We are pleased to announce the winners for the 2021 RSA Student and Early Career Awards. The Regional Studies Association have determined that all the winners have made an original and outstanding contribution to the field of regional studies.
NATHANIEL LICHFIELD AWARD
Şükrü Yılmaz, Newcastle University, UK
Title of paper: Smart Specialisation Strategies in Turkey: Consistencies, Deviations and Challenges
Sukru’s dissertation analyses how the smart specialization strategy was designed in Turkish regions, what extent smart specialization strategies in Turkey are consistent with the methodological and operational steps in the Guide to Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisations, and what the main reasons behind the existing inconsistencies are. He concluded a light that smart specialization strategies are shaped and prevented by place-based challenges such as lack of personnel of regional development agencies, political and legal powerlessness of regional development agencies, lack of dedicated resources to provide smart specialization strategies, institutional fragmentation, centralized political and administrative tradition.
I am extremely honored to be receiving Nathaniel Lichfield Award. I would like to thank the Regional Studies Association for encouraging young researchers for their future research, providing us with various and comprehensive learning opportunities, and enabling us access to a wide network of researchers. Also, I would like to present a special thanks to the friendly and supportive staff of the Regional Studies Association.
PAUL BENNEWORTH PHD STUDENT AWARD
Sebastian Losacker, Leibniz University Hannover, Germany
Title of paper: Regional Lead Markets for Environmental Innovation
Sebastian’s research revolves around regional sustainability transitions. In this context, he focuses on the diffusion of green technologies in Chinese regions. In his paper on ‘regional lead markets for environmental innovation’, he provides a conceptual framework that aims to explain the diffusion of environmental innovations, combining insights from innovation studies, economic geography and sustainability transitions. Drawing on the case of waste management technologies in Shanghai, he emphasizes that regional technological, demand and regulatory advantages are particularly important in determining regional lead market potentials.
I feel very honored to receive this award. Thanks to the Regional Studies Association, which for many years has helped to support young researchers.
Jonathan Muringani, University of Stavanger, Norway
Title of paper: Social Capital and Economic Growth in the Regions of Europe
Jonathan’s research contributes to the existing knowledge on how social capital and human capital affect economic growth across regions in the European Union. The findings confirm that bridging social capital is beneficial and bonding social capital, the opposite for economic growth. Contrary to expectations, the two types of social capital do not interact, except each with human capital. The findings show a substitutive and not complementary relationship such that bridging social capital has a more substantial effect on growth in regions with lower levels of human capital. Similarly, human capital has a moderating effect that reduces the negative externalities of bonding social capital. Therefore, these findings provide valuable insights for regional development policies.
I am excited and honoured to receive this award. I express my gratitude to the Regional Studies Association for the recognition and my PhD supervisors, Prof Rune Dahl Fitjar, the University of Stavanger and Prof Andrés Rodriguez-Pose, the London School of Economics, for their mentorship. The award inspires my new journey as a postdoctoral researcher on societal security and trust in digital societies at the University of Olso, Department of Technology Systems.
RSA ROUTLEDGE EARLY CAREER AWARD
Lisa Nieth, Technopolis Deutschland GmbH, Germany
Title of paper: It takes two sides to build a bridge – Universities as institutional entrepreneurs in knowledge-based regional development.
There is a widespread assumption that successful regional innovation policies are dependent upon place leadership from coalitions of actors. These coalitions – consisting of different organisations such as regional authorities, companies or universities – are assumed to work together seamlessly and develop/enact collective innovation agendas to achieve regional development. The university is an important coalition partner because of its role as a producer and disseminator of knowledge. However, universities are complex organisations, sometimes lacking strong singular strategic interests. In this dissertation, I address the role of universities and how their organisational dynamics and particularities influence their participation in regional innovation coalitions as well as their contributions to regional innovation policy processes. More specifically, I focus on acts of institutional entrepreneurship undertaken by university employees and argue that alignment is a key issue. I identify two alignment circuits as being essential for the university’s contribution to regional development: (1) alignment of the diverse regional actors, and (2) internal alignment of university stakeholders. Universities have links at different organisational levels and interact with various external partners, thus creating a dynamic and powerful – but often unpredictable – framework. This dissertation contributes to debates on institutional entrepreneurship, place leadership and agency and argues that more attention for alignment can encourage and empower the university’s institutional entrepreneurs to address regional challenges.
I feel deeply honoured to receive the RSA Award 2021 and would like to dedicate it to my late PhD supervisor Paul Benneworth – the one who encouraged me to become part of the RSA in the first place. The RSA has accompanied me through the 3,5 years of this PhD journey as I participated in the RSA annual conference in Dublin right after starting my PhD. What a great way to get to know the community (and make some wonderful friends) and “dive into” the current topics within regional studies! I look forward to continuing my engagement with the RSA.
Rhiannon Pugh, Lund University, Sweden
Title of paper: Universities and economic development in lagging regions: ‘triple helix’ policy in Wales
This paper aimed to interrogate the triple helix concept of university-government-industry interaction in a weaker region setting, presenting a case study of government interventions to drive innovation and economic growth in Wales. It was based on my PhD research undertaken from 2010-2014 and was the first paper I published based on that work. It found that attempts to drive innovation through universities may be problematic in weaker regions settings without the appropriate absorptive capacity conditions. I continue to research the role of universities in driving regional economic development, amongst other topics at the regional studies-economic geography- innovation studies interface.
Thank you to the RSA for this award and indeed for all of the other supports and encouragement provided to early career researchers which are deeply appreciated, including the conference bursaries, training and development activities, and mentored publication route of Regional Studies Regional Science. This is a wonderful community to be a part of.