The Bartlett School of Planning


Jacob Simpson

Research subject

Thesis title: The Role of Built Environment Quality in FDI Attraction: The Case of Paris Ile-de-France, 2010-2015

Many factors come into play in the choice of location for a multinational enterprise (MNE), from its proximity to local markets and available workforce to the quality of its infrastructure, amenities and public services. As more and more companies go global, their demands for ideal work environments grow, creating greater competition among countries attempting to attract them. Annual reports of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development showing increasing diversity of destination countries confirm trends observed at national and regional levels. Whereas only a handful of western countries witnessed MNE investments in the 1980s and 1990s, this number has greatly increased, and with it the criteria for consideration. 

Public policies in favour of new sources of income and employment have been facilitating Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) for some time, without scrutiny of the built environment as an input or an output of location decisions. In an era of rising scepticism over the benefits of globalisation and neoliberalism, there is need for greater understanding of the relationship between FDI and the physical quality of urban spaces. Academic economic geography and international business and practice and policy-facing literature on investment promotion and site selection have long investigated the role of location in the attraction and development of FDI, but have typically focused on the ‘tangible’ factors that determine location. The theory of agglomeration, which scholars have increasingly applied to international business specifically, places greater emphasis on the ‘intangibles’ that may drive location. However, this literature has typically focused on knowledge and labour market externalities to the exclusion of considerations of qualities of the built environment. 

This research aims to evaluate the extent to which the quality of the built environment is important to FDI. In the absence of extant theory and hypotheses on how the specific attributes of spaces attract MNEs to new business locations, empirical research is necessary. With data on inward investment to the Paris region readily available, exploratory data analysis techniques will be used to relate the built environment characteristics of new MNE locations to their economic sectors, nationalities and facility types. Interviews with property professionals and MNE decision-makers will seek greater understanding of the role that quality of built form plays in the site selection process. The results could lead to policy recommendations about how particular qualities of the built environment could be better mobilised in FDI promotion.


Jacob has been working in the fields of planning, property investment and economic development since completing a Bachelor’s in Urban Design and Architecture Studies at NYU and a Master’s of City Planning at MIT. His most recent experience with a local authority in Greater Paris has driven his interest in researching the spatial organisation of foreign firms in large metropolitan regions, the subject of his PhD. Jacob teaches courses in territorial marketing at the Sorbonne as well as architectural history for various American universities in Paris.