Understanding regional resilience and the role of institutions in establishing policy and practice

  • Richard Smith

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    The concept of regional resilience has been used by researchers to examine patterns of uneven development, and to explore factors which contribute to the varied ability of regions to adapt to economic change. The financial crisis of 2007-2008, and the ensuing Great Recession, brought increased usage of the concept in academic research. Despite this being accompanied by significant conceptual discussion of the term, regional resilience remains a contested concept, with little consensus on definition or utility among academic researchers.

    Within the literature on regional resilience there remains a disconnect between policy and practice and the theoretical definitions developed in academic research. Additionally, despite a significant body of research focussing on institutions in regional policy, the role of institutions, agency, and the way in which policy approaches related to regional resilience are made remains an underdeveloped area of research. Previous research has largely focused on explaining structural influences on the way in which regional economies evolve, with much less consideration of the activities, actions, and motivations of those seeking to actively shape this development.

    This thesis contributes to the understanding of regional resilience through exploring the policy making perspective to examine the extent to which the concept is reflected in policy and practice, and how specific institutional contexts influence approaches to regional resilience. To achieve this the thesis develops a novel analytical framework which conceptualises the key features of academic definitions of regional resilience and links these to policy approaches and actions.

    The research comprising in-depth policy review and interviews with senior policy makers reveals distinct policy perspectives on regional resilience in two case studies contexts, which are fundamentally rooted in established institutional arrangements and institutional environments. In the Tees Valley the approach is predominantly a business-focussed form of policy for regional resilience, in Southern Denmark the prevailing form of regional resilience policy has a human capital–focus.

    The analytical framework developed for this research was used to help demonstrate that regional resilience is a relevant and useful lens through which to understand particular policy approaches to anticipation and management of economic change and to explore the nature of economic growth policy makers seek to foster. The research also reveals approaches to regional resilience to be complex, a process which blends strategic and pragmatic approaches to anticipation and management of economic change, and to be heavily conditioned by factors outside of the region.

    For sub-national policy, the thesis demonstrates that regional resilience can be used to provide a novel way of understanding the focus and form of regional growth policy. Analysing regions in this way can be useful in the design and implementation of devolution settlements which facilitate effective place-based policy making. More fundamentally, this insight encourages policy makers to consider the kind of regional growth they seek, the importance of resilience to it, and therefore, who benefits from public policy interventions.
    Date of AwardSept 2021
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorJennifer Ferreira (Supervisor), Paul Sissons (Supervisor) & David Jarvis (Supervisor)

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