance on local capabilities and domestic production. Patriotic impulses that challenge ossified structures and global cartels could potentially provoke a resurgence of regional enterprise and organic growth. Well-conceived policy reforms that disrupt business inertia could engender a wave of innovation and creativity based on smaller-scale production. Dynamic regional multipliers might be spurred by efforts to localise resource flows so as to secure the supply of food and scarce materials, to cut energy consumption and to regenerate degraded ecosystems – boosting the ‘circular economy’. Democratic constraints on business short-termism may also curb financial speculation and encourage longer-term investment in the real economy.

Furthermore, international disengagement might serve to bolster local and regional identities and renew a sense of place and belonging. This could elevate the obligations on civic leaders and rebuild confidence in the role of city and regional institutions. Against this, heightened perceptions of fear and insecurity could foster a ‘new tribalism’ through separatist movements, ethnic tensions, insurgent splinter groups and other inward-looking forces that escalate conflict and pull countries and regions apart. Much depends on whether democratic institutions are capable of responding to the genuine concerns of citizens and can meld different interests and values together in pursuit of shared agendas, collective solutions and a new social contract.

The case for regional studies is accentuated in all these scenarios. Systematic analyses of how different territories are adapting to the unravelling of globalisation and introducing more holistic and resilient strategies to cope with the turbulence are urgently needed. The world is also undergoing other complex transitions: towards a lower carbon future; an increasingly urban milieu; unprecedented technological advances; cultural intermingling, and new global geopolitical alliances. A new era is emerging in which the rules of the game are being rewritten. New relationships are being established between politics and the economy, between state institutions and markets, and between different places and territories. The regional dimension has been neglected in recent commentaries, but whether regions have the capabilities to influence these transitions and manage the risks they entail will have a major bearing on the outcome. The Regional Studies editorial team would welcome proposals for papers and special issues addressing the themes of regional transitions, shifting state-market relationships and new inter-regional connections in the context of stalled globalisation.

Professor Ivan Turok is Editor-in-Chief of Regional Studies and Executive Director at the Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa.

You can read the 50th anniversary special issue here.

Ivan Turok, David Bailey, Jennifer Clark, Jun Du, Ugo Fratesi, Michael Fritsch, John Harrison, Tom Kemeny, Dieter Kogler, Arnoud Lagendijk, Tomasz Mickiewicz, Ernest Miguelez, Stefano Usai & Fiona Wishlade

Michael Keating

Anssi Paasi & Jonathan Metzger

Ron Boschma, Lars Coenen, Koen Frenken & Bernhard Truffer

Andy Pike, Andrés Rodríguez-Pose & John Tomaney

Edward L. Glaeser & Bryce Millett Steinberg

Michael Dunford & Weidong Liu

Richard Florida, Patrick Adler & Charlotta Mellander

Riccardo Crescenzi & Simona Iammarino

Eric Knight & Dariusz Wójcik

Alessandra Faggian, Isha Rajbhandari & Kathryn R. Dotzel

Chia-Lin Chen & Roger Vickerman

David Gibbs & Kirstie O’Neill

Dimitris Ballas, Danny Dorling & Benjamin Hennig

20 Jan 2017

Edward Jones
Bartlett School of Planning, University College London, UK


Ed Jones manages the RSA’s Brexit and Industrial Strategy site http://brexit.regionalstudies.org/  and is keen to hear from researchers and policymakers working on issues related to Brexit, Industrial Strategy and Regional Policy.


Theresa May’s ‘new industrial strategy’ – wait and see?

In the midst of all the uncertainties and political jostling which followed the Brexit vote a new commitment to industrial strategy was born. Less than a month after the referendum, Theresa May launched her bid to become Prime Minister with the promise of a ‘proper industrial strategy to get the whole economy firing’, which will deliver strong growth ‘in all parts of the country’.[1] On assuming office, May rebranded and refocused the Department of Energy and Climate Change to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, a move which signals that climate change will be taking a back seat to the new imperative of developing and delivering an industrial strategy. A new cabinet committee has been set up to steer the process, tasked with ‘promoting a diversity of industrial sectors and ensuring the benefits of growth are shared across cities and regions up and down the country’.[2] But as the febrile atmosphere of last summer ebbed away, little flesh has been put onto the bones of these initial announcements.
Greg Clark, the Secretary of State responsible for the new industrial strategy, gave a few hints in his autumn speech to the Conservative Party Conference. The strategy will recognise that ‘the needs of Cornwall are different from those of Birmingham’, and promises ‘upgrades’ in infrastructure, education and training, and in the development and regeneration of Britain’s towns and cities.[3] May’s further announcements cemented the link between industrial strategy and the need to enable growth nationwide, rather than in a select few cities and regions. She promised to create the conditions where ‘winners’ can emerge ‘across all sectors, in all parts of the country and for the benefit of all.’ The government will ‘proactively support’ the ‘industries of the future’ as well as those where the UK enjoys a competitive advantage.[4] R&D will be boosted, innovative firms will be rewarded through the tax system, and start-ups will be transformed into successful scale-ups.[5]
So, to sum up, the new industrial strategy will foster growth in every part of the country, with the government providing proactive support to an as yet undefined set of industries through measures including improved education, infrastructure, and support for scale-ups. So far so vague. The coming weeks and months will hopefully bring greater clarity on the nature of May’s proposals, articulating differences with the approaches taken by the Cameron administrations, and allowing the likely winners and losers of May’s strategy to be identified. What is clear is that the impetus for (and legitimacy of) May’s industrial strategy lies in a general discontent that economic opportunity and the fruits of prosperity are enjoyed by the usual suspects – the parts of the country that have weathered the storms of deindustrialisation, financial crisis and austerity better than others. She has committed to tackle this disparity head-on.
A similar sense of unease with the status quo lies behind Trump’s economic policies. The now President campaigned with vivid descriptions of the places and people ‘abandoned’ by politicians to the fate of unemployment and decline. He has promised to ‘bring prosperity to every part of this country’, renew infrastructure and ‘put our miners and steelworkers back to work’ whilst cutting taxes and regulation.[6] Like May’s industrial strategy, it is unclear at present how prosperity can be brought to all the places suffering economic stagnation and decline, and how his promised ‘gleaming new infrastructure’ will be funded.
The rhetoric of both May and Trump imply that we will soon see a radical reshaping of the economic fortunes of their respective countries, smoothing regional disparities and reviving cities and regions which have been left behind in the postindustrial era. Both are silent on what these promises mean for the winning cities and regions of the past 40 years. And it remains to be seen how these bold commitments will be fulfilled.
The RSA has recently set up a dedicated website which features cutting edge research, comment and analysis on the implications of Brexit and May’s emerging industrial strategy for cities and regions http://brexit.regionalstudies.org/ Keep checking the site for the latest resources.

[1] http://press.conservatives.com/post/147947450370/we-can-make-britain-a-country-that-works-for
[3] http://press.conservatives.com/post/151282679955/clark-an-industrial-strategy-that-works-for
[4] https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pm-speech-to-the-lord-mayors-banquet-14-november-2016
[5] https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/cbi-annual-conference-2016-prime-ministers-speech
[6] https://www.donaldjtrump.com/press-releases/trump-delivers-speech-on-jobs-at-new-york-economic-club