Economic development remains perhaps the most important topic in public policy discussions. There is constant debate about how to quantitatively grow the economy, as well as about the qualitative aspects of that growth. Increasingly, there is an express desire to build economies which deliver both growth and better outcomes for all.
One particular example is the Europe 2020 desire to achieve smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. This implies developing economies which are, in turn, based on knowledge and innovation; promote resource efficiency, becoming greener and more competitive; and foster high-employment, thus delivering social and territorial cohesion. A tall order, made more difficult by the fact that the European project offers only a menu of end-points, but fails to indicate pathways get there. To make matters even more complex, whatever changes are required must be implemented in the shifting social, political and economic landscape of the post-2008 economic crisis.
A changing world
Over the last decades it has become apparent that economic development is best delivered by coalitions of actors and institutions, rather than left to specific ‘growth engines’ (such as the services industry, exporters, or the State alone). Growth – of whatever type – requires that people of all walks of life come together to imagine the economy they desire. This puts a special focus on the communication and knowledge flows amongst public bodies, private businesses, third sector organisations and the public. It is in the intersection of those flows that sustainable, inclusive and smart economies can be built.
In addition, a paradoxical aspect has been noted: in the globalised world, the geographical scale at which economic growth is better promoted is the region. However, regions remain the most contested scale of governance, caught between the legislative power of central government and the implementation imperatives of municipal power. All of this makes the construction of sustainable, inclusive and smart economies a difficult proposition. The Regional Strategies for Sustainable and Inclusive Territorial Development (ReSSI) project aims to help address these difficulties.
An extensive research project
ReSSI consists of an extensive collaboration between territorial stakeholders (regional and local) and universities originating in four European countries:
- UK: Coventry City Council and Coventry University – Centre for Business in Society;
- Denmark: Region of Southern Denmark and University of Copenhagen – Department of Geosciences and Natural Resources Management;
- Italy: Municipality of Turin and Politecnico di Torino – Interuniversity Department of Regional and Urban Studies and Planning;
- Portugal: Municipality of Oeiras and University of Lisbon – Institute for Geography and Planning.
Each of the four territorial stakeholders has defined a set of knowledge needs, which the research partners will address in the course of ReSSI. Territorial stakeholders and the respective research partners will work in close partnership to make sure that the lessons and conclusions of the project are implemented, thus assuring impact in the long run.
The project is financed by ESPON EGTC, as part of their ‘targeted analyses’. The research team is coordinated by CBiS, and co-led by Dr Carlos Ferreira and Prof Stewart MacNeill. Mr Kevin Broughton and Prof Nigel Berkeley are also part of this research team.
The Coventry case: electric and autonomous transportation
At the time of writing, the research team has submitted a first (inception) report to the funders, and agreed on the specific of the cases in each of the territories. In the case of Coventry, the case study will address the Future Transportation Strategy, currently being devised and implemented by Coventry City Council. This strategy involved collaborations with regional actors such as the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership and the newly-formed West Midlands Combined Authority, as well as businesses, non-governmental organisations and citizen groups. In particular, the research will analyse projects to launch a fleet of electric taxis; to conduct autonomous vehicles trials; and the respective infrastructure developments required. All these projects contain aspects of sustainable, inclusive and smart economic development for the region.
The ReSSI project began in November 2016, and has a set duration of one year.