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Robert Huggins and Piers Thompson

The field of regional development is subject to an ever increasing multiplicity of concepts and theories seeking to explain uneven development across regional contexts. One concept and theoretical tool that has endured and remained keenly discussed since the 1990s is ‘regional competitiveness’. Indeed, the rise of the concept has led to many frameworks and applications emerging and being employed in various contexts. Such variety has been both a blessing and a curse, with the notion of the ‘competitiveness of regions’ remaining an area of contested theoretical debate, especially arguments concerning the extent to which places actually compete for resources and markets. This chapter presents a broad overview of the evolution of regional competitiveness thinking, and aims to make clear the connections across a variety of contemporary regional development theories. The chapter firstly introduces the regional competitiveness concept and discusses its close association with schools of endogenous growth and development theory. The potential for measuring regional competitiveness is considered, before the chapter turns its attention to providing an introduction to some key contemporary theoretical perspectives on regional development. In particular the ideas of regional growth systems, institutions, ‘upstream’ behavioural theories of regional development concerning both cultural and psychological explanations, and concepts of regional ‘resilience’ and ‘well-being’ are considered. The chapter concludes by considering how the differing theoretical perspectives can be integrated, as well as providing an outline of the volume as a whole.