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Urban Dynamics Lab

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Research

The Urban Dynamics Lab addresses a number of research challenges that are key to tackling issues around regional and city economic growth and development in the UK. It brings together a number of research strands funded under the DET, EPSRC and ESRC portfolios over the last decade to tackle the vexed question of regional competitiveness and the imbalances of the UK economy.  

The challenges faced by policy makers charged with improving economic performance and social wellbeing lie first in how to benchmark current performance and then in how best to achieve a desired set of changes. Policy measures and incentives can be considered as perturbing the trajectory of economic development on a ‘fitness landscape’, representing the structural context defining a region. 

A policy intervention may nudge a trajectory from one path to another through the landscape, or it may prove insufficient to deliver lasting change. Infrastructure investments can be seen as changing the topography of  the  landscape. In order to forecast effectively, one thus needs to understand the shape of the fitness landscape, the way this may be affected by planned infrastructure, and the likely effects of policy nudges. 

Data sets are increasingly available to inform this process, but without new analytics, researchers struggle with the size and complexity of the challenge, and decisions are based on projection of past trends, ideology and gut instinct. Issues of content, coverage, provenance and currency of Big Data from different domains are also salient.

Our research centres around the following themes:

A. Mapping the UK infrastructure ‘fitness landscape’

B. Remapping the UK’s functional regions

C. Mapping inequalities

D. Identifying areas for development investment

E. Developing new models of economic diversity at city and regional levels