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Footfall in UK cities since lockdown. Source: Centre for Cities High Street Tracker, Locomizer.

I’ve done a long read for the Economics Observatory on what COVID-19 and other pandemics might mean for big cities in the future. It’s co-authored with Henry Overman at LSE.

It’s one of the hardest things either of us has had to build — there are so many unknowns, and many moving parts that all affect each other.

One key uncertainty involves how the UK and other countreis might exit the pandemic. …


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London.

Cities around the world are the epicentres of the coronavirus pandemic. Why is this, why have some places been hit so much harder than others, and – as countries start to move out of lockdown – what will come next?

There is no shortage of possible explanations. The catastrophe of COVID-19 has triggered a parallel wave of research and analysis, as we struggle to understand the virus and its impacts.


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City in the Air, Arata Isozaki

Centre for Cities have put up a new City Talks podcast I did with CEO Andrew Carter, talking about cities, clusters, cluster policy tools and the Tech City programme. Later on we also go into some more nerdy stuff about policy evaluation and data.

It’s about an hour long. Happy listening!

If you want more detail, the academic paper behind the conversation is here, and I wrote a summary of it here.


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London’s technology ecosystem is thriving. The city has over 50,000 tech firms, with over 260,000 employees. Venture capital investment rose from £384 million in 2013 to £1.8 billion in 2018. A number of companies, such as Deepmind, Transferwise and Deliveroo, have become unicorns, valued at more than £1 billion. It survived the financial crisis and is — so far — largely Brexit-proof.

East London is an important part of this story. Since the late 1990s, the neighbourhoods around Shoreditch have become home to a rich tech community, especially digital content firms that bridge to traditional media, advertising, marketing and design.

The cluster’s growth went under the radar until, in 2008, Silicon Roundabout caught the media’s attention.


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Anna and I have a new CEP Discussion Paper out looking at innovation and productivity in UK firms. Read it here.

It’s quite technical. …


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Some job news: I’m excited to say that I’m taking up a new role at UCL in September. I’ll be a new Associate Professor in Applied Urban Sciences at the Centre for Applied Spatial Analysis (CASA), part of the Bartlett faculty of the built environment.

This move clicks together a number of pieces for me. The Bartlett is one of the best places in the world to be an urbanist. CASA is a world leader for data-driven analysis of cities and urban places. My own research is increasingly using novel datasets and data-science methods; at the same time, I’ll be bringing economic geography and urban econ frameworks and methodologies to the CASA community. In particular, I’m interested in applying tools for causal inference to these new large urban datasets, as well as exploring what experiments and mixed methods designs can do. …


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© Tim Mazzarol 2014

Back from Glasgow, where I’ve been at the University talking about entrepreneurial ecosystems. Many thanks to Ben Spigel and Fumi Kitagawa for inviting me, and for organising such a nice group of people.

It was a pretty striking event. Here are some thoughts while they’re still fresh.

(I’m new to this field, though as an economic geographer I’ve done some work on related issues. So apologies in advance for anything that’s wrong or missing in what follows.)

1/ This is the first field I’ve found where many of the key authors seem deeply, deeply sceptical about the core subject matter. That’s odd. …


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The original Silicon Roundabout. © Matt Biddulph

I have a new paper out in the Journal of Economic Geography, written with Emma Vandore and Georgina Voss.

It draws on 10 years of fieldwork by the three of us, and looks at tech clusters, specifically how well place branding tools work in developing and governing cluster ecosystems. As a case study, we look at the tech scene in East London — both the emergence of Silicon Roundabout during the 2000s and its transformation into Tech City during the 2010s.

We’re particularly interested in the use of ‘spatial imaginaries’ — simplified and selective ‘mental maps’ of a supercomplex reality which selectively draw on existing territories, places, networks and scales, as well as symbolic markers and sites. For policymakers, these tools can be very helpful devices for description and positioning, including developing place brands; but they turn out to be less good for decision-making and day-to-day policy implementation. …


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© Andy Gilmore

A What Works Centre piece, part of our industrial strategy design guide.

It features in our 10 Principles report, which forms the centrepiece of a major programme of work with central and local decisionmakers in 2018 and 2019.

As a fast review of a large field, there are a lot of references.

Industrial policy: why bother?

There is a very large and diverse literature on industrial policy. The subject is covered by lots of different kinds of academics, with different language and approaches. For instance, the field covers endogenous growth theory [1]; Schumpeterian models of entrepreneurship / innovation / creative destruction [2]; industrial economics [3]; science and technology studies [4]; development economics [5]; political economy [6]; urban economics [7]; as well as economic sociology and economic geography.[8]


Here’s something I wrote for the 2018 Birmingham Economic Review, produced by my colleagues at City-REDI.

In the UK, like many other countries, industrial strategy has been back on the policy agenda since the Great Financial Crisis. …

About

Max Nathan

UCL, CEP, IZA and @whatworksgrowth. Urbanism, economics, innovation, migration. I’m at www.maxnathan.com. Old posts: https://bit.ly/2Jc0en.

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