Together with Pascal Boijmans (European Commission) and John Bachtler (European Policies Research Centre, UK) Prof. Michael Parkinson will kick off the first plenary session of the RSA European Conference in Tampere, Finland with a simple but critical question which demonstrates the role of regional studies in informing policy debates. His question (and the title of his paper) is as follows:
In an age of austerity why invest beyond the European Capital Cities?
Prof. Parkinson CBE is Director of the European Institute for Urban Affairs at Liverpool John Moore University and has an impressive track record in producing leading research on pressing issues of urban and regional policy for the European Commission, OECD and UK Government departments among others. His plenary paper, in fact, draws on the results of an ESPON (European Observation Network for Territorial Development and Cohesion) project – entitled ‘Secondary Cities in Europe: Performance, Policies and Prospects’ which he led. Interestingly, the project consortium also included the Urban and Regional Studies group at the University of Tampere, led by Prof. Markku Sotarauta, academic organiser of the conference. Through an analysis of over 150 European cities, the project final report argues that over-investment in capital and under-investment in second tier cities is unsustainable and leads to economic under-performance. Decentralising responsibilities, powers and resources and spreading investment across a range of cities rather than just the capital it is argued, creates long term economic benefits. We look forward to finding out more at Prof. Parkinson’s talk in Tampere on Monday 6th May, at what promises to be a stimulating open session to this year’s conference.