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Project information

Project team

Nadir Kinossian, Franziska Görmar


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

Duration of project

01/2019 – 12/2022

Funded by

Volkswagen Foundation

Further information

Dr. Nadir Kinossian
Leibniz-Institut für Länderkunde

Agents of change in old-industrial regions in Europe (ACORE)

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 develop a better understanding of the emergence of new development paths in old industrial regions and the implications for social and spatial development;
  • to strengthen academic collaboration among scholars in EU countries and to facilitate knowledge exchange between academia and policy circles;
  • utilising the results of international comparison and knowledge exchange, to develop policy recommendations for discovering new development paths for Europe’s old industrial regions in various socio-spatial, historical, and cultural contexts.

To address this aim, the research focuses 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 is 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?

From the international cooperation perspective, the selection of five European countries (Czechia, Germany, Hungary, Sweden, and the UK) allows the study to cover three different types of European states: traditional welfare states, states with more liberal economic orientation, and post-socialist states. Differences in governing institutions at national level create substantial differences in institutional forms of spatial governance, as well as in the capacity of local and regional actors to achieve optimal allocation of resources. Different types of state also allow to explore differences in development paths and mutual dependencies between the "old" and "new" member states of the EU.

In that sense, ACORE 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. These places face the challenge of creating a new path into the future. This can happen when local actors mobilise ideas, resources, and support across various economic and political networks. Often, agents of change have to act against various structural, institutional, and cultural legacies to create new perspectives and shared visions of future.

More information


Görmar, Franziska (2023): Loss and change: Culture narratives in old industrial regions in East Germany. Regional Science, Policy and Practice.

Görmar, Franziska / Kinossian, Nadir (2022): Industrial forever? Narratives, place identity, and the development path of the city of Zeitz, Germany. Moravian Geographical Reports 30 (4), 270-287.

Görmar, Franziska / Grillitsch, Markus / Hruška, Vladan / Mihály, Melinda / Nagy, Erika / Píša, Jan / Stihl, Linda (2022): Power relations and local agency: a comparative study of European mining towns. Urban Research & Practice, DOI: 10.1080/17535069.2022.2051066

Gunko, Maria / Kinossian, Nadir / Pivovar, Galina / Averkieva, Kseniya / Batunova, Elena (2021): Exploring agency of change in small industrial towns through urban renewal initiatives. Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography, DOI: 10.1080/04353684.2020.1868947

Kinossian, Nadir (2019): Agents of change in peripheral regions. In: Baltic Worlds 2019, vol. XII:2, pp 61–6. Full text: website