We are pleased to announce the winners of our Early Career research grant scheme and we are looking forward to working with you.

Joanie Willett, Lecturer in Politics, University of Exeter, UK – Understanding Brexit and Trump in Post-Industrial, Peripheral Areas: Implications for Regional Development

The rise in anti-establishment populism across Western nations is understood to be symbolic of the gulf that has opened up between wealthy, apparently metropolitan, often urban ‘core’, regions; and peripheral localities in decline.  As we have seen in recent elections in the UK, US, France, Germany, and Italy; the breadth and depth of disparities between core and peripheral regions indicates an urgent need to better understand what is going wrong, in order to figure out how to make things right.  This has an important potential impact on the practice and measurement of economic development. Current research into the efficacy of regional investment focusses on quantitative and qualitative factors around funding programmes, how they have been implemented, their impact on human capital and regional knowledge systems, and how they interact with the local environment  (Rodriguez-Pose and Fratesi 2004; Rodriguez-Pose and Crescenzi, 2008; Crescenzi and Giua, 2016; Camagni and Capello, 2015; Barca et al. 2012).  However to date, studies overlook how ordinary members of the public perceive, experience, and feel about the individual projects pursued under strategic development agenda’s, how these developments are fitted into local cultural schemae, and what impact this has on a general perception (and approval rating) of the funding agenda.  This study aims to explore if there is a link between how development is perceived and experienced, and discontent with anti-establishment anger. This research will explore these questions through a case study of Brexit voting Cornwall in the UK, and the Trump voting Mount Rogers area of Virginia, USA.  Both are peripheral rural regions that have seen significant economic changes over recent decades, and have received development funding in order to try to help the regions mediate these changes.  This study will explore the stories that are told about the case study regions, in order to understand the relationship between these stories, the intentions of strategic planners, and development policy outcomes.

Heike Mayer, Institute of Geography & Center for Regional Economic Development, University of Bern, Switzerland – Slow Innovation in Europe`s Peripheral Regions

Innovation processes are often conceptualized with an urban bias and are therefore theorized solely considering the perspective of the urban environment. As a result, innovation theories do not sufficiently consider the context of the periphery and how this context may foster or hinder the development of innovative products, technologies and services. Economic geographers started to conceptualize innovation processes in peripheral locations as `slow innovation` (Shearmur, 2015, 2017; Shearmur & Doloreux, 2016), but they have neither developed clear typologies nor differentiations between different forms of innovation (social, technological, product, process, etc.). This project examines innovation processes in different types of peripheral regions in the European Alps. Of interest are the ways in which these innovators utilize different forms of knowledge, how they are connected to their immediate environments but also to urban places (urban-rural linkages), and to what extent they can be considered as `slow innovators` in the sense Shearmur et al. describe. The particular relevance of this research lies in questions regarding the development potential of peripheral regions. As especially the unsuccessful peripheral regions suffer from outmigration, ageing of the population, structural economic change, it is important to not only focus on their deficiencies but also on their potential. Knowing more about innovation in the periphery will allow European policymakers to obtain a more differentiated and place-sensitive perspective (Iammarino, Rodríguez-Pose, & Storper, 2017; Rodríguez-Pose, 2018).

Elisa Giuliani, University of Pisa, Italy – Rethinking regional development agendas: Human rights and economic growth into perspective

Business-related human rights (BHR) infringements are site-specific violations of universal human rights caused by companies as they pursue their economic goals. They include cases of child labor exploitation and modern slavery in global value chains; of damages to human health and right to life following manufacturing industry’s toxic emissions; violation of indigenous communities’ right to land or water in connection with extractive industry operations, among others. Because aggregate data about BHR infringements are alarming, international organizations like the United Nations and the OECD have taken steps to make companies accountable for their negative impacts on human rights. Yet, considerations about BHR infringements seldom enter into regional economic growth agendas and policies, which are still largely influenced by the contentious idea that economic growth will eventually improve human rights. Current policies are thus largely unprepared to deal with the human suffering caused by companies as they allegedly contribute to growth and do not contemplate the prevention of, and remedy for, BHR infringements. In this project we seek to change this conversation and spark new policy thinking around these topical issues.