The European Union’s goals of reducing spatial disparities, enhancing social cohesion, and stimulating economic growth are being currently challenged by the disillusionment with the existing policies and institutional practices in Europe’s disadvantaged and crisis-hit regions. Recent academic debates demonstrate a surge of interest in discovering a more sustainable metric for urban and regional development and for reconciling the goals of economic growth and human well-being to ensure that the positive effects of growth are long-term, sustainable, equitable and inclusive.
The ambition of the international joint research project Agents of change in old-industrial regions (ACORE) is to explore how old industrial regions of Europe can create new development paths leading to prosperity, strengthening long-term stability and socio-economic cohesion of the EU. The existing theories suggest that less privileged regions can utilise various exogenous and endogenous sources of growth: some may benefit from the existing strengths, while other may discover innovative development paths to achieve economic and social rebounding. It remains less clear, what is the role of actors, policies, strategies, and institutions in the process of socio-economic revival. Who are the actors instrumental for change? Where are they located institutionally and what resources can they deploy? How are they connected? Why do positive changes take place in one place but not in other, despite their structural similarities? Is there a ‘window of opportunity’ to implement changes?
The aims of the project are:
- to develop a better understanding of the emergence of new development paths in old industrial regions outside metropolitan areas, and the implications for socio-spatial development;
- to strengthen academic collaboration among scholars in the EU and facilitate knowledge exchange between academia and policy makers;
- utilising the results of international comparison and knowledge exchange to develop policy recommendations for discovering new development approaches to Europe’s old industrial regions in various social, historical, and cultural contexts.
The research will focus on actors instrumental in conceiving new visions, overcoming organisational barriers and establishing a new development path. ACORE draws specifically on the relations between actors located in different institutional contexts at various scales (local, regional, national, EU) and the conditions that enable them to cooperate effectively and to induce change. The project relies on transnational comparative case study approach to explain new path creation processes in non-metropolitan urban centres that have been hit by socio-economic decline and suffer from structural weaknesses and institutional deficits. ACORE covers 10 cases studies including two fields in each country (Germany, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Czech Republic, Hungary) representing different institutional contexts.
The project also aims to support young researchers. Each project partner institution will employ a young researcher for the duration of the project. Researchers will get assistance in developing her/his research ideas, become involved in national and international academic and policy events, learn project management skills, and proceed with her/his doctoral studies aligned with the overall goals of Agents of Change project.