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New research centre to look at spatial differences in economic prosperity

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and the Welsh Assembly Government have today (14th January) announced the successful bid to establish an independent Centre for Spatial Economics.

Economic prosperity in the UK is unevenly distributed. The Centre, which sees a total joint investment of £2.4million over an initial three years, will support high quality independent research to further understanding in why some regions, cities and communities prosper, whilst other don’t. Research will focus on why there are disparities in economic growth at all spatial levels including regional, city-region, local and neighbourhood.

Additionally, the Centre aims to influence and improve policy decision-making at the national and local levels, connecting UK policy makers with international expertise, research and good practice in diagnosing and tackling such differences.

Named as the Director of the new Centre, Dr Henry Overman, from the London School of Economics (LSE) commented: “Although based at LSE the new Centre will draw together leading researchers in the field from across the country including those from Universities of Glasgow, Newcastle, Oxford and Swansea. We aim to be a centre of excellence for independent, high quality, innovative, strategic research, enhancing the evidence base to inform why some areas of the UK outperform others, as well as a hub for engaging national and international stakeholders, for capacity development and knowledge exchange.”

Commenting on the announcements, Professor Ian Diamond, Chief Executive of the ESRC, said, "This exciting new research centre reinforces our commitment to supporting leading edge research in areas that impact on key areas for society and policy as well as strengthening the UK research base in Economics and other related disciplines. This is a solid investment that will help to ensure that the research base contributes fully to the economic development and quality of life for the people of the UK and beyond."

Commenting on the announcement Business Minister, Stephen Timms, said: “We need a better understanding of how challenges such as globalisation will affect different areas in our country, so that we can know how to frame a policy that works better for all parts of Britain.

“The aim of the Centre is to put the UK at the forefront of research into economic location; so we can get a real grip on where value is generated, and how we can make sure that our policies can enable every place to reach its potential.

“The Centre is a genuine UK collaboration, with researchers in London, Newcastle and Glasgow, Oxford and Swansea joining the research programme. It is a good example of how links between London and the rest of the country can be fostered to bring benefits to all regions. Economic opportunity should be available to all no matter where they live”.

Local Government Minister John Healey said: "The Government is leading a major drive to ensure that every region and local area shares in rising national prosperity, by tackling deprivation and boosting local action on jobs, skills, investment and growth. This new centre will improve our understanding of local economic performance and provide a strong evidence base to help us to unlock that potential for growth, prosperity and opportunity in every local community."

First Minister Rhodri Morgan said “The issues to be researched by the new Centre are highly relevant to Wales. I very much welcome this announcement and I am particularly pleased to see that Swansea University is fully involved as part of the successful team. It is very encouraging for the Welsh Higher Education sector to have participation in such a ground-breaking ESRC investment.”

“The new Centre will study issues that are highly relevant to the future of all areas Wales, improving economic growth and reducing economic inactivity are key factors that must be addressed to allow Wales’ economy to continue to grow from strength to strength.”

Alexandra Saxon | alfa
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