Lund University (Sweden), Cardiff University (UK), Jan Evangelista Purkyně University in Ústí nad Labem (Czechia), Békéscsaba Research Group, Institute for Regional Studies (CERS HAS), Hungarian Academy of Sciences
01/2019 – 12/2021
Dr. Nadir Kinossian
Leibniz-Institut für Länderkunde
Project web site:
Growing socio-economic disparities between prosperous metropolitan regions and poor rural, peripheral, and old-industrial regions pose a threat to Europe’s long-term stability and EU goals of social cohesion. The main ambition of "Agents of Change" is to investigate how old industrial regions located outside major agglomerations can defy the unfavourable conditions and trends and create new development paths leading to prosperity and well-being, contributing to social cohesion and stability of Europe as a whole. The aim of this project is three-fold:
To address this aim, the research will focus on the "front line" of regional change – actors instrumental for conceiving and creating new development paths and linking actors located in different institutional contexts. The research is novel because unlike most existing studies on "lagging regions which focus on "catching-up" processes, this project will allow for alternative futures (including “leapfrogging”) beyond the standard and mainstream policy recipes. By introducing the "window of opportunity" model, the research will explicitly address the temporal dynamics of urban and regional change.
The research project will be guided by the following question: How are new development paths created in Europe’s old industrial regions? This main question will be spelled out in the following sub-questions: Who are the agents of change responsible for the creation of a new development path? How are they connected through intra- and extra-regional networks of actors? How do agents use the window of opportunity for the creation of a new development path? Which policies, institutional settings, organisational cultures contribute to novelty? What are the barriers to change and locally unfolding conflicts and tensions that might be caused by such transformations?
The project is unique because such a broad transnational comparative study of new development path creation in old industrial regions in five European countries has not been done before. The project will be implemented by a consortium of five partners led by IfL and partners iin Sweden, UK, Czechia, and Hungary.
The Agents of Change project is a timely project because EU regional policy is being reformed for the post-2020 programming period and future regional policy aims to give more attention to spatial specificity, place-based institutional capacity and local/regional ecosystems, all of which are at the heart of the policy focus of the Agents of Change project. The comparative focus of the project also highlights the differences between and the nuances of “old industrial regions”, a label that often conceals as much as it reveals, allowing policy interventions to become ever more context-dependent. To disseminate the findings of the project, the researchers plan an intensive series of engagement events with local and regional governments and their development agencies as well as with EU-wide associations of development agencies such as ERRIN and EURADA.