Centre for Economic Geography

The Centre for Economic Geography is a research centre focused on advanced studies in the field of economic geography.

The Centre is situated in Cardiff University’s School of Geography and Planning and has a reputation for high-quality and internationally-renowned research, often working in collaboration with other national and internationally renowned research centres and institutions.

Policy advice and consultancy

Staff at the Centre of Economic Geography are highly active in both research and policy-related advice.  We work across the EU to deliver relevant, high quality research which is published in leading journals and used by policy-makers.  Our research projects are funded by the EU, national bodies and other funding organisations in the fields of economic resilience, regional competitiveness etc.

In the past year staff have provided advice and evidence to the European Commission on Smart Specialisation, and worked with national and regional authorities in Wales, the UK, Poland, Basque region and Cantabria on the same topic.  They have provided evidence to Welsh Assembly inquiries on Horizon 2020 and the Structural Funds.

In the field of resilience, much of our activity is built around developing the intellectual foundations of a new field of research. In doing so we are actively contributing to academic debates in the UK, Ireland and to European audiences.  We welcome opportunities to share our knowledge and to work in collaboration with others and have a thriving postgraduate community that we are continuing to develop.


We aim to achieve research excellence and has a particular focus on the following areas of study:

  • Competitiveness and Economic Growth
  • Economic Resilience
  • Networks and Knowledge
  • Innovation and Smart Specialisation
  • Culture, Well-Being and Economic Development

Competitiveness and economic growth

A significant forum of scholarly and practitioner based research has developed in recent years that has sought to both theorise and empirically measure the competitiveness of places, in particular at the sub-national regional level. In particular, regional competitiveness models are most usually implicitly constructed in the lineage of endogenous growth frameworks, whereby deliberate investments in factors such as human capital and knowledge are considered to be key drivers of growth differentials.

Through a range of projects and initiatives researchers within the Centre have provided a lead in furthering the regional competitiveness and economic growth agenda. For instance, they led the formulation of the UK Competitiveness Index, which was the first tool to provide a composite measure of the competitiveness of the UK’s regions, cities and localities.

Following on from this, researchers at the Centre expanded their research principally through the development of models to examine regional competitiveness from an international perspective. The results of this project were formulated as the World Knowledge Competitiveness Index, with the underlying model designed as an integrated and overall benchmark of the knowledge capacity, capability and sustainability regions across the globe, and the extent to which this knowledge is translated into economic value, and transferred into the wealth of the citizens of these regions (further information on this can be found on the Centre for International Competitiveness website.

The Centre’s research has permeated economic development policymaking in the UK and overseas, establishing 'regional competitiveness' as a new theoretical lens through which to consider the uneven economic development of places. Economic development policymaking has become increasingly devolved from the national level to policymakers at the regional, city and local level. This has required such policymakers to establish new strategies, modes of assessment, and marketing plans to facilitate and promote economic development. The Centre’s research has helped to transform the perception, activities and strategies of policymakers through the provision of new concepts, methods and metrics for assessing regional competitiveness, and has helped equip them with the tools required to establish robust evidence-based policymaking within a knowledge economy.

For information on this research stream please contact Professor Robert Huggins.

Economic resilience

Why are some places less affected by economic decline than others? Why do some places recover from an economic shock more quickly than others?  Is it just about their economic structure, or are other factors also at play? These are just some of the questions raised by the current economic crisis and which academics are being asked by both politicians and practitioners.

In seeking to answer these questions we are beginning to think about regions in terms of their overall resilience. This takes into account their ability to withstand an economic shock, such as the closure of a factory, or the loss of a key market, or more global events such as the financial crisis. Resilient economies may be ones that are able to withstand that shock, manage to avoid an economic decline, or are able to quickly 'bounce' back from the negative effects of the shock. This focus on resilience is a shift away from the traditional concentration on growth and competitiveness of the local economy which often marks studies of regional and local economic development.

Our research extends current theorising in evolutionary economics and complex adaptive systems to consider the role of agency and inter-territorial connectivity in shaping resilience outcomes. Our work also considers the role that sub-national policies can play in building resilience through preparing for and responding to economic shocks.

The Centre is currently leading a major EU funded project examining the economic resilience of regions in the face of economic crises. Funded by the ESPON research programme it is exploring regional differences in levels of economic resilience, whilst questioning what this means in practice and exploring the factors that underpin differences in performance.

Taking a more conceptual approach is the project 'Territories & Technologies in an Unstable Economy: An evolutionary framework of regional resilience' (T-Res). Using an evolutionary economic geography approach, the project focuses on the adaptation of EU regions in response to a macroeconomic shock such as the recession. This project is funded by the ESRC Open Research Area (ORA) from 2011-2014.

For information on this research stream please contact Professor Gillian Bristow.

Networks and knowledge

Perhaps the most interesting implications of recent developments in the field of economic geography relate to the impact of the spatial organisation of regions on flows of knowledge. In particular, it is considered that differences in regional development and growth can potentially be explained by differences in the conditions for creating, accumulating and – crucially – transmitting knowledge.

Through research funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council, NESTA, the European Union’s Framework Programme, and a range of regional authorities, researchers at the Centre have focused their research on examining the inter-organisational networks underpinning the flow of knowledge within and across regions. The Centre’s work has focused on the role of networks as a capital asset – network capital – facilitating the flow of economically valuable knowledge.

While studies often apply the network concept in a broad manner, few have sought to apply it in a more formal and constrained way, the Centre’s work has sought to establish a more precise rendering of the potential role of networks and knowledge within regional development and growth processes. Building on work in the field of relational economic geography, some of the key questions the Centre is seeking to tackle include:

  • How does the role of both the geographic space and network space associated with inter-organisational knowledge networks differ across regional settings?
  • How are inter-organisational knowledge networks associated with the innovation performance of network actors?
  • Are the geographic and network space characteristics of such networks associated with the innovation performance of network actors?

The Centre’s recent work has focused on the role of knowledge sourcing networks and open innovation, in particular understanding the spatio-temporal structure of networks in terms of the geographic coverage and the nature of constituent network actors. Other recent work in this area has covered university-industry knowledge networks, with studies impacting on the discourse concerning the role of university knowledge transfer activity to regional economic development. Whilst the underlying discourse has tended to stress the latent potential of university knowledge as a driver of regional development, the Centre’s work has impacted on these debates by questioning the extent to which such knowledge can stimulate regional development.

For information on this research stream please contact Professor Robert Huggins.

Innovation and smart specialisation

The role of innovation in promoting economic growth is now widely acknowledged. Yet disparities in regional innovation performance are pervasive and persistent. Despite more than 20 years of research our understanding of the dynamics of innovation at a regional scale is still evolving. In part this reflects the complexity of the subject, but is also a measure of how quickly innovation practices are changing.

One of the drivers of this change is the increasing globalisation of the innovation process as changing communication technologies opens up new spaces of activity. Another is how these same technologies are promoting a more open form of innovation and enabling a greater level of social innovation. Yet, despite these changes there remains a strong local context to innovation and work on the fashioning of regional and national innovation systems remains highly relevant.

Staff within the Centre for Economic Geography have been formative shapers of academic thinking on regional innovation. The legacy of their work can be seen in the current approach fostered by the EU to stimulate levels of innovation and growth across the European Union. As practice has evolved so too has our research and we remain at the forefront of academic debates on the shaping and structuring of 'new' spaces of innovation.

The European Commission has recently introduced the notion of 'smart specialisation' to underpin its approach to stimulating innovation across Europe. Yet, as with many new policy initiatives, there is much that is unclear about what this means in practice. CEG is leading a major study examining the implications of the smart specialisation approach across the EU. Funded by the EU’s FP7 programme it brings together the leading academics in the field from across Europe.

One of the understudied elements of regional innovation is the role of university and business cooperations in the field of education. Cardiff University is currently leading a major study for DG Education and Culture of the European Commission that aims to fill this gap. Alongside Imperial College, London and Newcastle University, we are exploring different forms of cooperation across the EU and identifying how to assess the outcomes of this activity.

For information on this research stream please contact Professor Kevin Morgan.

Culture, well-being and economic development

The key aim of this research stream is to provide a better understanding of the dual nature of regional and local development, whereby such development is increasingly acknowledged as consisting of economic development and growth as well societal development in the form raised levels of well-being. In particular the work of the Centre seeks to address the suggestion that a missing ingredient in explaining economic development and well-being at the regional and local level is the role of culture, and in particular the extent to which regional and local cultures may differ across nations.

Through a range of projects the Centre’s work has sought to understand how the greater focus on growth and development at the regional and local level is impacting on the way that factors such as 'culture' and 'identity' are conceptualised within the political economy of places. In particular, the Centre has a number of on-going projects that are seeking to assess and analyse the relationship between culture; economic development; and well-being at the regional and local level.

The Centre’s most recent work is focusing on how different forms of regional and local culture are associated with measures of economic development and well-being, and the extent to which deviations in regional/local culture from more aggregated national culture impacts on economic development and well-being trajectories at the regional and local level.

Key research questions we are currently tackling include:

  • How do regional and local differences in culture impact on the economic development and societal well-being of these places?
  • Is regional cultural change leading to a more homogenous or heterogeneous cultural traits within and across nations?
  • Is regional cultural change associated with positive development in the form of improved economic development and/or well-being?

An allied and emerging research theme within the Centre relates to the role of institutions in fostering and promoting regional and local development, as well as a more specific focus on regional and local entrepreneurial cultures.

For information on this research stream please contact Professor Robert Huggins.

Selected publications


Professor Robert Huggins

Yr Athro Robert Huggins

Professor of Economic Geography

+44 (0)29 2087 6006

Academic staff

Gill Bristow

Yr Athro Gillian Bristow

Deon Ymchwil yn y Coleg Celfyddydau, y Dyniaethau a'r Gwyddorau Cymdeithasol, Athro Daearyddiaeth Economaidd

+44 (0)29 2087 5388
Professor Kevin Morgan

Yr Athro Kevin Morgan

Athro Llywodraethu a Datblygu

+44 (0)29 2087 6090
Dr Crispian Fuller

Dr Crispian Fuller

Senior Lecturer in Human Geography

+44 (0)29 2087 4705

Dr Daniel Prokop

Lecturer in Economic Geography

+44 (0)29 2087 9422

Associated staff

Dr Adrian Healy

Research Associate

+44 (0)29 2087 0282

CEG Papers in Economic Geography (CPEG) is a working paper series published by the Centre for Economic Geography (CEG) at the School of Planning and Geography, Cardiff University.

The series seeks to extend our theoretical and empirical understanding of how economic development and economic trajectories evolve across different spaces and places. In particular, the series is keen to publish papers connecting the economics of place-based development with broader societal and cultural dimensions.

Submit a paper

Submitted papers will be reviewed by the editors, and in the first instance should be sent to Robert Huggins or Gillian Bristow.