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Pioneering research centre celebrates 40th anniversary

A research centre whose pioneering work paved the way for Local Enterprise Partnerships and Metro Mayors is celebrating four decades of being at the forefront of research and policy influence.

Leading the way in policy thinking and practice

Since it was established in 1977, Newcastle University’s Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies (CURDS) has led the way in urban and regional development thinking and policy practice.

CURDS research on the role of universities in cities has played a pivotal role in developing the concept of the civic university, which has gathered momentum and is now being taken forward by several higher education institutions in the UK and internationally and by higher education policy makers across the globe. It also helped to shape an OECD programme to foster closer links between higher education institutions around the world and local partners as a way to bring about economic development in their area. 

It has influenced a string of governments in the UK and beyond on economic policy and urban and regional development.  It has played a key role in developing the concept of city regions, which has since been adopted by the UK and Australian governments among others.

Much of its work since 2010 has focused on the shift towards localism, exploring the impact on local growth of devolution initiatives such as Local Enterprise Partnerships and City Deals.

The expertise of CURDS researchers was brought to bear in a key report prepared for the JRF (Joseph Rowntree Foundation) in 2016. This examined the extent to which towns and cities in northern England are lagging behind the national average in terms of employment rates, levels of highly-qualified workers, the number and type of full-time jobs, net migration rates, and population change.

Over the past four decades, CURDS has worked with an array of partners, from local authorities and LEPs to the EU, and UN-International Labour Office. It has brought together geographers, town planners, economists, sociologists, management experts, computer scientists and more to anticipate and examine the changing landscapes of our cities and urban areas from a place-based rather than sector-based perspective. 

Changing economic and social patterns

Professor Danny MacKinnon, Director of CURDS, said: “At the heart of CURDS is a desire to develop a deeper understanding of the persistent and widening disparities in economic and social conditions within and between cities and regions in the UK and beyond.

“Looking to the future, the continued impact of changing patterns of industrialisation and the much-anticipated UK industrial strategy as well as Brexit and potential further devolution to local areas will present ongoing challenges for cities and regions. These are challenges that only a multidisciplinary way of working can address and CURDS has built an enviable track record in this area.”

In its work understanding uneven city and regional growth, CURDS focuses on four central research themes:

  • People and places: economic and social differences within and between cities and urban areas such as demographic and population change, and labour market dynamics
  • Innovation and technology: the urban and regional implications of changes in technology and their role in bringing about new economic activities
  • Finance and services: the evolving financial services landscape and geographies of banking and finance
  • Institutions and governance: the dynamics of inward investment, regional government and the implications of these for regional development  

For the full article please visit the Newcastle University website.

Published on 16th October 2017

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