We are pleased to announce the winners of our 2020 Membership Research Grant Scheme (MeRSA) and we are looking forward to working with them. Please read more about their projects below.
Borders reloaded! The impact of rebordering dynamics on European cross-border regionalism
The overall aim of the project is to investigate the ways in which the hardening of EU’s internal borders in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and more broadly the resurgence of borders in the political agenda of states, affect the ideas underpinning cross-border cooperation (CBC) and the discourses of local and regional actors engaged in cross-border region-building. The starting point of the project is the acknowledgement that the on-going dynamics of rebordering are challenging the significance of supposedly open borders for CBC. While the immediate reactions of regional actors and the socio-economic consequences of border closures for European border regions have hold scholars’ attention, the ways in which rebordering may deeply impact actors’ beliefs, claims and imaginaries that underlie their CBC initiatives remains a subject little explored to date.
Based on a discursive-material approach, the project aims at (1) uncovering the conditions and mechanisms through which ideational changes occur in local and regional CBC discourses and (2) examining the implications of these changes for the governance of cross-border regions and their development paths. Empirically, the research relies on the analysis of actors’ discourses in two emblematic cross-border metropolitan regions: Greater Geneva, at the French–Swiss border, and Greater Copenhagen, at the Danish–Swedish border. The analysis of CBC stakeholders’ interview accounts mobilizes a multimodal social semiotics perspective attentive to how different communication artefacts (spoken and written texts, images) combine and are used to create meaning in specific social contexts. Finally, the project aims at translating the research outcomes into insights for policymakers at regional, national and EU levels who seek to address the challenges posed by rebordering to cross-border integration, regional development and cohesion policies.
Bank Branch Closings and Local SME Economic Activity in Slovakia – Good Servant but a Bad Master?
Better access to finance has been shown to improve economic growth, both globally and locally. Yet, the ongoing financialization relying on alternative distributional channels (FINTEC industry) challenges the need for physical presence of credit intermediators, local bank branches in particular. Hypothetically, reduction in local bank network, if compensated by new online distributional channels, should therefore have a neutral impact on local businesses activities as well as overall regional economic performance. This project aims to investigate how bank branch closings affect economic performance of individual firms in Slovakia. I will specifically focus on change in economic performance of SME segment (productivity) that represents the cornerstone of regional development in Europe and is hypothesised to be mostly affected by the bank branch closures.
This research aims to deliver relevant knowledge to different groups of stakeholders: policy makers, banking industry, or bank customers. First and foremost, policy makers in charge of competitiveness and industrial policy need to comprehend implications of ongoing structural changes in banking industry. This is true especially when it comes to funding of SME sector, which in Europe constitutes more than 99.8% of all businesses, contributes to 54.6% of total value added and provides employment for 67% of the total active labour force (EC, 2019). However, this sector is also the one most exposed towards the potential credit rationing by banking sector. On the one hand, restricted access to credit due to natural creative destruction in banking industry might be compensated by targeted support of new innovative technological solutions. Potentially, the creative destruction itself might result in market-based innovative solutions without any further involvement of economic policy.
Disentangling COVID-19 as a driving force of path development processes in Spain
This research seeks to further explore path development processes in Spanish regions by analysing the industrial sector’s response to the shortage of medical supplies during the COVID -19 pandemic. This was caused by difficulties in purchasing abroad and interrupted supply chains, especially during the first part of the year 2020. Given this context, the project seeks to study the diversification strategies in existing firms throughout the country, or the creation of new ones, aimed at manufacturing medical instruments and materials. Keeping in mind the factors of a limited time frame and a possible limited spatial impact of this phenomenon, we seek to to contribute to the understanding of how the path development mechanism operates in different regional contexts, while addressing key challenges in the Economic Evolutionary Geography’s research agenda. In particular, the study will examine regional pre-existing conditions for regional diversification. It will emphasize regional knowledge bases, the role of related and unrelated variety, firms’ external connections, as well as routines, conventions and policies within the regional innovation system. The study is based on a mixed-methods approach.