Handbook of Regions and Competitiveness
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Handbook of Regions and Competitiveness

Contemporary Theories and Perspectives on Economic Development

Edited by Robert Huggins and Piers Thompson

The aim of this Handbook is to take stock of regional competitiveness and complementary concepts as a means of presenting a state-of-the-art discussion of the contemporary theories, perspectives and empirical explanations that help make sense of the determinants of uneven development across regions. Drawing on an international field of leading scholars, the book is assembled and organized so that readers can first learn about the theoretical underpinnings of regional competitiveness and development theory, before moving on to deeper discussions of key factors and principal elements, the emergence of allied concepts, empirical applications, and the policy context.
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Chapter 7: Regional competitiveness: connecting an old concept with new goals

Contemporary Theories and Perspectives on Economic Development

Karl Aiginger and Matthias Firgo

Abstract

The term ‘competitiveness’ has been used in conceptually distinct ways at the firm, regional and national level, and after reviewing existing concepts at the national level this chapter introduces a new definition of regional competitiveness, adapting definitions used in the academic literature. Specifically, it assessess ‘outcome competitiveness’ not in reference to gross domestic product (GDP) or employment but under the new perspective of a more socially inclusive and ecologically sustainable growth path, as envisaged in the WWWforEurope research programme, in which 33 European research groups are taking part. Evaluating competitiveness requires both an input assessment (costs, productivity, economic structure, capabilities) and an outcome assessment. The chapter defines regional outcome competitiveness as the ability of a region to deliver Beyond GDP goals. For regions in industrialized countries, this ability depends on innovation, education, institutions, social cohesion and ecological ambition. Given this new perspective (of broader Beyond GDP goals), social investments and ecological ambitions should not be considered costs, but rather drivers of a ‘high-road competitiveness’. This is compatible with a new innovation policy fostering non-technical innovations and a new industrial policy supporting societal goals. Applying this concept to European regions, the chapter shows which regions take the ‘high road’ to competitiveness and compares results with the existing literature.

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