It’s been a busy start to the year for us. Having just published our latest report on the impact of high speed internet, we are now elbows deep in papers looking at how transport can impact upon local economic growth. We know this review will be of great interest to LEPs and Local Authorities wanting to know what their local areas can gain from transport projects. Our review on apprenticeships and their role in boosting local economic growth is also drawing to a close and we will be reporting our findings very soon – stay tuned to our website over the coming weeks to find out more.
Our next theme will be of great interest to policymakers as we consider the impact of area/ place-based initiatives on local economic growth. Often aimed at fostering economic growth in areas considered to be lagging behind, we want to look at the role and impact of place-based economic development policies such as Enterprise Zones and Regional Growth Funds on local economies. This topic nicely complements some of our other work in this subject area, including estate renewal, R&D and access to finance, and we hope to find a plethora of new studies and evidence to accompany these evidence reviews.
Whether or not a government should support policies aimed at strengthening the economies of particular localities or regions is a key concern for policymakers. Area-based policies and initiatives have become a widespread mechanism to help address disparities in employment rates and other economic measures, using public subsidies to target specific areas that are considered disadvantaged and underperforming. The question is, how many of these initiatives and policies are effective? Who benefits from area-based interventions? What sorts of interventions are most likely to be effective, and why? We at the What Works Centre want to get under the skin of these initiatives and know more about the inner workings of area-based policies. We want to better understand who gains and who loses from these policies and what are the magic ingredients for long term, sustainable success.
In this context, we are about to undertake a thorough search of all the evidence and economic impact evaluations which focus on area- or place-based initiatives and would like to hear from you with any suggestions or recommendations. We are casting the evidence net wide, and are keen to hear from you across a number of policy areas. This includes a call for evidence around the impact of Regional Growth Funds, Enterprise Zones and other area-based business support schemes such as LEGI. We are looking across all spatial scales, at all policies which spur economic development and tackle low productivity by supporting businesses, workers and infrastructure projects in specific targeted locations. As usual, we are looking particularly for robust impact evaluations and studies which undertake a before and after analysis, and have data on both ‘treated’ and ‘untreated’ places. Any suggestions you have for evidence surrounding this topic will be highly valued.
An initial review of evidence suggests that many studies will focus on outcomes at the regional level, with a studies looking at Regional Growth Funds having a significant focus on EU policies. Studies looking at area-based business support tend to have a greater focus on outcomes at the individual level, with most of the Enterprise Zone focused studies focusing on the impact of this policy on employment.