Here is a short summary on the theme "Theories of Regional Development - Lessons for Politics of Regional Economic Revival and Growth" from Uddevalla Workshop 1998.
In Europe, as in many other parts of the world, economic integration is generally understood to be major vehicle for regional change processes, partly as a catalytic phenomenon. In recent decades European countries have gradually eliminated the importance of border and taken away various forms of barriers to interaction. The promotion of such policies is without precedent and would have been unthinkable as late as in the beginning of the 1960´s.
Integration of EU countries has opened up for interaction between regions with different endowments and competitive capacities. For many regions this has stimulated the removal of obsolete production techniques and brought increased unemployment, a situation which has characterised e.g. the Spanish economy for a long period (1985-1995). These phenomena are further emphasised if we consider the current internationalisation of the countries in eastern Europe, where the countries are opened up for international trade and foreign direct investments. These countries also aspire to be future members of the EU. In the former Soviet Union the different republics are struggling to solve their complex economic problems.
On a global scale the described development may imply a future competition between global areas with centres in South East Asia, in North America and in Europe. Within each of these macroregions one may identify how the improved conditions for transport and communication cause string structural adjustments - with some regions attracting new and expansive activities while other regions loose former advantages and lag behind in the renewal processes. In the latter problem areas decline of manufacturing industry is a major concern. At the same time it is recorded how the emergence of new technologies and products (goods and services) favour certain regions and a new spectrum of occupations and competence profiles. In summary:
In the period 1980-1995 households´ preferences have become more pronounced as regards housing areas with specific characteristic (household milieu attributes) - both between and within functional regions. This observation refers to OECD countries.
- There is an emergence of a clear polarisation of (i) those regions with an economic milieu that can provide advantages for new economic activities and (ii) those with features adapted to an economic structure on its way out.
- The expanding economic activities are characterised by a high and increasing knowledge intensity and, in several cases also an increased R&D intensity. In many cases these activities are located where the labour farce (with required education characteristics and experiences) is.
From the observation above one may ask: How will the future division of labour and regional specialisation look like? Can one identify clear problems with the ongoing evolution of new specialisation patterns among leading regions, followers and those regions, which have lost contact with the new economic realities?
Recent assessments indicate that for large urban regions in Europe, one may both identify a form of regional competition, and that regional policy making matters in this process. Can the same conclusion be drawn for smaller regions, and for regions that are experiencing reduced demand for products associated with their production
The purpose of the international workshop "Theories of Regional Development - Lessons for Politics of Regional Economic Revival and Growth" is to collect contributions, which may together provide a comprehensive picture of the phenomena, discussed above. This includes, e.g. issues such as:
- Specialisation and localisation economies for small, medium-sized functional regions, in comparison with sectoral composition in larger agglomerations.
- What can be meant by economic renewal in small and medium-sized regions?
- Which are the observed growth factors in regions of varying size in the current economies?
Which are the instruments of economic renewal policies in today´s functional regions in the OECD world?
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