Special Issue Monográfico 2016 'New frontiers of regional and urban analysis'



Robert J. Stimson

Some Challenges for Regional Science Research

Regional scientists have long faced challenges in developing the interdisciplinary field where their focus is on the spatial context of social, economic and environmental phenomena, and dealing with spatial data presents considerable methodological challenges. This article discusses the evolution of Regional Science, the critiques it has received and the challenges it has confronted. It addresses specifically some contemporary challenges that relate to methodological issues, such as: how to measure and model endogenous regional growth performance; the limitations of using de jure regions rather than functional regions as the spatial framework in regional analysis; the need to making greater use of unit record data and integrating those data into generalised spatial frameworks; and making use of the opportunities offered by «big data» in urban and regional analysis.Regional scientists have long faced challenges in developing the interdisciplinary field where their focus is on the spatial context of social, economic and environmental phenomena, and dealing with spatial data presents considerable methodological challenges. This article discusses the evolution of Regional Science, the critiques it has received and the challenges it has confronted. It addresses specifically some contemporary challenges that relate to methodological issues, such as: how to measure and model endogenous regional growth performance; the limitations of using de jure regions rather than functional regions as the spatial framework in regional analysis; the need to making greater use of unit record data and integrating those data into generalised spatial frameworks; and making use of the opportunities offered by «big data» in urban and regional analysis.

Keywords: Regional Science; Regional Analysis; Regional Differentials; Endogenous regional development; de jure regions; Functional regions; Unit record/micro data, Micro-simulation, Big data
Karima Kourtit, Vicente Royuela, Tomaz Ponce-Dentinho, Peter Nijkamp

Envisioning Experiments on Regional Science Frontiers

Science dynamics has become an established part of scientific research. Over the past years, a broad variety of experimental approaches has been developed to explore the frontiers of the current state of the art —and their shifts— in either separate disciplines or scientific domains, such as expert-opinion consultations, multi-level approaches, living labs, joint decision rooms, scenario methods, imagineering experiments, or interactive envisioning methods. The present chapter will contribute to science dynamics in regional science research by offering findings from an envisioning experiment among some 60 well-known regional scientists, with a view to a critical assessment of past and current performance, so as to initiate an open exploration of promising and challenging research endeavours for the next decades of regional science research. This may range from innovative concept formulation to joint use of open access and big data. This experimental approach serves to pave the road towards proactive strategies and conceptualisations in regional science research and regional policy. The main future concern implicit in the brainstorming experiment appears to be related to spatial justice, next to good governance, and consistency between techniques, methods and theories, as well as an effective interaction with students/scholars and society. This exercise shows that important lessons can also be learned from past scientific mistakes, especially those that were associated with policy failures. New scientific ideas are, of course, pushed by the rise of novel techniques and methods, but also and predominately from evolving new realities, either social or technological. Nevertheless, there are still various doubts concerning the future direction of regional science agenda: Which new thoughts and methods are requested? Which policies must be created and improved? What are the scientific possibilities created by new data? The regional science agenda is full of challenges and promises, but how can it be effective? This scoping study does not provide definite answers, but serves to explore uncertain future frontiers.

Keywords: science dynamics; regional science; experts opinion; Q-Method
Jacques Poot, Omoniyi Alimi, Michael P. Cameron, David C. Maré

The gravity model of migration: the successful comeback of an ageing superstar in regional science

For at least half a century, and building on observations first made a century earlier, the gravity model has been the most commonly-used paradigm for understanding gross migration flows between regions. This model owes its success to, firstly, its intuitive consistency with migration theories; secondly, ease of estimation in its simplest form; and, thirdly, goodness of fit in most applications. While fitting gravity models of aggregate migration flows started taking backstage to microdata analysis in the 1980s, a recent comeback has resulted from increasing applications to international migration and from the emergence of statistical theories appropriate for studying spatial interaction. In this paper we review the status quo and argue for greater integration of internal and international migration modelling. Additionally we revisit the issues of parameter stability and distance deterrence measurement by means of a New Zealand case study. We argue that gravity modelling of migration has a promising future in a multi-regional stochastic population projection system —an area in which the model has been to date surprisingly underutilised. We conclude with outlining current challenges and opportunities in this field.

Keywords: Gravity model, migration flows, spatial interaction, parameter stability, distance deterrence measurement
Roberto Camagni

Afterthoughts on urban economic theory and its focus

An interesting part of the present scientific debate in urban economics concerns the appropriateness of some theoretical —and consequently empirical— definitions of the city and its role, underlining the reductive character of purely functional approaches in terms of agglomeration economies. Many scientific achievements have been attained exploiting the virtues of these approaches, residing in their strong internal consistency (within their logical assumptions) and sophisticated formalization. What appears to be left is the inspection of the true nature of cities, going far beyond their agglomerated physical form and the consequent benefits on transactions and communications.

The paper suggests that the geographical-functional approach should be complemented by two other approaches, implicit in classical economics and in evolutionary economic theory, which allow the inspection and (perhaps) a proper interpretation of other constituents of the nature of cities: what I call the relational-cognitive approach —interpreting the city as a cognitive milieu, generating knowledge, creativity and innovation— and the hierarchical-distributive one, interpreting the relationships with the non-city, the «countryside» of classical economists, in terms of control and monopolistic determination of relative prices. The former approach looks at the intrinsically generative role of the city and its capability of developing continuously new activities and functions; the latter at power relations on space and control on income distribution.

If the functional approach looks nowadays quite consolidated, the cognitive one needs still in depth reflections, as it implies the (at least partial) abandonment of methodological individualism that permeates neoclassical economics, with the advantage of better utilizing the conceptual achievements of other social disciplines. On the other hand, the hierarchical and distributive approach looks today quite unexplored.

At the end, a tentative, formalized model of agglomeration economies is presented, with the goal of stimulating the attention on the empirical measurement of the effects of the cognitive and control roles of the city. Two main open issues emerge, both referring to income distribution: how are the advantages of increasing returns to urban scale being distributed among the internal production factors (and urban social classes, including land owners) and how could we measure the urban power in terms of income distribution in space.

Keywords: Urban economics; functional approaches; relational-cognitive approach; hierarchical-distributive approach; creativity; income distribution; urban power
Juan R. Cuadrado-Roura

Service industries and regional analysis. New directions and challenges

The service sector currently accounts for the largest share, both in terms of GDP and employment, of all developed economies, as well as many of the so-called emerging or developing ones. In spite of this, it has been the subject of far less research than manufacturing, although the situation has started to change in the past three decades and it must be pointed out that some activities —such as finance, commerce, transport and those most closely linked to tourism— do have significant analytical literature. In any case, this sector is undergoing very notable changes deriving from new technologies and the progress of digitalization, as well as economic globalization, in which services are playing a particularly relevant role. These changes demand specific and in-depth analyses to explain their causes and to understand their spatial and territorial effects. The objective of this work is to underscore the need for greater research effort focusing on the regional and urban aspects of services, and to suggest certain facts and trends that seem particularly relevant. Undoubtedly, services should occupy a privileged position in the new frontiers of Regional and Urban Analysis. This work aims to justify that need and pose some topics of interest for new research.

Keywords: Service sector; growth factors; location and concentration; ICT and digitalization; research agenda
Roger R. Stough

Entrepreneurship and Regional Economic Development: Some reflections

This paper is a reflection of the author’s views on recent research developments at the interface of entrepreneurship and regional economic development and growth. The paper begins with an overview of the recent rise of interest in entrepreneurship in general and, in particular, with respect to its influence on regional economic growth and development. Following an introduction the formation and development of high growth firms (HGFs) and their disproportionately large contribution to job creation are examined. Entrepreneurship ecosystems are then examined in an effort to understand the factors that contribute to high levels of HGF production and job growth. This analysis raises a question about the role of culture, governance and institutions in the collage of factors that influence the development of entrepreneurship systems. These factors are then comparatively examined using three case studies for the U.S., Europe and China which raise the question of how to manage the role of government policy to promote entrepreneurship while, at the same time, preserving other seemingly contradictory factors such as risk taking and self-reliance. The last part of the paper focuses on equity considerations that have served as rationales for government intervention in regional and national entrepreneurship systems. Gender, age, migrants, family, technology groups are examined briefly in an effort to provide deeper insight into how public policies in these areas are rationalized. At the end of each major part of the paper relevant research questions are described and discussed. A summary of the paper is presented at the end.

Keywords: Economic development; Economic growth; Entrepreneurship ecosystems; Family entrepreneurship; GEDI/REDI; Gender; Governance; High growth firms; Innovation; Institutions; Regions and seniors; Technology and youth entrepreneurship
Philip Cooke

Dark and Light: Entrepreneurship and Innovation in New Technology Spaces

Notable changes to human comfort are underway that add greatly to the complexity of existential processes. These are «inter-ethnic violence» and «economic polarisation». Historically, these have resisted resilience from urban recovery in intractable contexts. Among the «wicked problems» confronting future actors and agents of newly emerging frontiers of research and policy are those addressing the «dark side» of innovation and entrepreneurship. This is seldom studied in economic geography but such are the negativities associated with so many dimensions of not only technology but its deformations and inhuman inversions that there will, for sure, be future growth for a wide range of social, natural, applied sciences and technology fixes for human dilemmas into the foreseeable future. We consider «resilience» in prefatory remarks on two intractable cases. Contrariwise, in this brief paper on «new technological spaces», attention is devoted to two new «cybersecurity» spatial types, each of which consists in an under-explored «dark side». In this, not in the long term, the naturally optimistic research outlook of the academic will be obscured by the demands of a more pessimistic outlook for the short term. Two of our selected sub-fields, in cyber-security and structured finance, reference both the «dark web» for illegal and terroristic communication and «dark pools». The paper reviews the economic geographies of these «apocalypses» and draw conclusions.

Keywords: new technological spaces; innovation systems; entrepreneurial ecosystems; resilience
Jouke van Dijk, Arjen Edzes

Towards inclusive and resilient regional labour markets: challenges for research and policy

Unemployment and inactivity remain among the largest social and economic problems in society, especially in the context of structural developments, such as sectorial shifts in employment structures and globalization, coupled with robotization and automation, that question future job growth. These employmentrelated issues vary by region, and between urban and rural areas, due to differences in economic structures and location factors, and in the quantity and quality of the labour force which is to an extent related to aging and processes of spatial sorting. Science and policy, particularly where related to economics and geography, are developing alongside two perspectives that dominate labour market research: the economic investment perspective and the social compensation and activation perspective. This paper discusses specific challenges facing research and policy and offers three recommendations that aim to stimulate inclusiveness in regional labour markets: the necessity of a place-based approach, the need for fundamental changes concerning the concept of labour and enhancing effective regional governance.

Keywords: regional labour markets; regional economics; unemployment; social inclusion; labour market policy
Peter Nijkamp

The «resourceful region». A new conceptualisation of regional development strategies

After decades of regional policy experiences in many countries, with varying degrees of success, there is a need for a critical assessment and an exploration of new pathways. This paper provides first an overview of various regional development concepts that have emerged over the course of several decades, like industrial districts, growth centres or regional clusters. We point out similarities and differences in these concepts. The main emphasis of the paper is on the design and relevance of a new conditional framework for regional development, leading to the formulation of a new integrating policy concept, termed «resourceful region».

This concept takes for granted that each region has a portfolio of development possibilities and conditions (resources or capabilities) which should be combined and optimized so as to ensure the highest regional economic and social performance.

We offer an illustration of the relevance of this notion on the basis of the Aviation Valley in South-East Poland, and conclude with some policy and research lessons.

Keywords: regional development; industrial districts; growth centres; regional clusters; resourceful region; economic and social performance
Karima Kourtit

Super-Proximity and Spatial Development

Our world is getting smaller all the time. Connectivity and accessibility in space have improved to an unprecedented degree compared to past centuries, thanks to the enhanced design and effective implementation of transport infrastructure networks and increasingly also as a result of advance cyber infrastructure networks. Our connected and accessible world has indeed become «a small world». Technological innovation has become a buzzword in the past decades. The design, implementation and adoption of digital technology, in particular, have prompted entirely new forms of spatial interaction and communication, with a significant and unprecedented impact on transport, trade, tourism, migration, and social contact networks. In today’s increasingly innovation-driven society, almost every activity, action, task, communication, interaction, movement and decision is supported by new technological artifacts and inventions. This paper introduces the notion of «super-proximity» to highlight the force field of physical and virtual infrastructures at various geographical scale and time levels, and to sketch the spatial-economic implications of this universal megatrend towards zero distance-frictions. The paper will be concluded with some prospective observations on the future spatial implications of the e-society and their analysis.

Keywords: super-proximity; density; accessibility; connectivity; proximity; infrastructure; innovation; Maslow; digital technology; spatial interaction and communication; transportation; networks; suprastructure
Patricio Aroca, Miguel Atienza

Spatial concentration in Latin America and the role of institutions

Spatial concentration in Latin America, especially in the southern cone, reaches high levels in all dimensions. Despite significant economic growth in the last two decades, trade openness, the return to democratic regimes and reductions in the Gini coefficients the primacy indexes of most Latin American countries remain relatively constant and among the highest in the world. This situation challenges most regional and urban economics theories that predict a reduction in spatial concentration as development proceeds, after an initial period of concentration. Furthermore, Latin American countries could be trapped in processes of agglomeration without growth. The objective of this article is twofold: first, we describe some characteristics of spatial concentration and its persistence in Latin America with special emphasis in the case of Chile; and second, we propose future research lines related to the need of rebalancing Latin American spatial economies focusing on the importance of institutions as an explanation of the persistence of spatial concentration. 

Keywords: Spatial concentration; Latin America; spatially blind policies; institutions
Johannes Glückler, Regina Lenz

How institutions moderate the effectiveness of regional policy: A framework and research agenda

This paper develops a research agenda toward the systematic inclusion of institutions into the analysis of regional policy effectiveness. Departing from the commonly shared observation that formal rules of regulation and policies not always lead to the intended outcomes, we argue that institutions are crucial mediators of the workings of regulation and regional policies in specific geographical contexts. By defining institutions as stable patterns of interactions based on legitimate mutual expectations (Bathelt and Glückler, 2014), we open analytical scope for analyzing the multiple relations between regulated rules and regular social practice. Hence, we build on Helmke and Levitsky’s (2004) conception of the interdependencies between regulation and institutions, and extend their heuristic into a dynamic framework at the regional scale on how to pursue what we call institutional policy-making.

Keywords: Institutions; regional development; institutional policy-making; relational economic geography; policy-effectiveness
Philip McCann, Raquel Ortega-Argilés

Smart Specialisation: Insights from the EU Experience and Implications for Other Economies

The paper discusses the origins and emerging ideas of smart specialization, and in particular its translation from a non-spatial concept to an explicitly spatial and regional concept. This discussion is then set in the context of debates regarding the nature, rationale, and role of modern innovation policy, and the governance and institutional issues arising are then examined. We extend this discussion to discuss the experience of these issues in EU regions, and the arguments are then broadened to the potential lessons for other parts of the world which are aiming to enhance their innovation potential.

Keywords: innovation; regions; policy; priorities