The challenges for regional development are intensifying. Long-term factors shaping the prospects for cities and regions include the effects of climate change and new demands on energy, water and food systems. Cities also face significant demographic shifts. Rapid technological changes – captured in the notion of an emerging Knowledge Economy – will also affect cities and regions. Moreover, we are witnessing significant changes in international political economy – encapsulated by the term globalisation – but increasingly understood as incorporating the rise of new economic powers, such as the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and, above all, China). The immediate context for thinking about these questions in many parts of the world is the aftermath of a severe economic crisis and a new politics of austerity.
Local, regional, national and international actors continue to search for new policy solutions at a time when traditional forms of governance are being tested and new forms of regional politics are emerging. In many parts of the world regional disparities are growing as more economic activity becomes concentrated in global city regions, posing questions about the future of cities and regions beyond the metropolis. In these austere times, some voices question the need for regional policy itself and public policy debates increasingly focus on these dilemmas.