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 22: Upgrading regional competitiveness: what role for regional governments?

Christian Ketels


As economic research has increasingly paid more attention to the forces of economic geography, it has become much more ‘location aware’ in its analysis of the drivers of growth, productivity and innovation. The nature of regional policy has also evolved in many countries, with competitiveness upgrading emerging as a more important goal. In Europe, requirements for regions to outline ‘smart specialization strategies’ to be eligible for funds available through the European Union regional policy programmes are an example of this trend. This chapter explores what this new context implies for the role of regional governments. It is motivated by a concern that regional policy is facing an ‘implementation gap’. There is much thinking on the importance of regions, and the policies that should be designed towards them. However, there is comparatively little work on what regional governments’ role should be in implementing these policies relative to that of other levels of government, and what implications this has on the capabilities required. The chapter reviews the literature on regional economies, regional policy and the role of regions in government. These related streams of work provide the backdrop for thinking about the demands that government in general and regional government in particular are facing. The chapter then proposes a new way to look at the role of regional government, focusing on specific functions and the different but often complementary roles that different levels of government play. It draws on this identification of functions to discuss the capabilities that regional governments need to fulfil their tasks.

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